It’s always a good thing for a pitcher to get ahead with the first pitch. Getting that first strike changes the rest of the approach, for both the hitter and the pitcher. It’s no surprise then to see hitters take aggressive hacks on good first pitches. All-stars such as Carlos Gomez, Josh Hamilton and Giancarlo Stanton are notorious first pitch hackers, feeding on elevated fastballs and hanging breakers. Being so aggressive early can lead to big strikeout numbers as well, as these three know. It’s a tough strategy to pull off, but there are monumental awards to the few who can. 2014 has brought many new faces to baseball, and one of them could be the next great first pitch swinger.
Many exciting rookie debuts have been made this season, and arguably none have made as big an impact as power hitter George Springer. He’s wowed fans all over the country with 13 dingers already, hitting for a 127 wRC+ and a .218 Isolated Slugging. But one thing that has really popped out about Springer so far is how well he’s hitting the first pitch.
He’s swinging at 34% of first pitches, above the major league average, and he’s clobbering them. He has a .500 Batting Average and a ridiculous 1.214 Slugging%. He’s second in the league with 6 first pitch homers, and has done so in 17 less swings than the league leader, Nelson Cruz.
Springer isn’t just sitting fastballs either, he’s stinging changeups, sliders, curveballs and cutters as well. If you’re pitching to him and try to sneak anything elevated by him, good luck; all of his first pitch hits have come off of elevated pitches.
Take a look at his first pitch homers:
Springer is looking for elevated pitches, but what’s so impressive about his aggressive nature is his ability to adjust to offspeed pitches. Most first pitch homers come from fastballs, as hitters gear up for one spot and swing if it’s sent there. But Springer has hit a few sliders and a changeup out already.
Watch Springer’s mechanics as he gears up for the first pitch fastball:
Springer is loaded up and ready to explode when he sees first pitch fastball. It’s as aggressive a swing as you’ll see anyone take, and he got the best result possible. But watch how well he adapts to a slower pitch, a 77 mph slider from Jered Weaver:
Springer’s foot comes down at the same time as the above gif, but the pitch is so much slower and he can’t begin to clear his hips until later. His incredible raw strength helps him make up for the early start, and he’s still able to muscle the ball out in an impressive feat of strength.
George Springer was ranked as one of the top prospects in baseball for a great reason. His amazing power is a sight to behold, and his ability to make it play up consistently is just as astounding. If there’s any lesson to be learned from all this; pitchers, stop elevating your first pitch against George Springer.