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Analysis

Breaking down Bryson Stott’s walk-off homer, pitch by pitch


Bryson Stott is a rookie. (Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire)

On May 25, recapping yet another Philadelphia Phillies loss, I wrote a bit about Bryson Stott looking a step behind at the Major League level, illuminated by a flawed approach and over-aggressive swing that caused the 24-year-old to come up small in a relatively big moment. 

Here it is:

Do your thing, Freezing Cold Takes.

In my defense, I wasn’t wrong. But consider this a complete 180.

If Stott’s fourth-inning at bat against the Atlanta Braves on May 25 — with runners on the corners, one out and a 4-2 deficit — was big, his final at bat on Sunday was colossal, times 10. After Alec Bohm’s rally-starting and Didi Gregorius’ game-extending singles had two on with two outs, Stott came to the plate with a chance to tie things up.

He did much more than that. The second home run of Stott’s big league career came in his biggest at bat to date, and it capped off a three-game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels that has the Rob Thomson Era off to a blazing start. 

It also came at the end of an at bat that looked encouragingly veteran from the rookie. Here’s how it went down.

Pitch 1

The first offering from Angels reliever Jimmy Herget, who came on to get Stott for the final out and hadn’t yet pitched in the series, is a 76-mph curveball. (Remember that, for later.) Technically, it does hardly nick the strike zone, but Herget badly misses his spot, throwing it high and in instead of low and out — and it’s never a particularly enticing pitch to swing at. Spit on that. Stott does. Ball 1.

Pitch 2

Herget’s 1-0 pitch is even less appetizing: a 91-mph four-seam fastball that’s equal parts extremely high and tremendously outside. No hitter in the Majors will swing at that. Stott is a hitter in the Majors. Ball 2.

Pitch 3

Stott’s in the driver’s seat now, ahead in the count 2-0. Five hits in his last 16 at bats is one reason he might be aggressive, but Kyle Schwarber is on deck, and June Kyle Schwarber is off to a June-Kyle-Schwarber-esque start: He’s 5-for-15 with three homers and a double. If Stott gets something he likes, go for it, but there are worse things than just finding a way to get Schwarber to the plate. Luckily, Stott’s decision is easy: Herget misses about a foot outside with a sinker. 3-0.

Pitch 4

Same approach here, but even more selective. Maybe it’s a full-on red light. It certainly seems that way: Stott sees another sinker, almost right down the middle. He takes. 3-1. 

Pitch 5

This is where Stott can do some damage. The long, all-in swing that Stott employed in that May 25 at bat is somewhat justified here. Up 3-1 in the count, he’s not trying to tie it up. He wants to break out the brooms himself.

Stott sees an opportunity to do just that, and he pounces on it. Herget throws a third straight sinker, this one in the upper third of the zone and tailing over the middle of the plate. Stott takes the biggest hack he can muster, falling to his back knee after fouling it off. Appropriate for the situation, but it doesn’t work. No biggie. Full count.

Pitch 6

Since the first-pitch curveball, Stott has seen only fastballs — one four-seamer, then three sinkers. Herget’s only curveball missed his spot badly, and it didn’t fool Stott one bit. Fastballs had gotten Herget back into the count, and one of the last things he wants to do is walk Stott to summon Schwarber — who, let’s face it, is a more intimidating hitter.

Many hitters — especially rookies — would eliminate the curveball in that situation. But whatever pitch type he’s expecting, the one thing Stott must do is shorten up. He’s not a “power hitter” at this point, despite hitting his first Major League home run on Friday. With the Phillies down to their last strike and the tying run on second, Stott doesn’t have the luxury to swing for the fences.

And he doesn’t. His stride, usually a toe tap, is a simplified heel-up, heel-down instead. It’s something Stott later told the NBC Sports Philadelphia broadcast crew he’s worked on with Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long. Stott also said he watches film on someone who employs the no-stride often — good friend Bryce Harper — and has seen how successful it’s been for the two-time NL MVP.

Of course, Herget gives him a curveball. Had Stott completely eliminated the pitch and sat fastball, he’s done for, swinging over the top for a 7-6 loss. But he hadn’t. He’s a little out in front — indicating he may have been expecting a fastball — but the short swing, rather than the so-called Daddy Hack, lets him adjust to the offspeed and put bat on ball. Stott gets the heel down early, drops his hands to get it, takes one hand off the bat as he follows through and, unlike the previous swing, remains upright. 

Game.

It was a home run. It was not a home run swing. That came on 3-1. But when Major League hitters make good contact on hittable pitches, even a de-juiced baseball will fly. This one did, at least enough.

“When I got to that 3-1 foul ball, I mean, I felt my heart kinda going and took a deep breath and saw the next pitch,” Stott said after being bathed in ice water by Harper, Mickey Moniak, Schwarber and Bohm, in that order. “It was a slider or curveball or something. Like I said, I don’t really know what’s happening.

“It was good. It was right there. So I’ll take it.”

And so will the Phillies.

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