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Is Scott Kingery Snapping Out of It?

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As his slump finishes its sixth week, is the Phils’ Swiss Army Knife finally showing signs of life?

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

We all know that, if the Phillies are really going to contend for a playoff spot, they’re going to need a more effective offense. For two months now, it’s been 60 percent Odubel Herrera, 20 percent Cesar Hernandez, 10 percent Rhys Hoskins, with the remaining 10 divvied up among the rest. Their hits are coming

That includes Scott Kingery, who, after a hot first two weeks of his Major League career, has bottomed out rather sharply. In a stretch of 87 plate appearances, spanning 27 games from April 16 to May 20, Kingery hit .173/.230/.210, with no homers, 26 strikeouts and 4 walks. He looked positively overwhelmed; like a rookie with only half a season above Double-A.

But the Phillies are practicing the patience they’ve preached while they can afford to, and Kingery has been allowed to play through his slump at the Major League level. And if the last two series are any sort of indicator, Kingery may finally be about to break through.

Kingery started five of the six games on this mini-homestand against Atlanta and Toronto, all at shortstop, and also entered the one game he did not start via double switch. He went 5-for-18 (.278) at the plate, with 2 walks and just 3 strikeouts in 20 total plate appearances. On its face, that’s a lot better! Sure, it’s only five-and-a-half games, but we’re looking for smoke before the fire, here. What can we see within those 20 plate appearances that could lead us to believe things might finally start to turn around?

First, let’s set the baseline. For the first three weeks in May, Kingery continued to struggle to put a good bat on the ball. Just look at the spray chart below.

TruMedia Networks

There is exactly ONE ball that made it into left field for three weeks, and that came on May 19 against St. Louis, near the tail end of that stretch. Every single other ball on the left side of the infield was a grounder, save for one pop-up just to the left of second base. There was just no good contact whatsoever.

In the last six games, however, Kingery has already had five line drives off the bat; one more than he had in the previous three weeks.

TruMedia Networks
TruMedia Networks

Not swinging and missing at pitches over the plate has helped. He’s probably still leaking and reaching over the plate a bit too much, but at least the empty flails haven’t been as prevalent.

In looking at two similar swings on similar pitches from fairly similar pitchers this month, three very slight differences can be seen. Tracking them at full speed might prove difficult, but give it a go and see what you notice.

May 8
May 26

In the first gif, Kingery tops a grounder to shortstop and is thrown out in a bang-bang play. In the second, he ropes a medium liner to left. The top fastball, from the GiantsWill Smith, hits 93 MPH, while the Blue JaysJaime Garcia only gets to 89 with his. Kingery is in front of both, possibly thanks to his expectations being set on fastball while in a 1-1 and 1-0 count, respectively.

Apart from the outcomes, though, the differences in these two swings lay in the mechanics. Compare these two stills.

Kingery’s foot comes down in more of a straight line against Garcia, his left toe overlapping his right through this camera angle. It’s left exposed against Smith, opening his swing a bit earlier. His right elbow stays closer to his body against Garcia, preventing his left arm from barring as much. He also powers his hips through against Garcia, his plant leg yielding enough to allow a looser follow-through; against Smith, his plant leg is too stiff, and his swing is all arms and shoulders with no hip support.

The result is better contact, pure and simple.

Take Sunday’s game, too, where Kingery went 1-for-4 with a 5th inning double against Toronto starter J.A. Happ, another lefty. Kingery again gets ahead 1-0, then gets a 91 MPH fastball just below the zone. He’s looking for a heater, and adjusts his swing to dip and get the barrel on the ball to line a double to right field.

The swing stays closed, his back knee drops enough to allow the downward swing path. His hips stay engaged and allow him to power through the ball as his wrists provide the quickness to make the contact in the first place.

He’s not spraying doubles left and right with the frequency he did early in April, but it seems as though he’s undergone a swing recovery that’s allowed him to make more contact again recently.

He’s also doing a better job putting himself in a position to succeed, shaving his chase rate in non-two-strike counts from 31.8 percent from May 1-20 to 23.8 percent over the past six games, while also increasing his contact rate in those counts from 59.2 to 70 percent.

Six games, while far from anything resembling a definitive sample, could be the start of the improvement we’ve been longing to see from Kingery for weeks now. A combination of better mechanics and a better approach may be lifting him out of the depths, and a return to early-season production may be on the horizon.