The 2020 season will be remembered for many reasons, but one of those reasons was the short nature – just 60 games. With a sample size of just two months, some players had big swings in their “first half” and “second half”. When you’re talking about just two months, though, those things often go unnoticed in a normal 162-game season. For Shogo Akiyama, though, the down, then up, wasn’t just a typical “good month/bad month” – there was a concerted effort to change what he was doing at the plate.

“I think the biggest takeaway from the season was how I was taking my timing, I was able to see the ball better in the second half after that,” said Akiyama through interpreter Luke Shinoda. “It was obviously the biggest change I had in my career, but I’m glad it turned out well.”

In the first 30 games of the Cincinnati Reds season, Shogo Akiyama hit just .195/.279/.247 with eight walks and 20 strikeouts in 86 plate appearances. Over the final 30 games of the season he went out and hit .295/.427/.346 with 17 walks and just 14 strikeouts in 97 plate appearances.

Looking at the two splits two things are quite apparent: The plate discipline and approach were quite a bit different – walks were up and strikeouts were down, both significantly, in the second half. And that, even with the improved approach/outcomes, there was no power at all in either half as his isolated power (SLG-AVG) was just .052 and .051. He hit zero home runs in his rookie season after hitting 25, 24, and 20 in each of his final three seasons while playing for the Seibu Lions in Japan.

In early January we wrote about how Shogo Akiyama spoke on a television show in Japan that one thing he was focusing on was trying to hit for more power in 2021. The outfielder spoke about that once again on Monday while in Goodyear, also noting that he was training with more emphasis against velocity he’ll see in the Major Leagues.

“Yeah, definitely I felt that change in velocity that wasn’t there was in Japan,” said Akiyama. “During the offseason, I was swinging and imagining that the velo was there from a Major League level pitcher. I value each swing more with power compared to where I used to focus more on contact and the shape of the swing. Just looking into spring training I just hope I can produce results moving forward.”

Reds to honor Joe Morgan with #8 patch

While the postseason was taking place in 2020 the Cincinnati Reds and Major League Baseball lost one of the bet players to ever put on a jersey when Joe Morgan passed away at the age of 77. The Reds will be honoring Morgan this year with a #8 patch on their sleeves.

37 Responses

  1. Frostgiant80

    I would take .295/.427 with doubles power. I mean, I need more than bloop singles power but if he can hit shots into the gaps I am fine with that. I know the majors has turned into .245 and 35-45 dingers is all that matters but I still think some who can hit .300 and slash doubles has a lot of value.

    Reply
    • Kim Henry

      I’m in full agreement. The game has become so homer oriented that the .300 doubles hitter is no longer a valued player. We need players who can get on base and not 8 homerun hitters.

      Reply
      • Kevin Patrick

        I’m so glad the Reds are honoring Morgan on their uniforms. If Shogo could honor Morgan with a few stolen bases that would be nice too.

      • Hotto4Votto

        The statement that .300 doubles hitters are not valued is not accurate. In 2019 the guys who were top 15 in doubles and hit .300 were Raphael Devers, Xander Bogaerts, Anthony Rendon, Charlie Blackmon, Whit Merrifield, and Michael Brantley. Every single one of those guys is a valued player.
        Even dropping the bar a bit, to a .280 average you’ll find guys like Castellanos, Ozzie Albies, Marcus Semien, Mookie Betts, Yuli Gurriel, Francisco Linor, and Jorge Polanco. Again, very valued players.
        In 2020 (SSS) the Freddie Freeman led the league in doubles, hit .341 and won the MVP.

      • Max Bragg

        They just changed the baseballs so contact hitter will be back in play. But still can’t figure out Short Stop WOW!

    • Lars Benders

      I’d take .295/.427 in a second, regardless of power.

      Reply
  2. DataDumpster

    Of all the players on the Reds, he is the one I will be watching the most. He is the type of player the Reds desperately need and I believe he has the capability to “grow into” the MLB.
    David Bell should play him most everyday at the top of the order and use the skills he has that are in short supply in this team. If he can also hit 15-20 dingers and/or steal a decent number of bases along the way, then do we really need Winker, Castellanos, and most of the other outfield fill ins for anything other than trade value?

    Reply
    • Michael Smith

      @data

      I agree about his playing time. Really wish we had the DH because I think the best combination of defense and offense in the outfield is a combo of Winker, Shogo and Senzel.

      Reply
    • Woodrow Thedaug

      Jesse Winker is (checks notes) a really really really good hitter. And vs LHP last year was (checks again) really good. Plug him in left every single day, and rotate the other three, using an off day Shogo or Senzel (or Aquino) for late inning defense.

      Reply
      • Tom

        Jesse Winker had a good month of August. September was not good. Seems to think he is a HR hitter. If September is the new norm, trade him for a bucket of balls and a PTBNL.

  3. Michael Smith

    @data

    I agree about his playing time. Really wish we had the DH because I think the best combination of defense and offense in the outfield is a combo of Winker, Shogo and Senzel.

    Reply
    • Kevin Patrick

      I know Castellanos didn’t look great out there at times this past year, but count me as cautiously optimistic on his defense improving significantly this year. I thought he was starting to get much more natural out there.

      Reply
      • Matt WI

        You’re kind. I’d rather him just be a consistent hitter and take the good with the bad regarding his defense- Let’s be realistic- Castellanos has been in the MLB for 7 years– Maybe some marginal improvements to be made, but at this point he kind of is what he is out there. It’s not like he’s just learning a new position. And he played plenty of OF in Det, so it’s not like the DH sucked up time learning defense.

  4. gusnwally

    Please Shogo, just hit the ball and get on base. Let the supposed power hitters knock you in. I sure am glad we got see Tony Gwynn and Rod Carew when we did. Since they would be bench players today or maybe not make the big leagues at all. Scouts report says no power, don’t bother to draft.

    Reply
    • LDS

      Gwynn, Carew, Brett, Rose, et. al., all likely to be benched in today’s game or platooned by managers like Bell. Sadly, it makes the game far less interesting and not as much fun.

      Reply
      • Doug Gray

        None of them would be benched or platooned.

      • Andrewman

        Yeah I’m confused by this comment. These are generational players you’re mentioning.

      • Tom

        Agree 100%. Other than the late-game dramatic hr, the game has become a snorefest of whifs, walks and fly balls that happen to clear a low fence.

    • Kim Henry

      EXCELLENT POINT………….AND our own Pete Rose. Your point was made better than my earlier post. Someone responded with a list of doubles players who hit at or around .300; but most of these had 20 plus homers as well. The Carews, Gwynns, and Roses of the world would be hard pressed to make todays rosters. Of course: in my opinion.

      Reply
  5. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Not worried about power one single bit. Worried about getting on base. We need people to get on base. I’d rather have an entire lineup with hitters who get on base 360+ and only 1-2 HR hitters than 6-7 HR hitters who can’t even get on base at a 300 clip.

    Reply
    • TR

      Yes. A lineup that works the count, gets it’s pitch, and gets on base wears down the opposing pitcher faster than the occasional homerun.

      Reply
  6. Still a Red

    Who if anyone is today’s Pete Rose, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn, George Brett, Wade Boggs??? Maybe these new stadiums, more dominating pitching, and analytical defenses make line drive singles and doubles in the gap less likely. Can’t believe that statistically having your first 2 or 3 batters get on base early and frequently and have 4,5,6 homer them in, if you can do it, no longer produces the most runs.

    Reply
    • Old Big Ed

      Do you mean the George Brett who hit 317 lifetime homers, who led the league in triples, slugging percentage and OPS three times each, who had 1,119 extra base hits among his 3,154 hits, and who is 7th all time in doubles?

      George Brett MASHED the ball. I saw Brett several times in Fenway in the late 70s and early 80s, and Brett undoubtedly hit the ball harder more consistently than any other player I saw frequently. (Jim Rice at age 25 was something to behold, too.) Brett didn’t have the launch angle or backspin on the ball that they preach now, but nobody alive could barrel a ball more purely than he could.

      Reply
      • Still a Red

        Yeah…I thought including Brett was a little different…but you will still admit my point that he drove the ball hard off the barrel. I think Joey can do that…not sure Shogo can, he strikes me more as a slap hitter to all fields…perhaps along the lines of Ichiro.

    • Vada

      TR knows how to win. Stop swinging at the first pitch in Ace pitchers. Ace pitchers count on batters swinging on their sucker pitches. Key is to knock the starting pitchers out by the 4th inning. And for Pete’s sake, learn to bunt when the switch is on.

      Reply
  7. Sliotar

    2 days in a row … over-30 Reds hitters announcing that they are selling out for power.

    Awesome. (/sarc).

    Under hitting coach Alan Zinter, Reds were a true 3-outcome team.

    It took playing the Pirates and AL Central a bunch and a Cy Young season from Bauer …. to scrape into an expanded playoffs.

    Now … no Bauer, Reds lineup isn’t generally young overall … and if there is close to a 162-game season, plenty of betting pitching to face (LA, SD, NYM, etc).

    Love the Reds … can’t stand this strategy … Reds hit HRs at home, can’t replicate it on the road.

    Plus … 2-1 games with 3 hits and 15 Ks per team … yikes.

    Reply
    • Doug Gray

      I feel like you missed what both Joey Votto and Shogo Akiyama are actually saying they are planning to do if your takeaway is that they are “selling out for power”.

      Reply
      • Sliotar

        I did not miss anything … the last thing this team needs … IMO … is aging guys risking upping the Reds’ K% rate in 2021.

        Those stats I posted below are horrific for an aging offense.

      • Doug Gray

        Neither guy is “selling out for power”. They are both attempting to find more power (among other things, particularly with Votto). Selling out for power would be them saying “I’m going to go Jose Bautista, swing out of my shoes, try to pull everything, and hit it over the fence”

        Neither guy said anything remotely like that. Votto said he wanted to be more aggressive in the zone and try to hit for some more power, be less “defendable”.

        So yeah – you did miss the point. That doesn’t mean the stats you posted in your other post are wrong, or incorrect – it means with regards to the two players you were criticizing, you were not understanding what the two players were actually saying.

  8. Sliotar

    2020 Reds Offense

    (sure 60 games, but there was a season and Reds were definitely trying to put out best lineup … Zinter’s first season)

    Per FanGraphs

    K% 25.2% -7th
    BB% 11.3% – 2nd
    HR 90 – 7th
    OBP .312 – 24th

    HRs

    Home 57 – 3rd
    Away 33 – 24th

    Same story last couple of years …. Reds hit a few HRs at GABP, gets folks excited.

    (Remember the sweep of the Astros at home in 2019?)

    But can’t produce HRs on road in mostly bigger ballparks .. offense flounders.

    Reply
  9. Optimist

    Last year’s lineup in order of OBP-

    Wink
    Shogo
    Votto
    Moose
    Suarez
    Nick C
    Tucker
    Senzel
    (SS)

    Aside from L/R matchups, and moving Wink out of lead off, that looks like what this year’s will be as well.

    Reply
  10. doofus

    Just observed on MLBTR chat…

    Reds ss
    3:06 Who starts opening day?

    Steve Adams
    3:07 I don’t know the answer to this, but when the best-case scenario is to hope they trade for Amed Rosario so they don’t have to give Dee Strange-Gordon the nod, that’s a really rough situation.

    Brutal offseason for Reds fans. They should be livid with the team.

    Reply
    • Rednat

      we are livid but we are still going to watch on tv and the reds will sell out at the 30% capacity every game and then some. And the owners know this!

      Reply
    • doofus

      Let me be clear, I should have put quotes around “Reds ss to They should be livid with the team.”

      Reply
  11. Bill J

    IMO the 2 most exciting things in baseball are a triple and an inside the park home run, probably will not see many of those in GABP.

    Reply

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