Brent Morel's power surge has seemingly come out of nowhere. Including Saturday’s fourth-inning home run, Morel has hit eight of his 10 home runs this season in September, looking like a completely different batter over the past month.
A closer look at numbers shows that the Chicago White Sox third baseman's increased power coincided with his developing more patience at the plate.
“Early in the year [pitchers would] kind of just make their pitches and I’d swing at them,” Morel said. “It was tough to do anything. The more patient, the more selective you are, the more they have to come in the zone.”
On Aug. 20, Morel had walked just four times in 309 plate appearances. In his 116 plate appearances since then, he’s drawn 17 walks.
Morel’s slash line of .250/.363/.521 (batting average/on-base/slugging) since Aug. 21 -- as opposed to .254/.270/.324 prior to that date -- isn’t a coincidence. According to hitting coach Greg Walker, being more selective at the plate is something they’ve specifically been working on.
“Coming into this season we knew that Brent had some things to work on at this level,” Walker said. “Taking pitches was not one we were that aware of, but we looked up after the first month of the season and he had no walks. So we started to talk to him. We knew he was swinging early in counts and at bad pitches.”
Not only did Morel have no walks in April, but he nearly went all of May without drawing a free pass, finally coaxing four balls on May 30. During the All-Star break, Walker talked to Morel about being more patient at the plate. Morel started by just taking more pitches, but eventually that patience turned into walks.
“He’s gotten to be one of our more patient hitters now,” Walker said. “He’s not a big strikeout guy; he’s capable of putting the bat on the ball and putting the ball in play. But we have not told him to take pitches necessarily, we have just got him to swing at better quality pitches if he does swing early in counts and not be afraid to hit with two strikes.”
Walker added that you never want to be making adjustments with a youngster in batting practice, it’s something that you want taken care of by the end of spring training. Though they tried to work with Morel over the winter in California, by the time March rolled around, his old bad habits had returned.
“Most people swing a bat the way they have their whole life,” Walker said. “So to make a mechanical change is tough to do. I give him all the credit for being street smart and having a great disposition.”
Walker said he had been hopeful, but skeptical that they would see positive results to the changes they made this season and Morel’s attitude was the most important factor in his improvement.
Morel never had the deer-in-the-headlights quality that many youngsters have when they are given a starting job on a team that’s expected to contend.
“I call it being ‘shook,’ where you just look in a kid’s eyes and know that he’s panicked,” Walker said, adding that that was never the case with Morel. “He was just giving away too many at-bats earlier in the season. I think his knowledge of swing plane now, the bat staying in the zone a long time, the directness of the bat to the ball, has all improved. I think he’s basically shortened up his swing. He’s getting through the ball better than ever, before he was around and cutting across balls. Now you watch him take BP, it’s amazing how much better his pregame work has gotten. He’s always been a talented, strong kid, but he just was not using it.”