The only guarantee in life is change. It can take many forms, especially in the world of sports. Positive and negative results dictate what adjustments teams and their players make in order to succeed long term.
In Major League Baseball, an interesting hot-button topic has been changes to the bats. It is obviously one of the fundamental pieces of equipment in the game. It’s difficult to score runs unless players make contact with the ball, and preferably, hard contact.
What if bats were designed in a new way to make this easier to do?
A company set out on this journey to potentially become the savior of hitters. From their New Jersey warehouse, Victus Bat Company customizes bats with a unique “axe” handle. Major league stars like Mookie Betts, George Springer and Giancarlo Stanton have been early adopters of their products.
What does this have to do with the Miami Marlins? Consider where they rank in various offensive categories so far this season:
- 23rd in batting average
- 28th in on-base percentage
- 30th in slugging
- 30th in home runs
- 30th in runs batted in
Plenty of room for improvement.
Without a realistic shot at playoff contention in 2018, this should be a year of experimentation throughout the organization. Why not try new tools that have been associated with improved hitting performance across the league?
Specifically, Axe Bat focuses on improving bat control and decreasing the likelihood of hamate (hand) injuries. Control cannot be quantified in any one particular stat, but it influences how players perform when trying to produce with runners in scoring position. For example, the Fish are in the middle of the pack in making “productive outs”—27 percent success rate in 233 opportunities—and rank 29th in the majors with only 11 sacrifice flies.
Even with the existing talent on the roster, there is the potential to score more often.
Here’s the good news: Derek Dietrich, one of Miami’s hottest hitters, is using an Axe. So far, I have only noticed Dietrich, Cameron Maybin and Miguel Rojas. But it’s only natural for players to try for themselves when a teammate does something different and finds sustained production with it.
Entering June 12, here are the season stats of some prominent Axe Bat users:
MLB Axe Bat Users, 2018 Stats
*Dustin Pedroia has been battling serious injuries at age 34. He slashed .293/.369/.392 when healthier last year.
It’s not just the case of a few standouts picking up the slack for the whole group. The differences between Axe enthusiasts and conventional batters are significant across the board.
As director of research and development for Baden Sports in 2016, Hugh Tompkins explained why the evolution has been so gradual despite obvious advantages (h/t Craig Davis, Sun Sentinel):
“Baseball is a traditional sport. The guys at the top have the most to lose, so they’re most resistant to change,” Tompkins said. “So as a company we really focused on youth, high school and college, knowing those guys would be tomorrow’s pros.”
I’m up for anything! I do believe this team will be solid at some point from a hitting perspective. We have a group that respects strike zone discipline. They really do, and I know the numbers say otherwise. I think they might just need a little help in the shape of an axe.