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The San Francisco Giants Need 2020 Austin Slater To Re-Emerge

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at August 3, 2021

Last season, San Francisco Giants’ outfielder Austin Slater put up career numbers in a COVID-19 shortened season. The biggest step forward for Slater in 2020 was his ability to mash right handed pitching.

This season, Slater has still been impactful against left handed pitching, but he has not been able to return to 2020 form against right handed pitching which has relegated him to a platoon role. With the addition of Kris Bryant, the impending returns of Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria, and the steady play of Darin Ruf and Steven Duggar, Slater’s playing time may be at risk if he can not be more productive against right handed pitching.

He also finds himself in a similar position with fellow outfielder Alex Dickerson. Both players may find themselves as the odd man out when the team returns to full health. They also still have one Minor League option remaining. The big difference is, Slater’s youth and remaining years of team control may mean he could be one the first players sent down when the roster crunch begins.

One huge similarity between Dickerson and Slater is that they both are struggling to hit right handed pitching this season, which leaves the Giants in a bind. Dickerson has surprisingly posted reverse splits this season against left handed pitching which may indicate that he could be due to snap out of his funk at some point. On the other hand, Slater has largely been ineffective against right handed pitching in his career with the exception of 2020.

Austin Slater was experiencing a breakout season in 2020 before injuries slowed down his torrid pace. He has also endeared himself to fans by transforming his body, swing, and approach in order to get the most out of his innate bat to ball skills. He produced a 106 wRC+ against RHP in 2020 and is posting just a 50 wRC+ vs RHP this season. Unfortunately, he could not reproduce the numbers he put up against right handed pitching in 2020, but it’s not for lack of effort.

One of the main differences between Austin Slater’s set up and subsequent swing from 2020 to the 2021 season is he has gradually brought his set up closer to even than he was last season. In 2020, he was always slightly more open in his set up, which is believed to help the batter track the ball better and allows the hitter to get into a better position to hit inside pitches from same handed pitchers.

However, once he started to struggle this season it is evident he felt that getting closer to even may help him. When a hitter goes back to an even stance it is typically to reduce eye movement, or give them less moving parts in order to help them find better timing. Unfortunately neither of these things seem to be working for Slater this season.

One other noticeable difference with Slater’s swing this season is his hand positioning is slightly higher and his barrel tilt going into his swing is much less pronounced than it was in 2020. This seems to be negatively impacting his swing and the numbers support that. His GB% has spiked 13.9% this season, his average launch angle is 4.6 degrees lower, and he is struggling to barrel the ball as frequently as he did last season.

Since Slater’s barrel tilt going into his swing has been less pronounced, he has produced a flatter, more transverse bat path which equals a shallower swing that produces less loft. This also negatively impacts the amount of barrel and duration of time his barrel stays in the hitting zone. Getting his bat slightly more vertical before he initiates his swing may be the key to unlocking 2020 Austin Slater.

Much like the addition of Kris Bryant and the return of Evan Longoria and Brandon Belt, the re-emergence of 2020 Austin Slater could be a huge addition to the San Francisco Giants line up heading down the home stretch. The Giants are still one of the best offenses in baseball, but heading into the final months of the season they are one more bat away from also being the most complete offense in baseball.


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