Brenton Doyle’s month of September was incredibly important to his development going forward. After dazzling the league with what should be Gold Glove defense in center field all season long, his offense was severely lacking. So, he began to change some things and as Joelle Milholm shared recently, the adjustments Doyle made began paying off. What exactly did those adjustments look like and how did they help him? That’s the question we endeavor to answer today.
First, let’s take it back to what Doyle had been using as a stance and approach all season.
Pictured below is Doyle’s setup pre-pitch in the box in 2022 while at Double-A Hartford. He has typically featured a closed stance, an upright bat at an angle, with his hands ranging anywhere near his shoulder and level when his chin as pictured below.
On his load, Doyle would use a traditional simple leg kick load with his load while pulling the hands back slightly in order to generate a quick and explosive swing through the zone. That swing yielded plenty of results in Double-A, leading to plenty of minor league success in 2022.
In 2023 he made some minor changes, raising his hands higher with the bat while closing his stance a little bit more.
Again, he was enjoying some success in Triple-A to start the season but a move to the big leagues would prove more challenging for his swing.
Since his promotion to the big leagues, Doyle’s stance remained slightly closed while keeping his bat slightly upright and his hands in line or below his chin. Pictured below is what that stance looked like.
Over the course of the season, this stance did not help yield any results for Doyle. Through August 13, Doyle was batting .198/.257/.325 with just 50 hits in 277 plate appearances and had 100 strikeouts to just 19 walks. He also had a 45% ground ball rate along with one of the lowest contact rates which coincided with having one of the team’s highest swinging strike rates at 18%.
Throughout the season, Doyle’s swings and at-bats had the same results again and again, a swing and miss and/or strikeout.
Much of this was a result of bad timing and inefficient movement of his hands with the bat. While Doyle maintained an ability to not chase as much, his inability to hit a good amount of pitches in the zone displayed problems with his extremely high swing rate in the zone. Doyle tended to lower his hands during the load making it difficult to catch up to pitches in the upper part of the zone. Just look at the video below and see what I’m talking about, looking specifically at his hands.
Going from a high-hand position to a low-hand position that almost seemed to drift was throwing off timing and caused the strikeouts and ground balls. Sure, he could use his strength to hit the ball hard, but that didn’t matter if he wasn’t making contact. He struggled up in the zone and on the outer half of the plate. By bringing his hands back and in on the load, he was primed to catch pitches on the inside part, but because of the inefficient hand movement, ended up getting jammed more while also striking out.
Changes needed to be made.
Tinkering with the hands
Doyle admitted over the summer that he was beginning to implement changes into his swing. It was something he had hoped to do over the offseason, but his performance necessitated on-the-fly tinkering.
On August 13 against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Doyle experimented with his hand movement and leg placement. Prior to the pitch, he set up with his front back slightly back, almost even with his back leg, while raising his hands and keeping the bat almost perpendicular to the ground and resting above his shoulder.
With the new placement, his load now acted as a lever, pulling the bat down and back while then swinging forward.
As a whole, the new swing looked better.
With the hand placement figured out, Doyle would table that development for a few weeks as he worked on a new factor in his swing adjustment, a toe-tap no-stride load for his lower half.
Two days later, Doyle abandoned the leg lift load and introduced a toe-tap no-stride load.
The change made a quick impact in its first game of usage.
The theory behind this load is that it allows the hitter to not only improve his timing but also help him implement the torque and power to keep the hips from flaring out, specifically that back hip that can twist and follow in unison with the rest of the swing. It simplifies movement to yield maximum results. Shohei Ohtani is a great example of this type of swing load because we all know how great of a hitter he is.
Doyle was still struggling while making the adjustments, but as mentioned in the article linked at the top of this piece, September 5 would be the turning point where it all came together.
Putting it all together
On September 5, Doyle combined the two changes into a single swing and had a glorious debut going 2-for-4 with a triple and no strikeouts.
The bat wrap helps him keep his hands higher as he starts the swing, while the new load simplifies the swing so that he can focus on his hands. It’s also worth noting that Doyle began to choke up on the bat ever so slightly.
Doyle told Thomas Harding of MLB.com “It’s very small — I don’t think a lot of people would actually be able to tell, but it’s been a good difference and it has been helping me get to balls I would normally swing under.”
Oh, I noticed Mr. Doyle.
Since that day, Doyle went 22-for-79 (.279 AVG) with .305 OBP and .481 SLG. He also had two home runs, four doubles, three triples, 16 RBI, and 20 strikeouts. He had six multi-hit games, more than any other month, and had a 77.8% contact rate, one of the highest on the team during the stretch. Dropping his strikeout rate to 24.1% was also a huge improvement. By making more contact, Doyle ended up raising his batting average to over .200 by the season’s end.
The future is bright for Brenton Doyle offensively. He has shown a willingness to learn, adjust, and grow as a hitter. He has already mastered defense, and by finding something that has begun to work for him at the plate, he may just yet achieve the offensive potential that lies before him, and that’s something the Rockies will need in 2024.
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The offseason will be spent by outlets that don’t normally cover the Rockies chiming in with their analysis and solutions for the Rockies. While they may be slightly out of touch with some things, they hit the nail on the head with some of their brief analysis in this quick roundup article.
Luke Zahlmann runs through what the roster will likely look like heading into 2024 and pinpoints a couple of pieces that would be great in Colorado, though some of them are likely quite unrealistic.
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Arizona Fall League
The offense abounded for both teams in the game, combining for a total of 23 hits. The Rafters themselves put up plenty of zeroes on the mound by the Scorpions put up four runs on Tigers’ prospect Tanner Kohlhepp in the seventh and proved to be the difference maker. The Rockies prospects enjoyed some success though as Benny Montgomery led off for the Rafters, going 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored as well as a pair of stolen bases. Sterlin Thompson also had a big day, going 3-for4 with an RBI triple in the bottom of the ninth and playing second base.
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