White Sox

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Why Adam Engel came up with his unique batting stance, and how he's tweaked it since

Adam Engel stepped into the batter’s box for his first major league at-bat in May armed with a batting stance that, to say the least, wasn’t conventional. 

Engel’s hands were pushed far away from his body and were level with his head. His bat pointed straight up in the air, and his right (back) arm was raised above his left (front) one. On first glance, you had to wonder — how can that be comfortable? 

“That’s something that I probably wouldn’t coach a little kid to do,” Engel said. 

But there was a well-thought-out method to Engel’s stance. He used the word “tension” in describing what he was trying to avoid by thrusting his hands high and away from his body. And as White Sox hitting coach Todd Steverson noted, nobody does anything well when they’re tight. 

“The closer I get my hands to my body, I tend to grab the bat a little harder, which causes a chain reaction I don’t want,” Engel said. “As long as my hands get to where I want them before I start swinging, that’s the goal.”

Since arriving in the majors two months ago, though, Engel has lowered his hands and dropped his back elbow. Here’s the difference in his stances between his first career hit (May 27) and his first career home run (June 25)

And almost a month later, Engel's gradually brought his hands lower:

For a rookie, tinkering with hand placement can be hazardous. But Engel’s batting stance has been a work in progress for a while now, as evidenced by what it was back in spring training of 2016:

Even during spring training in 2017, Engel’s stance was closer to what it was in 2016 than what it was when he made his major league debut:

But here’s the point Steverson made about all those tweaks and changes: As long as it helps Engel get the barrel of his bat to the point of contact, who cares how it looks before the swing?

“At the point of contact, 99.9 percent of every hitter looks the same,” Steverson said. “… How you get it done is based upon timing and your inner functions. But can I get it to here on time is what it’s all about. There’s many myriad ways of doing that. You’re not going to teach somebody to do that because there’s not their functions. 

“… You got guys (in basketball) taking free throws different — did it go in the bucket or did it not go in the bucket? It’s kind of the same way with hitting. Can I get the barrel to the point of contact or can I not get the barrel to the point. And that’s the end of the story.”

The 25-year-old Engel is still trying to find his way through his first major league season, hitting .233 with a .317 on-base percentage and a below-average .650 OPS.  But he’s had some sporadic positive results, like his four-hit game against the Minnesota Twins June 22. 

There’s a fine line between finding a batting stance and hand placement that you’re comfortable with and tinkering too much, especially for a player as green as Engel. But he’ll continue to put in the work trying to find something that will yield consistent success — and that may mean another batting stance that sticks out. 

“it’s just pregame work, watch a lot of video on the starter before the games and then try to work all my work pregame, batting practice, swings in the cage, try to have a mindset that I’m going to have in the game,” Engel said. “Work on the mindset, and then when I step in the box, it’s as close to practice as it can be.” 

White Sox Talk Podcast: The all-request, whatever's on your mind episode


White Sox Talk Podcast: The all-request, whatever's on your mind episode

In this special bonus episode, we opened up the podcast to our favorite people: you the White Sox fan!

You asked the questions and we answered them!

Who will be the White Sox closer in 2020? Can Avi Garcia be an effective #2 hitter? Who will be the Nicky Delmonico of 2018? Who has been the biggest surprise at spring training?  There are questions about Adam Engel, Ryan Cordell, Carson Fulmer, Yoan Moncada, as well as Roger Bossard, Mike Ditka and Rocky Biddle.

We also give away a signed Freddy Garcia baseball from 2005.   

Take a listen here or in the embedded playlist below.

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?


White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Toronto Blue Jays?

They seem to have missed their window.

Living on a lighted stage approaches the unreal, they say. And it did there for the Jays for a while, too, as they made back-to-back trips to the American League Championship Series. Those teams were fun. They hit a lot of homers. They flipped a lot of bats. We all got to watch Geddy Lee keep score on national TV. Good times.

Well, the good times haven’t lasted, and the Jays again seem to be on the outside looking in of an AL East race that figures to feature the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox and no one else.

Jays fans have had to say a farewell to kings in the past two offseasons, with two of the biggest engines of those ALCS teams, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista, no longer with the team. Encarnacion is entering Year 2 with the Cleveland Indians. Jose Bautista would like to be a working man, but he’s still watching the tumbleweeds roll by on the deserted plains of this offseason’s free-agent market.

Sure, Josh Donaldson is still around, a modern-day warrior with a mean, mean stride and a mean, mean swing, too. The same can be said for Justin Smoak, who teamed with Donaldson to mash a combined 71 homers last season. But are the dipped numbers of Kevin Pillar and Ryan Goins and the increasing ages of Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales and Curtis Granderson giving anyone in the Great White North great confidence in this lineup? Even the two imports from the St. Louis Cardinals, Randal Grichuk and Aledmys Diaz, couldn’t reach base at a .300 clip last season.

The best news for the Jays might be what’s going on 60 feet, six inches away from home plate — excuse me, 18.4404 metres from home plate. Marcus Stroman might start the campaign on the disabled list, but he’s still really good after posting a 3.09 ERA last season. J.A. Happ was good last year. Marco Estrada was OK. And the Jays added Jaime Garcia this offseason, who isn’t a blockbuster newcomer, but he managed 129 strikeouts in 157 innings last season while pitching for three different teams.

Is any of that enough for the Jays to compete this season? To get closer to the heart of the AL East race? No probably not, but it’s really up to you to decide. And remember that if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

I’m out of applicable Rush lyrics, so let’s just move this along.

2017 record: 76-86, fourth place in AL East

Offseason additions: Curtis Granderson, Randal Grichuk, Aledmys Diaz, Yangervis Solarte, Jaime Garcia, Seung hwan Oh, Tyler Clippard, John Axford

Offseason departures: Jose Bautista, Miguel Montero, Darwin Barney, Dominic Leone

X-factor: The Jays had one of baseball's better closers last season in Roberto Osuna. He's had that job for a while now and has racked up 95 saves in his three big league seasons, including 36 and 39 in 2016 and 2017, respectively. His ERA was a career-high 3.38 last season, but he finished more games than any other pitcher in baseball and struck out a career-high 83 batters in 64 innings.

Projected lineup:

1. Curtis Granderson, LF
2. Devon Travis, 2B
3. Josh Donaldson, 3B
4. Justin Smoak, 1B
5. Russell Martin, C
6. Kendrys Morales, DH
7. Randal Grichuk, RF
8. Kevin Pillar, CF
9. Aledmys Diaz, SS

Projected rotation:

1. Marcus Stroman
2. J.A. Happ
3. Aaron Sanchez
4. Marco Estrada
5. Jaime Garcia

Prediction: Fourth place in AL East, no playoffs

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants