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.
— Redleg Nation (@redlegnation) February 22, 2021