How Jean Segura’s challenge helped Phillies rookie Bryson Stott break through at the plate
Segura asked Stott to give him 10 at-bats with a tweak to his approach. The results were immediate and helped propel the rookie to his best month yet.
When second baseman Jean Segura went on a rehab assignment with triple-A Lehigh Valley in late July, he watched the Phillies on his laptop. Over that eight-game span, he noticed something that piqued his interest: rookie shortstop Bryson Stott’s two-strike approach.
When he didn’t have a two-strike count, Stott used a toe tap and a stride. He was moving so much he hardly had time to see the ball. But when he went into his two-strike approach — removing the stride and the toe tap, and just spreading out wide — he ripped line drives all over the field. He hit home runs. He laid off pitches he normally swung at.
After Segura returned to Philadelphia on Aug. 4, he approached Stott as they were walking off the field one day between innings.
“Why don’t you give me 10 at-bats with no stride?” Segura said to Stott. “It seems like you want to get to two strikes just so you can widen out. Just give it a try.”
In Segura’s telling, Stott was a little skeptical. But once he tried it, he saw immediate results, going 6-for-10. Segura approached him in the dugout.
“Six-for-10, is that good?” Segura asked sarcastically.
“Yeah,” Stott said.
“I had to come up from triple A to tell you do to do this?” Segura joked.
Unbeknownst to Segura, hitting coach Kevin Long had posed a similar challenge to Stott a few days earlier. Long had two goals for Stott entering this season: work on his two-strike approach and help him lay off high fastballs. As it turns out, one played into the other.
“It just makes the decision-making that much easier, and his barrel awareness and bat-to-ball skills have gone through the roof since he’s done it,” Long said. “He was just doing it with two strikes, and he started to do that probably two months ago. I noticed how good his at-bats were when he did that, so we were thinking about it doing it all of the time.”
Long asked him to go no-stride, no toe-tap on Aug. 2 against Braves starter Spencer Strider. Stott wasn’t able to get a hit off Strider, but was making good contact. He felt like he was seeing the ball well. Once he rattled off those six hits over 10 at-bats, he decided to stick with the two-strike permanently, and has not regretted it.
Stott is hitting .323/.353/.431 in August with a .784 OPS. It’s a significant jump from his numbers in July (.226/.293/.381) and June (.238/.315/.413). Segura, Stott and Long believe it’s due to the two-strike approach, which Stott now uses all the time.
In April and May, Stott was striking out more than 30% of the time. He’s dropped his strikeout rate below 20% (17.6% in August).
“I think the first couple of months here, I was trying to hit the ball before they even threw it,” Stott said. “Saying I was going to swing or not swing. And I was taking pitches right down the middle because I’d already said I wasn’t going to swing. Now, it’s more reactionary and understanding the pitches I know I can hit and the ones I can’t.
“I’ve always hated striking out. I feel like that’s the only outcome where the pitcher gets you. You can get out on a good swing and feel like you’re seeing the pitcher well, but if you strike out, you’re obviously not seeing him well. Just getting into that two-strike approach and knocking off some movements, and just being able to see it longer has been the biggest thing, I think.”
It’s been a fun process for Segura to watch. Stott said when he first started using his two-strike approach all of the time, he’d see Segura laughing in the dugout, telling him “I told you so.” Segura continued laughing on Aug. 12, when Stott became the first player in MLB history to get on base four times against Max Scherzer (double, two singles, hit by pitch), and on Aug. 13, when he was one of only two Phillies to get a hit off Jacob deGrom.
Of course, it’s all good-natured ribbing. Segura said he never had a veteran player guide him in his career. He felt like he had to rely solely on his coaches’ advice, which is partly why he feels it’s important to help players like Stott when he can.
“I would have loved to have someone help me, but I only had coaches,” Segura said. “Sometimes it’s hard to listen to coaches. I’ve been the younger guy on a team, and I remember veteran guys didn’t want to talk to me. That’s why I come to them and tell them, ‘Hey, why don’t you try this?’ ‘What do you think about this?’ It’s going to help our team, at the end of the day. They’re the future of the organization.”