Down And In: How Kris Bryant & Will Craig Crush The Low Pitch

PITTSBURGH – In 2012 as a sophomore at The University of San Diego, Kris Bryant hit .366/.483/.671 with 14 home runs and 57 RBIs over 231 at-bats, posting one of the best offensive seasons in UCD baseball history¹.

In 2015 as a sophomore at Wake Forest University, Will Craig hit .382/.496/.702 with 13 home runs and 58 RBIs over 191 at-bats, posting one of the best offensive seasons in Wake Forest baseball history.

Bryant is currently the starting third-baseman for the Chicago Cubs and reigning National League Rookie of The Year.

Craig is currently the starting third baseman for Wake Forest and reigning ACC Player of the Year.

The scouting report on Bryant said:

“His elite plus power is foul pole to foul pole with consistent sweet-spot contact. He can turn on the inside 95-97 mph fastball, and he is able to take the down-and-away breaking ball to the opposite field. He has an above-average arm, and I think he’ll be able to stay at third base … He has tremendous makeup, is a student of the game and has the ability to adjust and learn quickly.”

The scouting report on Craig says:

“For the three buckets of offense, Craig grades out really well. The contact frequency/contact quality pairing in particular are persuasive of his potential upside. When visually scouting Craig, I was very impressed with his ability to barrel the ball to the opposite field with authority … Craig shows a good ability to hit the ball with authority the other way, which is immensely valuable. Craig’s load and discharge are nice and he avoids wrapping the bat, which is positive, and likely a reason why his contact abilities are so strong … He offers outstanding offensive upside with a hit tool that grades at 60 and power that grades in that same range.”

Notice anything similar?

While it’s abundantly clear both players have nearly identical profiles and statistics, relative to their respective career stages, both also have similar swing styles (particularly when it comes to hitting the down and in pitch)

Today, we will analyze both Craig’s and Bryant’s swing and take a look at even more of the striking similarities between the two.

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Both Craig’s and Bryant’s swing begin with a counter rotation of the shoulders away from the pitcher and back toward the catcher. When the front heel plants, the front knee is opening while the hip is opening the front foot.

At this point, neither player’s pelvis has rotated much. The back knee has kicked in, but isn’t rotating much either. We also see that the back hands are holding the bat just behind the back shoulder with the barrel behind the head.

As Craig and Bryant approach the pitch, both are looking at a similar offering – a pitch that is down and in. The way most players think about getting to this pitch is what makes it really difficult to hit.

Most players think of swinging in a downward fashion – straight to the point of contact with the hands and the barrel going straight to the ball in an A-to-B line.

But that’s not how we are going to see Craig and Bryant swing.

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As we chart the path of both Craig’s swing and Bryant’s swing, we see the path is more like a golf swing than what players typically think of as a baseball swing.

From this steeper plane, we see Craig’s bat moving back toward the catcher then down towards the ground before flattening to swing up toward the incoming path of the pitch.

As we move over to Bryant’s swing, we see the same thing. The bat starts to slide behind the hitter. The bat then starts to fall as it flattens out right before it crosses over the back part of the plate. As the bat makes contact with the ball, it is moving up toward the path of the incoming pitch.

So instead of swinging from A-to-B (point of contact) in a downward motion both Craig and Bryant are swinging around their tilted spine. The lead shoulder is up with the back shoulder down and tilting inward toward the pitch so the barrel can swing steeply up to the point of contact – it’s the only way it can stay on plane with the ball.

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As we isolate Bryant’s swing and change the view, we can focus more toward analyzing the steepness of his shoulders (which allows him to generate the swing path necessary to hit the down and in pitch).

As Bryant strides out, the shoulders are very level with each other. From there, he starts to tilt around his spine – you can see the angle of his shoulders have now changed. He is tilting his spine and leaning his back shoulder in toward the pitch, allowing the barrel to take a steeper path.

As we track the barrel path we see it slide down the shoulder, flatten out and swing up to match the path of the incoming pitch on the inside part of the plate²

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To recap:

  1. Both Craig’s and Bryant’s swing begin with a counter rotation of the shoulders away from the pitcher and back toward the catcher. When the front heel plants, the front knee is opening while the hip is opening the front foot.
  2. As we chart the path of both Craig’s swing and Bryant’s swing, we see the path is more like a golf swing than what players typically think of as a baseball swing. From this steeper plane, we see each player’s bat moving back toward the catcher then down towards the ground before flattening to swing up toward the incoming path of the pitch.
  3. Instead of swinging from A-to-B (point of contact) in a downward motion both Craig and Bryant are swinging around their tilted spine. The lead shoulder is up with the back shoulder down and tilting inward toward the pitch so the barrel can swing steeply up to the point of contact – it’s the only way it can stay on plane with the ball.
  4. Click here to listen to full video analysis from Coach Jeff Leach

#DKBaseball 

Special thanks to Coach Jeff Leach for the in-depth analysis of Kris Bryant and Will Craig swing.

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Footnotes:

  1. Bryant would go on to set the collegiate record for home runs during his junior campaign in 2013 with 31, breaking the previous record of 30 set by Victor Choate in 2011.
  2.  If the pitch was up or away we would see a flatter shoulder turn so the bat could swing more level at the pitch height.