Every so often, we get reminded that players sometimes just need minor mechanical or mental adjustments to finally unlock their potential.  As we all know, Chris Colabello profiles as the classic quad-a player, lacking statistical precedent to sustain success in the bigs.  I saw his insane average over 50 ABs and wondered if he changed anything from his approach from when he was with the Twins to warrant further review.   Last year, Steve Pearce proved that a breakout (temporary as it might have been) is possible for players their 30s and I need not remind anyone of how bad Encarnación and Joey Bats were to start their careers.

When thinking about Colabello, lots of interesting questions come to mind.  Is his small sample of enhanced performance due to luck, hitting in a better lineup, better ballpark, a division full of hitter’s parks, or maybe actual performance enhancers?  I imagine all those factors play a role (hopefully not the performance enhancers), but they don’t necessarily improve all players’ stats… cough*Colby Rasmus*cough…  So, thinking this through I decided to take a look at his mechanics and find out if he’s made any substantive changes to his approach that would enable him to take sustained advantage of his new highly favorable hitting environment.  I started by McFlying a little to look at ’14 Colabello for a baseline.

2014 Assessment:  Last year Colabello featured a typical major leaguer’s stance and weight transfer to a load position, but then things would go wrong as a hitch would often appear in his swing.  Hitches in swings can actually be helpful if kept short and managed appropriately by occurring during the batter’s load up to the trigger position, (the point from which the swing path commences) as they can aid timing and swing fluidity (i.e. Sheffield/Cano/Betts and Paredes so far this year); however if the hitch is too long (Javier Baez), or occurs after the trigger position, it can severely limit potential by hindering ability to adjust to higher velocity and off-speed offerings.  In the case of Colabello’s ’14 approach, the hitch was both large and late; doubly damning like when your girl’s boobs get juicier when she’s about to go on her period, but then she’s like “no I’m late, this ain’t gonna happen.”

Stance                                      Trigger                                     Swing Path

14 colabello

As you’ll see from this wicked picture sequence above that comes from this video, his stance and load to the trigger position look fine.  But then from his trigger, he drags the bat toward a horizontal position behind him rather than straight to the ball in front of him, creating a post-trigger hitch.  That hitch created a jerky, deflated swing resulting in a weak ground out on a very hittable hanging slider from Sale; which he driven into the right-center gap.  (It’s worth noting that the grounder from this swing brought in a runner from third and might have been Colabello’s limited goal for that at-bat.  However, fantasy studs shouldn’t be content to sacrifice themselves on pitches they can drive and even if he was intentionally sacrificing himself, good hitters don’t do that by inserting hitches into their swings.)

So my first conclusion is that if he hasn’t changed anything then this year’s success could only be attributable to luck/environment as he’s clearly not a physical specimen who can overcome faulty mechanics.  So I took a look at a video from this year and pleasantly found him doing what I thought he should have done last year with a hittable fastball out over the plate from Wade Miley.  Now a smart fantasy baseballer (Grey’s mom’s term I think we’ve universally adopted by now) will ask: What, if anything, did he change and is it meaningful?

2015 Assessment:  Several mechanical adjustments and each one improves his approach.  Like the snapshots above, the ones below show his stance, trigger position, and swing path.  Let’s look at each change and its impact.

Stance                                         Trigger                              Swing Path

15 colabello

Stance: The first thing you’ll notice is that he’s closed his front foot, which is now closer to the plate than his back.  As any Zen podiatrist will tell you, feet and their positions can impact the entirety of our body mechanics.  Closing his front foot can help a hitter keep his elbows and shoulders closed which ultimately limits upper body movements, which could help limit a hitch.  This actually appears to have produced an upper body mechanical change as you’ll see that his front elbow has come in just a tad, and making his bat position slightly more erect, which I’m sure would do the same to Tom Emanski as a vertical bat head promotes a more direct swing path.

Trigger: Colabello’s new trigger also features a couple of slight but important changes to his 14 approach.  First off, check out the bat position – he actually angles it out toward first base.  Other hitters who’ve gone through or successfully prevented problematic hitches have successfully integrated this tactic as well, (Rizzo is by far the best, and also d’Arnaud and Ike Davis are recent examples).  By slightly shifting the bat head in front of him, he preemptively limits his inclination to let it drift behind, or get horizontal.

Additionally, look at his hips – he turns now them more inward, exposing more of his delicious semi-doughy ass to the pitcher.  This helps him keep his weight back, which helps enable a better attack on off-speed pitches, while also allowing him to engage his lower half and sweet abs to provide more torque, ultimately translating into better bat speed through the zone (healthy versions of Joey Bats and a healthy David Wright  show how effective turning that front hip in can be).  The only drawback here is that the additional hip movement may make him swing and miss more as he’s got more lower-half movement and power to control, making it harder for him to check his swing if he’s late to recognize breaking pitches.  Early results show a high K rate, which I expect will continue, but that he might be able to decrease as he gets more accustomed to the movement.

Swing Path: Now his hands are following the subtle directions of his swing prep and heading straight down toward the ball with outstanding force instead of casting them out behind him like he did last year – again making him elongated and weak (insert your own joke this time).  Now I haven’t seen data on his bat speed, but I can only deduce that a more direct path coupled with engaging his lower body more has created substantially improved swing acceleration at the point of contact, (the real determinant of how hard you can hit a ball), which could more than compensate for a high k-rate by producing higher BABIP and HR/FB rates – a trend that he early results support perhaps too strongly to be believable.

Overall Assessment:  Based on the positive indications of his subtle yet very important mechanical adjustments, which may exemplify the Jays track record of turning mid-career sluggers around, and the hand-eye coordination he’s always displayed to produce great stats in the minors, these mid-career adjustments might be the game changer for Colabello that we saw for Joey Bats.  I don’t see him becoming a sudden all-star, but legit big league contributor? Heck yes.

With him just having gained outfield eligibility, I’d recommend adding him in any AL only, or five OF format, 14 team+, or OPS leagues.  Like any good right handed hitter I’d go after him in dailies against almost any lefty with that ridiculous Jays lineup in front of him and also against sub-par righties.  He won’t give you any stolen bases, but the balls he’s hitting hard should leave the park with solid frequency.  He’ll surely regress some, but if he can keep up the improved mechanics going, the regression fairies can unplug their turntables for a minute and suck his and my balls – along with Ben Affleck’s.

 

 

 

  1. Grey

    Grey says:
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    Great stuff, Dave, welcome aboard!

  2. AL KOHOLIC says:
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    ive been rolling with him but he has 1 or 2 more games

  3. krimsonidol says:
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    I recall reading last season (forget where), early on when he was hitting really well, that he’d made important mechanical adjustments, with gifs to support his swing changes. I personally couldn’t see much difference back then (your stills are easier to grok than video imo), but this does make me wonder what changes he made then and what failed (since he dropped off completely after some hot hitting and got sent back down iirc).

    The pics you have of his swing from last season, is that from when he was doing well or had reverted to mediocrity? If you look at swings from both points in last season, is there a difference, and how does THAT compare to this season?

    In any case, thank you for this writeup. Love this kind of analysis. Much more interesting to me than just the advanced stat numbers.

    • Dave

      Dave says:
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      @krimsonidol: Great comment. The video I critiqued is from last August – after he’d already been sent down and then was called back up. This video: http://m.mlb.com/video/v32709985/mincle-colabello-plates-two-with-infield-single/?c_id=mlb is from early May last year when he had still been producing well.
      As you will notice, the stance was still not closed back then and his trigger didn’t include the bat motion in front of him. He still had unnecessary bat movement going behind him but it wasn’t as bad as he looked on the swing I used in the article. So to quickly answer your question – even if we compare early ’14 Colabello to early ’15 Colabello, there are still differences. I do agree with the point that you allude to that just because there are mechanical differences doesn’t mean that a) he will sustain the better mechanics, or b) the improved mechanics will necessarily continue to produce better results. My analysis just shows that Colabello might be turning the corner.

      • krimsonidol says:
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        @Dave: Thanks for the additional info! I hope he’s truly turning a corner. It sounds like he’s making progress at least, even if not enough for fantasy purposes. Being in my 30’s myself I always root for “older” players to make offensive strides despite their age.

  4. john says:
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    his small sample size this year has been ok, not great. Outside of OBP/ OPS he hasn’t provided much.

  5. Dave

    Dave says:
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    Yeah we’ll see – after tonight he has some decent, but not great matchups coming up (Paxton, Walker, Rodon, Danks) If you’re playing him just because he’s been on a hot streak, as Rudy pointed out in “https://razzball.com/hitter-streakiness/”, your decision making may lack a solid foundation.

  6. Colabello rakes says:
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    Hey guys, if you actually want to now exactly what is going on with CC’s swing and the intent behind his mechanics, check out his hitting coach’s website… https://tewkshitting.com/baseball-world-meet-chris-colabello/

    And you realize he was seriously injured from May to September in 2014, right? http://www.chris-villani.com/2014/11/colabello-works-through-injury-in-2nd-big-league-season/.

    Take a look at his swing in April of 2014 and it will look identical to where he is right now without any physical limitations.

  7. I don't want to brag, but i have irritable bowel syndrome says:
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    ya gotta find the girls that actually are horny during periods (i don’t think these are common in humans though), i know some.

      • I don't want to brag, but i have irritable bowel syndrome says:
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        @Dave: i actually hadn’t till midway through typing that sentence, but from normal life experience know it’s fairly rare with our females, but in other mammals it could be quite common.

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