Galactus Is Here
Quite the week for Chicago sports when Patrick Kane comes back for the playoffs a full five weeks early than the timetable set out, and Kris Bryant is called up the minute after he was basically eligible to be. You could almost get dizzy.
I almost shudder to think what will happen if he even goes 2-for-4 today, much less homers or drives in the winning run. Will all those who couldn’t comprehend what would happen if he wasn’t up for the beginning of the season (when the Cubs went 5-3 which is far above the top end of what we thought they could do all season, as that’s a 101-win pace) be excited? Or will they point out that this should have been happening all along and now they have proof it was a crime?
It shouldn’t matter. It’s yet another exciting day to be a Cubs fan, and there have already been a few and there are certainly many more on the way.
There are plenty of other places doing “meaning” today, or something thereabouts. So I won’t get too much into that. There is one aspect of the expectations of Bryant that I’ve always been curious about, however.
Granted, I’ve only seen Bryant a handful of times, and only once live this past March in Tempe (he homered twice, I nearly passed out). It seems to be a given that Bryant is going to strike out a ton. Hell, he even says it himself. And at first, for this year and probably next, I’m sure that will be true. 34 Ks in 36 minor league games in his first year after he was drafted, and then 162 in 138 games at Double-A and Triple-A last year. That’s a lot, no way getting around that.
But when you watch Bryant, there is such a significant difference in his swing than Baez’s or Soler’s, and Soler has plate discipline. The word I use a lot, and will continue to do so, is balance. He never looks out of control. Whereas Soler unleashed holy hell on the ball and is kind of an explosion, it almost feels like Bryant directs the ball 430 feet.
I don’t want to get all hyperbolic here, but it looks a lot like Pujols. Just so easy and free. Now, Bryant’s approach, the idea that he knows he’s looking for pitches to lift and to drive, will lead to Ks. He’s going to get caught looking on pitches on the corner. Something with late movement might flummox him. But I really wonder if that’s going to last forever.
Considering how balanced and controlled his swing is, it feels like that he can let balls travel longer than either of Soler or Baez. He doesn’t have as much to get going as the other two. The process he takes to the ball is just much shorter and cleaner. Give him a trip or two around the league, give him the time to see what major league breaking balls and cutters look like, and I wonder if three years from now the K-rate won’t be below 20%. I would be willing to wager that if Bryant did opt to sacrifice a little power he could hit .300 and not strike out a lot.
But of course, no one wants him to sacrifice a little power. It’s a trade we’ll happily make. Because with that swing, in the right situations, Bryant is too smart to know when a strikeout can’t happen. And he’s got the swing to prevent it. Sure, no out and no one on? Swing away. Runner at 3rd? Then I’m not so sure.
We’ll all find out together, of course. An already immensely fun Cubs season (and it’s only been two weeks!) just got ridiculous. Galactus is here.