Amidst the madness that was Game 6 of the 2019 World Series last night, Fox broadcaster John Smoltz broke down an intriguing aspect of Washington outfielder Juan Soto’s swing - the way he adjusts his lower body in a two-strike count.
Smoltz is no stranger to making adjustments, as a player the former Atlanta Braves pitcher magnificently transpired his role as an All-Star starting pitcher to the best closer in the National League. Parlaying those unprecedented efforts into a first ballot election into Cooperstown.
Moments after the Nationals’ Adam Eaton homered off of Astros’ starter Justin Verlander, tying the game at 2-2 in the top of the fifth inning, and well before the runner’s interference call heard round the world - Juan Soto stepped to the plate.
As the baseball world has discovered this October, the 21-year old Domincan outfielder is a threat every time he sets foot in the batter’s box, and Smoltz gave us some incredible insight into the swing with the luxury of HD television.
The Fox producers showed several images of Soto’s lower body during an at-bat in the World Series, the first image showed Soto’s approach early in the plate appearance, while the second photo demonstrated his “two strike approach.”
With zero or one strike in the count, Soto ( a left-handed hitter) angles his front-leg and toe inward, creating more torque in his torso and lower body. This type of swing, although difficult to master, is conducive to creating incredible bat speed and power. Soto does it to perfection.
Equally impressive is the way Soto adapts and displays discipline in a two-strike count. The front leg straightens out in a more traditional sense and the stance widens, a point we recently recommended in the MaxBP Slump Buster Series.
By widening the stance and straightening his leg, a hitter makes the swing more compact. This approach limits a player’s power, but is conducive for a two-strike battle against a pitcher with nasty breaking stuff and an array of “out pitches.”
So how did the differentiated swing concept suit Soto in his match-up with Verlander? With a 3-1 count, Soto utilized his power swing to hit a mammoth home run 413-feet into the upper deck in right field, giving the Nationals a 3-1 lead they would not relinquish. Resulting in a Nationals victory and "winner take all" Game Seven between Washington and Houston.
Soto’s postseason debut has been been remarkable, he has recorded a .262 batting average, 5 home runs, 13 RBI, and a .915 OPS. His heroics have Nationals’ fans dreaming of a franchise player reminiscent of Mantle, Clemente or Griffey, and forgetting all about Bryce - what’s his name?
But, let’s be real. Not everyone has the ability of Juan Soto. The point to be taken here is for a hitter to differentiate their swing depending on the count. The adjustment may not be as drastic as that of Soto, but all hitters should consider being aggressive early in the count, before making their own respective “two-strike” adjustment. This approach allows a hitter to be aggressive and hit the ball for power early in an at-bat, while simplifying the swing and battling in a two-strike situation.