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For Danny Jansen, Crouching is everything

I originally was going to title this “The Danny Jansen Breakout is here” but after only four games that felt a little premature.

Jansen is having a hot start to the season. He’s played in three games, has four hits and two walks in those games, including this home run from Monday in Washington.

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What I’ve noticed with Jansen, and heard mentioned on the broadcast a couple of times, is that Jansen is crouched more at the plate this year. Here he is in his last at bat from 2019.

The difference is clear. His stance is more upright and open in 2019, and he has a bigger leg kick.

This is something Jansen played around with last year. Check out this swing from May.

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Looks an awful lot like that swing from September, doesn’t it?

Now look at this swing from August

That looks pretty similar to the 2020 swing.

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It looks like he started the 2019 season with a more upright stance. Looking through Baseball Savant’s game logs he started crouching more on June 19, before going back to the upright position on September 14th. If you recall, Jansen had a horrendous start to the season last year. You may not have noticed because his overall line was poor but Jansen had a strong summer and the results line up pretty well with this crouched batting stance.

From March 28th to June 19th, Jansen hit .170/.258/.242. That’s a .228 wOBA and a 37 wRC+. That 37 wRC+ was tied with Chris Davis for the lowest in baseball. Jansen was literally the worst hitter in the league. Thankfully he’s strong behind the plate so he wasn’t hurting the team the way Davis was.

Defence is what kept Jansen in the line-up and allowed him to work through this. Without the defence he is likely headed down to Buffalo and who knows what might have happened.

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From June 21st through September 11th with the crouched swing Jansen hit .247/.303/.481, for a .327 wOBA and a 104 wRC+. Ideally, you would like to that OBP a bit higher but mostly this is how we expect Jansen to hit. If Jansen can be a league average to slightly above league average he can be an incredibly valuable catcher.

The swing change for Jansen brought along some other notable changes. Take a look at his batted ball stats from Fangraphs and Baseball Savant.

FanGraphs LD% GB% FB% Pull% Cent% Oppo%
March 28-June 19 19.7% 45.1% 35.2% 46.3% 25.2% 28.5%
June 21-Sept 11 21.8% 34.6% 43.6% 60.9% 23.3% 15.8%

 

Baseball Savant Exit Velocity (MPH) Launch Angle (°) Distance (ft) Hard Hit% K% BB%
March 28-June 19 88.5 11 164 42% 24% 10%
June 21-Sept 11 89.0 20 195 39% 17% 6%

 

Right away we see some pretty significant changes. Jansen started pulling the ball more, and getting more balls off the ground and into the air. His exit velocity stayed the same but his launch angle increased nine degrees and thus he gained 31 feet in average distance.

His upright swing was leading to hard contact when he connected with the ball as seen in the hard-hit rate and exit velocity. But he was making less contact, and when he was connecting it was on the ground and either up the middle or away. That doesn’t lead you to much power or hits. Mostly just gives you a lot of 4-3 putouts.

The walk rate went down due to the fact that he was more aggressive at the plate. We see this all the time with players, when they are struggling with the bat they have a tendency to take a lot more and draw more walks.

Jansen has a strong eye at the plate. As he starts to hit more he can be more selective at the plate and take those walks. We are starting to see that this season. Pitches in the strike zone he is pouncing on and if not, he’s taking his walks.

It might not be the time yet but if this approach continues throughout the season, get ready for plenty of “The Danny Jansen Breakout is upon us” articles.