Trevor Story has returned with a vengeance since coming off the inured list last month, going 13-for-28 (a .464 average) with four doubles, a home run, four RBI and a 1.197 OPS in his first eight games entering today’s Labor Day matinée against Tampa. Asked to explain the surge, Story has hinted at mechanical adjustments.
“I’ve cleaned up a few things,” he said again recently.
But he offered no more specifics.
Over the weekend, Red Sox manager Alex Cora was asked to elaborate on Story’s adjustments and acknowledged that Story had great difficulty earlier this season making contact against good fastballs, particularly up in the strike zone. The knee-jerk reaction to such a problem is to suggest a player lacks bat speed and can’t “catch up” to a fastball, but the problem is often a poorly timed swing that originates in the foundation of the swing: the legs and feet.
So what has Story done? He’s shortened his leg kick, for starters. And as such, he appears to have much better balance that has allowed him to more consistently address the outer half of the plate.
OK, so we dorked out a little. Here are the particulars:
The Old Story
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS – APRIL 21: Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the Toronto Blue Jays during the third inning at Fenway Park on April 21, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
This photo – and the video below – were taken from games in April. At the time, Story had a fairly pronounced leg kick – his foot at times seeming to dangle in the air as the pitch approached home plate. The result? Story couldn’t really be “on time,” as Cora likes to say, which makes perfect sense. Who can hit with one foot in the air? This problem is reminiscent of an issue former Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury had at times, which resulted in questions that frustrated former Red Sox hitting coach Dave Magadan. “Everybody thinks the problem is his bat speed,” Magadan once explained. “It’s not his bat. It’s his feet.” Ditto, it seems, for Story.
The video below features consecutive versions of the same pitch from Toronto starter Alek Manoah to Story from a game between the Red Sox and Blue Jays in April.
We froze both videos – showing Story’s front foot still in the air – as the ball approaches the plate. The second video has been slowed down some to offer additional perspective, but you get the idea. Story’s stride was too big and too slow, which put him behind from the start.
The Newer Story
BOSTON, MA – SEPTEMBER 3: Trevor Story #10 of the Boston Red Sox follows through on his RBI double against the Texas Rangers during the seventh inning at Fenway Park on September 3, 2022 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
This photo – and the video below – were taken from games over the weekend, when Story went 5-for-8 with three doubles and a home run during the Red Sox’ four-game sweep of the hapless Texas Rangers. In the photo, Story has hit an opposite-field double toward the right field corner during the seventh inning of Saturday’s victory, which brings us to this: three of Story’s five hits over the weekend – two doubles and a single – were to the right side of second base. On more than one occasion this year, Cora has spoken of Story being at his best when he uses the whole field, which the player did effectively over the weekend.
Earlier in the season, Story often looked pull happy, unable to cover the outer part of the plate. This might have been be at least partly the result of his inability to get his feet planted. By getting his front foot on the ground earlier – and in a more “closed” position – Story is now better positioned to react to pitches with his hands and upper body, which he seems to be doing more effectively.
In the video below – in comparison to the video above – take note of how Story has essentially broken his leg kick into two parts. The first is a toe tap that takes place before the pitcher even releases the ball. (Contrast this with the above.) The second is then a shorter, quicker step that helps Story stay more square through his stance, allowing him to use his speed for a hustle double.
One final thing: I’m not a hitting coach and never will be. But based on Cora’s comments and the video, these are at least some of the changes and tweaks that Story has “cleaned up” since his return.