SWING BREAKDOWN

Here's why George Springer has struggled to start the year

Photo by Getty Images. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

Dusty Baker attempted to give the struggling George Springer the day off in Wednesday's Dodgers series finale, citing a sore knee from his collision with the center field wall during the Mariners series to begin the season. However, Springer was called into duty late, and he didn't show any signs of busting out of his early season rut.

Springer hasn't looked like himself to start the year, going just 1-for-21 through the first six games of the season, striking out six times and walking thrice. His one hit does happen to be a loud home run off the train tracks, but most of the AB's have ended in weak flyouts, rollover groundouts, or strikeouts.

So, why the struggles? Well, it isn't his knee.

First, George Springer's stance is a little different this year compared to last year. It is just a slight difference visually, but as a hitter it would feel significantly different.

Image via: Grayson Skweres

The left-hand side is Springer's stance in 2019, while the right-hand side is his stance in 2020. Springer has squatted down more in his legs and changed his body posture. His torso has a more forward lean over home plate in 2020 than it did in 2019. Why do this? Simplification. Springer's body in 2019 eventually gets to that same spot that he's in right now in 2020. He's cutting out steps and getting them done before the pitcher even starts his delivery. The forward body lean is also a "good" thing. A fastball comes downhill at an 8-12 degree angle. Some people will say that means that a good swing plane should be 8-12 degrees uphill. While that can be argued, it is inarguable that good contact is always made on a slight uphill plane. The forward lean creates a pendulum effect, in which the swing gets uphill without the batter having to think about it or force his body into that position.

If these changes are good, then why the struggles? Timing.

An old baseball saying is that "hitting is timing and pitching is disrupting timing." A hitter with poor timing isn't much of a hitter at all. Right now, Springer's timing is way off.

Remember how Springer cut out steps, opting to just get them out of the way before the pitcher even starts his delivery? Hitters will make the mistake of thinking that less steps and simplification means that they have more time. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. It seems that Springer feels that he has more time than he really does. He's starting his swing too late, which means he's getting his front foot down too late, which means he has to rush his hands to get to the ball. Rushed hands usually means the hips aren't being used efficiently either. Take a look at this swing off of Taijuan Walker during the second game of the season.

Image via: Grayson Skweres

The left is a screenshot of Springer at foot plant. The baseball is already over halfway to home plate (it is on the catcher's glove shoulder next to the Mariner logo sleeve patch). This leads to the result on the right, where an extremely hittable 89 MPH fastball jams Springer and gets in on his hands. The result?

Now, Springer did hit a homer later in this game. Did his timing magically fix for one at-bat? No.

Springer's foot still gets down pretty late, but Cortes does Springer a favor and throws an 82 MPH changeup down the middle. The 7 MPH difference is enough to allow Springer to catch up and put it in the Crawford Boxes. This is a common theme in 2020. Springer's two hardest hit balls, which are that home run and a warning track lineout off of Yohan Ramirez, are off of pitches 84 MPH or slower. See for yourself…

Now, remember how the timing leads to other problems as well? Namely, throwing his hips out of whack? When Springer is going well his body is stacked, he's in balance, and he's driving balls not just to the pull-side, but to the opposite field as well. He's yet to hit a ball to the opposite field in 2020, and this is why.

This is a 97 MPH fastball off the plate away, but Springer still fouls it off to the pull-side. Since he's late, he rushes his hands, which throws his hips out of line, which gives him a poor hand path, which gets him "around" that ball despite it being a good four inches off the plate.

What does Springer look like when he's going well? He looks on time…

Notice how much earlier his front foot gets down. His hands aren't rushing forward the second his foot hits the ground. He still has time to read the pitch and then throw his hands.

Below is Springer at foot plant on his homer off of Bauer in early 2019. The ball has barely left Bauer's hand (it is by Springer's sock on his lead foot in the frame). Springer holds his hands back for a tick or two longer, and then unloads on the ball, launching it to the train tracks.

Image via: Grayson Skweres

You could claim that this pitch is slow as well, just like his hard hit balls so far this year, but it's clear that Springer gets his foot down earlier throughout the entirety of 2019. Check out this opposite field home run off of Los Angeles Angels relief pitcher Justin Anderson.

Springer's foot gets down super early. He holds his hands back, hits the 94 MPH fastball where it's pitched, and trots around the bases with an opposite field home run.

Luckily, timing is a relatively easy fix, and Springer has all of the tools in the world to help him fix his problems. Once he fixes his timing, Astros fans will see the Springer of old.

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Watson's accusers appeared on Real Sports on Tuesday night. Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images.

HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel’s heavily promoted and much anticipated examination of Deshaun Watson’s legal mess involving alleged sexual misconduct shed little new light and merely presented a summary of well worn he said/she (x22) said accusations and denials.

The episode debuted Tuesday night on the premium cable service and will be repeated dozens of times throughout the week on HBO’s platforms. Check your local listings for times and channel.

The segment was hosted by Soledad O’Brien who presented compelling face-to-face interviews with two of the quarterback’s accusers: massage therapists Ashley Solis and Kyla Hayes. Their stories were detailed and graphic. Both cried during the interviews.

Solis: “As I’m working, he deliberately grabs himself and put his penis on my hand. I pulled my hand away instantly and I started crying. I told that I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore.”

Solis said she felt threatened when Watson, before leaving the session, allegedly told her: “I know you have a career to protect, and I know that you don’t want anyone messing with it, just like I don’t want anyone messing with mine.”

Solis added, “That’s when I got really scared because that sounded like a threat to me.”

Hayes: “He wanted me to kind of make a V motion in his pelvic area. I just kept massaging and did what he asked, until his penis kept touching me repeatedly as I did it.”

Hayes said that Watson had an orgasm, which she said was “mortifying, embarrassing and disgusting.”

O’Brien asked Hayes why she continued to have contact via email with Watson after their encounter.

Hayes: "I wasn't sure what he was capable of. He could've physically assaulted me. He could've bashed my business, so I had to protect myself and my business the best way I saw fit. Did I ever see him again after that? No. Did I give him the runaround? Yes."

O’Brien pointed out that two separate grand juries in Texas heard criminal accusations against Watson and neither found enough evidence to indict him.

Solis and Hayes, and 20 other massage therapists have filed civil suits against Watson. The cases aren’t expected to reach a courtroom until next March. Both sides could reach a settlement before then which would effectively shut down any legal action against Watson. However, both sides say they aren’t interested in any pretrial settlements. That’s what they say now, anyway.

After being banished to the sidelines for the 2021 season by the Houston Texans, Watson signed a historic, 5-year fully guaranteed $230 million contract with the Cleveland Browns.

Hayes said she feels Watson “is being rewarded for bad behavior." Solis said, "It's just like a big screw you. That's what it feels like. That we (the Browns) don't care. He can run and throw, and that's what we care about.”

Watson currently is participating in preseason workouts with the Browns and, at the moment, is cleared to play the upcoming NFL season.

That is unless the NFL suspends Watson for some, most or all of the 2022 season. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has said the league is nearing completion of its independent investigation into Watson’s case and will reach a decision “shortly,” probably this summer. The NFL and NFL Players Association mutually agreed to have former U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson decide whether or not Watson violated the league’s Personal Conduct Policy and what discipline should be handed down if he did.

The Browns are scheduled to play the Texans on Dec. 4 at NRG Stadium in Houston.

O’Brien said, while producing the Real Sports piece, she tried to interview Watson, his attorneys and the Cleveland Browns for their side of the story. All declined.

During a press conference in March to announce his joining the Browns, Watson denied any inappropriate behavior with the massage therapists.

Watson: “I never assaulted any woman. I’ve never disrespected any woman. I was raised to be genuine and respect everyone around me. I’ve never done the thing that these people are alleging. My mom and my aunties didn’t raise me that way.”

Leah Graham, a member of Watson’s legal team, sat for an interview after O’Brien’s segment was complete.

Graham: "It's 22 women. It's one lawyer. There's only one lawyer who was willing to take these cases. And as we know from Ashley Solis’ deposition, Mr. (Houston attorney Tony) Buzbee was not the first, probably not the second or third lawyer she went to, but he was the only one to take her case. Why? Not because it had merit, but because he would use these cases to increase his social media following and quite frankly to get on shows like this one.”

My reaction after watching the Real Sports segment? We weren’t in the room when the massage therapists worked on Watson. We weren’t in the grand jury room when evidence against Watson was presented. We don’t know what happened. We don’t know what will happen if these cases go to trial.

Until then all we have is one big, lurid, embarrassing mess. In American courtrooms, defendants are presumed innocent. That’s often the opposite in the court of public opinion. We’ll just have to wait while the wheels of justice grind painfully slow.

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