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Early Positive signs for Cristian Pache

What changes have led to success?

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

When the Phillies acquired Cristian Pache from the Athletics early this season, even the most optimistic observer knew he was a project. The once top 15 prospect shine had worn off of him, even if Pache was just 24 years old. He had a career slash line of .156/.205/.234 across 332 Major League plate appearances in 104 games across parts of three seasons.

However, something has changed through 23 games in Philadelphia, as Pache owns a batting line of .324/,361/.559 and already has almost as many extra-base hits (6) than he did all of last season (10) in just 37 plate appearances. That last part is the key when looking at Pache. Thirty-seven plate appearances are nowhere near enough to judge whether he has totally figured it out and become something close to the player many thought he could be. But there are some stark differences in his stance and his numbers to suggest at least some of this improvement being for real.

First, let’s look at Pache’s batting stance from 2021 with the Braves.

via MLB film room

Notice where Pache’s front foot is. It’s behind his back foot, lined up with the heel, and elevated. Also look where his bat is. It’s close to his body with his hands back.

Now let’s look at Oakland in 2022

via MLB film room

Here, the front foot is aligned with the back foot completely and no longer elevated. The bat is even more horizontal.

Finally, here’s 2023 with the Phillies

via MLB film room

The front foot is back to being aligned with the back foot at the heel and elevated. The bat is raised more with the hands slightly more tucked closer.

It’s similar to the stance from Atlanta with one key difference in the load. The bat stays elevated whereas in Atlanta, the bat drops back to the shoulder as the swing starts. Also, the front leg comes up a little higher on the leg kick.

via MLB film room
via MLB film room

Here’s the reel these screenshots were taken from if you want to see the full swings.

What has this led to?

To understand what these changes have done, first we have to understand what Pache’s problem was.

Pache has struggled to hit the ball anywhere but into the ground, as he had a career groundball percentage over 50% prior to this season. In 2022 with Oakland, Pache’s groundball rate of 57.1% was the fifth highest among all MLB hitters with at least 250 plate appearances. It’s difficult to consistently hit and nigh impossible to hit for power with a groundball rate that high.

However, Pache’s groundball rate has plummeted to a much more reasonable 34.6% this season. Along with that decrease, his line drive percentage has jumped to 34.6% from just 19.5% last season. Again, this is an extremely small sample size for 2023, but Pache had a career line drive percentage of just 18.5% prior to this year. In this small sample, he is hitting the ball with better quality contact and keeping it off of the ground.

Statcast backs it up

The ideal launch angle for a line drive is approximately 10-25 degrees. Pache’s average this season is 11.4 on 26 batted balls. He had previously in his MLB career never had an average launch angle better than 8 degrees and that was on 40 batted balls in 2021. It was a measly average of just 3 degrees last season on 174 batted balls.

With the better launch angle has also come more barrels. Pache has barreled 7.7% of his batted balls this season, by far the best rate of his career. He barreled just 3.4% of batted balls last season and his previous career best was 5% in 2021. His sweet spot percentage is up to 42.3% from 25.3% last season and 20% in 2021. Pache’s isolated power is also the best of his career at .235 with his previous two seasons both finishing under .100.

What does this all mean?

Pache will most likely not keep up all of these lofty numbers. Because, once again, this is based off of a sample size of just 37 plate appearances. All of these improvements could disappear as pitchers begin to adjust or prove to be just a small sample mirage.

But Pache’s expected average of .267 and expected SLG of .444 points to more than just luck being behind his early production. That still does not definitively say it’s for real, but it does show that the changes detailed here are having a positive effect at least for now.