Reds' Scooter Gennett rides an adjustment and chance to play every day to the MLB All-Star Game
The former part-timer is now a force at second base for the Reds
WASHINGTON -- Back in late March of 2017, the Milwaukee Brewers had placed second baseman Scooter Gennett on waivers. He was claimed by the Reds and the Brewers let him leave without any compensation.
At the time, Gennett carried a career slash line that was worth 99 OPS+ and he hadn't produced a full season WAR of higher than 1.3. The book on him was that he couldn't hit lefties, either, so Ryan Joseph Gennett was a platoon player with a quirky nickname.
During the course of 2017, however, something unlocked in Scooter. He had a four-home run game. He ended the season with 27 homers, 97 RBI and a 124 OPS+.
Some of it, as it turns out, was simply getting the chance to play everyday and work through the issues against lefties. Maturity and experience also came into play, per Gennett.
"I would say that's a big piece," he said. "It's one of those things you have to earn in this game. Nothing's given to you, you gotta come to the clubhouse every day, expecting to get better. Eventually, when you have some success you start finding your way into the lineup more and more. It definitely helps when you're seeing pitches everyday to be able to have success -- and when you do have success, then to continue to have it. For a long period of time, I feel like you only get that if you're in there every day. There's also a lot of other things -- just the mindset of how can I continue to get better, not just be satisfied with what I've done, that's definitely a huge piece of that. Maturing as a player, you get to know like, 'OK, this works for me, this doesn't, what are they trying to do to me, how are they trying to pitch me?' All those sorts of things are kinda involved in that formula of success. I just try to roll with it and not change anything if I do go 0-for-10 or whatever, not try to reinvent the wheel, just realize these guys are really good -- these pitchers are really, really good -- and if they make a good pitch, it's kinda like 'hey, great job' rather than 'oh man, I should've hit that' or being too hard on yourself. There's gotta be a good mix of your frustrations and things you can control, and some things you can't. It's crazy now, they're really good, they have really good stuff and they know how to get you out."
"Still more left-center when I hit. That definitely gets you through some mechanical issues, so when you don't have that opportunity to face them, it kinda lingers into the right-on-left. The first two, three years of my career I was mostly just facing righties, and that was a grind. But I got a chance last year to face lefties pretty much on a regular basis and it's almost just back to normal baseball. It was a grind to get to that point."
Gennett also stopped squeezing the pulp out of the bat against lefties.
"I would say my last year, in '16, I just tried to think of just relaxing more, relax my hands, try not to do too much," Gennett said. "The end result was I'm swinging at better pitches. I think just naturally as hitters, when we're tight, naturally our swing gets longer and we know the only way to hit that ball is to start our swing a little early, which I think results in swinging in bad pitches and that can be tough. So, when I relax my hands a little bit more, I think naturally I was just like, 'I have more time, I'm quicker to the ball and shorter to the ball.' And the end result is swinging at better pitches, and I think that translates into obviously better numbers and more power."
The results speak for themselves. Gennett sits here as an All-Star, leading the NL in hitting at .326. He's got 21 doubles, 16 homers and 63 RBI. He already has six grand slams in his Reds career, which is a remarkable feat.
And guess what? Scooter can't hit lefties, huh? Here's his line against fellow lefties this season: .308/.349/.522. I'd say he can hit lefties just fine. He simply needed that chance to show he could, in addition to making the adjustment with his hands in 2016. It's the stuff All-Stars are made of.
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