On Wednesday I called out some very small changes that you’ll find in Nick Ahmed‘s swing. When I had the inspiration for the article, he was second on the team in offense (by wRC+). Since then, he’s gone 0-16 with a day game Thursday to try to get back on track. Let’s hope that examining Jean Segura‘s more exaggerated changes doesn’t derail him, too. From the looks of things, there’s not much reason to worry. Or, maybe there is. I’m still not sure myself. Let me explain…

Segura is off to a hell of a start. There’s really no way around it. He’s done this before and, in talking with some Brewers people I really trust, it won’t be a huge surprise to see him slow down later in the year. That’s been a pattern before, as I examined after the trade — a deal I didn’t exactly love at the time. The only way to change my mind about it, I stated on the Pool Shot, was for him to be someone different than who he had been. After two-and-a-half years of mostly stagnant production, it was clear as day that for him to be better, there were indeed going to have to be changes.

His approach hasn’t changed one iota — he’s walked just twice but only struck out seven times in 63 at-bats and you can pretty much ensure that when he gets in the box, the ball is going to end up in play. But his stance and swing? Those things have changed dramatically. As Ken Rosenthal reported, this wasn’t a change the team made. No, it was all Segura:

When I (Rosenthal) asked D-backs hitting coach Dave Magadan if he had instructed Segura to lower his hands in spring training, his answer surprised me.

“He showed up to camp that way,” Magadan said. “He hit well from day one in the spring and I never questioned it. Just left him alone. He says it makes him feel like he’s using more hands in his swing, less body.”

Segura went on to elaborate:

“Now with my hands lower, I don’t have to go down and then go up to hit the ball. I go directly to the ball,” Segura said. “I do everything in one motion instead of doing it three times. When I attacked the ball with my hands up, I had to go down, go up again and swing.”

Well shit, that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. Segura feels he can be more direct to the ball in this manner and if that’s how he feels, then Hitting Coach Dave Magadan was right to let him try it. When the results were what they were this spring, Magadan was right to continue letting him try it. Now Segura’s not trying it, it’s officially his thing.

Let’s have a look at a couple examples, both homers, and note the changes to Segura’s stance, and subsequently, his swing.

In 2015, Segura set up and swung like this (note the high hands):

And in 2016, he’s setting up differently (note the low hands):

The stance change is obvious, but if you watch his hands closely, the hitch in his load is still present but quicker and his hands are closer to the ball to begin with. This is all a complicated, mechanical way of getting him to be shorter to the baseball. That has allowed him to make a bit more contact than before, but here’s the thing: he’s hitting at similar soft, medium and hard-hit rates and hitting the ball to the same fields almost exactly as he did in 2015. His BABIP is running hotter at the moment than it has over the last few seasons, so while there are changes mechanically, there aren’t wildly different outcomes happening and there is an indicator that his hot start could be luck-aided. Basically, take Jean Segura’s success with a grain of salt.

I’m a bit torn here. On one hand, I really like that he’s found a way to make more contact given how often he swings. Jean Segura is never going to be a guy who takes a bunch of walks and that’s just part of the deal. But the deep indicators aren’t all that different — he’s not hitting the ball drastically harder, nor is he pulling the ball more. At this point, we’ll have to kind of wait to see if something gives. If anything, perhaps the new swing will be easier for him to repeat all season long. Even that would be a small victory. And if the D-backs want to keep racking up the victories, keeping Segura productive at the top of the order is a great way to do it. Let’s collectively hope it holds.

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3 Responses to Jean Segura Goes HAM (For Now?)

  1. Alex says:

    Even if his hit speed rates and pull/opposite field rates are similar isn’t the main positive from the new swing mechanics the plane to the ball? He was swinging downward at the ball before whereas he is attempting to have a slight uppercut swing now. I saw somewhere during spring his ground ball/fly ball rate showed big improvement. Small sample size obviously and have not seen anything regarding in-season stats. But if he is hitting more line drives instead of ground balls, even at similar ball speed, that should lend itself to higher BABIP rates I would assume.

    • Jeff Wiser says:

      Alex, this is a great comment! There’s definitely a scenario that I can see where this does lead to a different set of batted balls for him, even if they’re not hit harder or to different fields. So far, he is hitting more fly balls than in the past, but we also know that fly balls go for outs more often than any other batted ball type, so I’m not sure if this will end up being a credit to his BABIP. Right now, as you alluded to, the samples are small enough that we really can’t draw any major conclusions, but we can certainly see reason for optimism.

  2. Puneet says:

    I think I remember reading an ESPN article talking about his pitch selectivity and swing rates this season.

    “In 2013, Segura swung at 46 percent of the pitches he saw, and going into Wednesday, Segura was swinging at 44 percent of the pitches he was seeing. In the two seasons in between, he swung at more than half the pitches he saw. And this year, he’s mostly swinging less at balls. We could see 2013’s version of Segura back in Arizona this year.”

    Maybe this, in combination with what you described and what Alex brilliantly noted in the comments, would account for the early difference. If he’s “seeing the ball better” (whatever that means) and thus taking swings at better pitches (for him) with a slight uppercut or more flat swing (as opposed to a downward motion), he could be more likely to get quality contact and put the ball where he wants. That would definitely inflate his BABIP but maybe in a more sustainable way.

    I mean I really don’t think he’s going to hit .330 this season because pitchers will probably adjust, but there’s still something really satisfying about seeing one of our guys make a cool adjustment. And even more importantly, seeing that we didn’t mess around with that adjustment and destroy him as a player.

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