DENVER — With three home runs in the last four games, Trevor Story’s bat seems to be coming to life. But the Rockies shortstop still has some things to fine tune with his approach at the plate. In more ways than batting average, Story is displaying new tendencies at the plate, and not all of them are positive.
Story is hitting just .164/.271/.426 this season, and before a scoring change gave him a hit in Saturday’s game, he hadn’t singled since the Rockies’ win in Milwaukee on April 4. Those singles are his only two of 2017 so far.
More than that, Story currently sports a fly ball rate of a whopping 75 percent, by far the highest in baseball. A high fly ball rate is nothing new for Story, whose 47.1 percent last season was fifth among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances. The greater concern may be his infield fly ball rate, which currently sits at 25 percent after being at just 8.8 percent in 2016. He has also struck out more than 40 percent of the time.
“When swings look big, it’s because our bodies are moving harder. He’s working on slowing his body down and consistently getting his body in the right place so you can take that swing that looks good to everybody,” Rockies hitting coach Duane Espy said.
Despite the power surge, worrisome issues for Story remain. The last time he hit a ground ball was in the second inning of the Rockies’ 6-0 loss to the Padres on April 12. His last line drive came in the fourth inning against the Dodgers on April 8.
“If you guys were in the cages with us every day, you’d go, ‘He’s got it,’” Espy said. “But there is that element of the work transitioning onto the field.”
Espy went out of his way to praise Story’s work ethic in getting his swing back to where it needs to be.
“I can only say this, he’s working as hard at it as he can,” Espy said.
One positive sign for Story is that in the past week, he has made hard contact 54.5 percent of the time, bringing his season hard hit percentage to 31.3 (though he has struck out 48 percent of the time as well).
“I think it’s getting better,” Espy said. “I think he feels like it’s getting closer, sometimes things speed up on us in the game.”
Another positive for Story is that, despite the strikeouts, his plate discipline overall seems to have improved. According to FanGraphs, he has swung at fewer pitches outside the strike zone and in general. His walk rate is also up to 12.9 percent from 8.4 percent in 2016.
“I think he’s working in the right direction, and it’s going to be fine,” Espy said.
As for if and when we’ll see Story look more like the player fans saw in 2016, Espy was unwilling to be specific.
“I wish I had that crystal ball,” Espy said. “All I know is he’s working on it, we’re working on it, and hopefully sooner rather than later.”