A few adjustments have made a world of difference for Jake Lamb.
At the beginning of the season, the discussion of the top third basemen in the NL included the names Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, and Matt Carpenter. There wasn’t much hype surrounding Jake Lamb making the leap into these discussions as a top-tier third baseman. However, this season he has been a man on a mission.
While Spring Training stats aren’t typically indicative of the season ahead, there was something different this year with Lamb. He smashed during the spring to the tune of a 1.205 OPS, all the while improving his eye at the plate to gain more walks. In addition to the improved eye, Lamb was making changes to his swing in order to keep his bat in the zone longer, a la his teammate A.J. Pollock.
These differences can be seen in video comparing his swing throughout his MLB career:
There are two quick changes in his swing that have made a significant difference. First, as you can see in the 2014 video, Lamb was using a toe-tap during the pitcher’s delivery and release. He has since changed this to a leg kick that helps keep his weight back longer allowing him to generate more power.
The second evident change that Lamb made is an improved bat path. During the 2014 and 2015 videos, Lamb appeared to be cutting off his swing early and not releasing all his power. As he states in Piecoro’s article, he made a goal to have “a longer swing through the zone” and he’s done just that. One way of finding this is by looking at the follow through in his 2016 swing. Lamb no longer finishes with his bat up and body stiff but instead finishes with a fluid motion that uses his whole body.
The results of this new and improved swing have vaulted him into new territory. Lamb’s power has gone up tremendously, as he’s currently posting a .259 ISO, more than 100 points higher than he has produced in any previous season.
In addition, as previously stated, Lamb’s eye at the plate has also improved this season. So far, he’s only swinging at 20.9% of pitches outside of the zone, 7% lower than the league average. This improved vision has also led Lamb to improve his K and BB rates this year to career bests of 20% and 11.6% respectively, each being better than league average.
Nevertheless, Lamb still has one part of his game that he must improve in order to gain more recognition. While Lamb has crushed righties this year, he’s continued to be terrible against lefties, forcing his manager Chip Hale to leave him out of the lineup against them.
Notwithstanding his struggles against lefties, Lamb has forced his way into the discussions of the top third basemen in the game. While he may not have the track record to back this up, his change in swing and plate discipline shows that he’s not only above average now, but constantly improving. The D-Backs appear to have found their third baseman of the future with Lamb.
*Stats taken from FanGraphs.com and are accurate through the games of May 18th
Edited by Jeremy Losak.
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