June 25, 2024

“We don’t talk about striking out,” says the hitting coach of a team that strikes out very little. Even before acquiring Luis Arraez, arguably the best pure contact hitter in baseball, the San Diego Padres were noticeably improving in a crucial hitting aspect: putting the ball in play.

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Heading into Friday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, the Padres rank among the top teams in the league for the fewest strikeouts. This is a stark contrast to 2023 when the team had a 21.2 percent strikeout rate. The Padres’ increased ability to put the ball in play is evident.

While personnel changes every year can lead to these improvements, the main factor behind the Padres’ progress may be their new hitting coach, Victor Rodriguez.

In a recent interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune, Rodriguez shared his philosophy on striking out: “We don’t talk about striking out. When you’re not afraid to strike out, you get comfortable. When you’re afraid to strike out, you force yourself, you put pressure on yourself, you get tense. Your natural swing is not there.”

Improving in an area they’re not explicitly concentrating on might seem paradoxical for a player or team. However, as long as Rodriguez’s approach continues to yield positive results, there’s little reason to alter it. Not only have the Padres reduced their strikeout rate, but they’re also drawing walks at an impressive league-leading rate of 10.6 percent — even after trading Juan Soto, known for his keen eye at the plate, to the New York Yankees last December.

As of Thursday, the Padres have scored 752 runs, ranking 13th in MLB.

Padres notes: A new hitting coach; Luis Patiño claimed; Jorge Oña, Michel  Baez released - The San Diego Union-Tribune

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