|Minda Haas Kuhlmann (SA BY CC 2.0) via Flickr|
Lane Adams is 27 years old. Up until this year, he’s been a career Minor Leaguer with a .755 OPS, average power, above average speed, and a pretty good glove that can play all three outfield positions.
But there’s something happening here and what it is ain’t exactly clear. There’s a Lane with a bat over there, and he’s telling MLB they’ve got to beware. Ok, I’ll stop here.
What’s that sound? Everybody looks what’s going down.
Ok. I’ll really stop now. While this season has been a wash for the Braves, there’s been a some very pleasant surprises on this team:
- Johan Camargo developing into a real Major League threat after being an incredibly mediocre Minor Leaguer.
- Sam Freeman ditching his reverse splits to become a legit force against left-handed hitters (.471 OPS against).
These are great developments for a team that was in need of a good super-utility type and a shutdown left-handed reliever, both of which hadn’t really been present for half a decade on the Major League club. In enters something Braves haven’t had in a long time as well… a good 4th outfielder, Lane Adams. Called up in late April, Lane received two handfuls of plate appearances but was mostly used for his speed in pinch running opportunities. He received no starts in this stint and was sent back to the Minors on May 8th after compiling a .667 OPS.
Fast-forward to June 7th, and Lane gets the call back to the bigs and was used exclusively off the bench for over two months as Danny Santana, Jace Peterson and Matt Adams were used in spot starts in left and right field. Meanwhile, off the bench, Lane was coming up with some pretty big hits and playing solid defense in late-innings. I, along with nearly everyone that was watching Santana at the plate and in the field, was wondering aloud who Lane had to kill to get a start. And finally it happened…not the killing part.
It took a day off for Braves elite defending Ender Inciarte for Lane Adams to get the first start of his professional career. He went 1-3 with a walk and a run scored. You’d think that would earn him some starts over the likes of Jace Peterson and Danny Santana, whom were not swinging the bat well nor fielding above average, but alas no. It took 3 more weeks before Snitker started Lane again, and yet again, he had a good start going 1-4 with another walk.
Thus far, in little under 100 PAs, Lane has a .912 OPS, an 11.4% BB-rate, a 24.1% K-rate, and has 8 stolen bases to 0 caught stealing. However, there’s plenty to be cautious about when it comes to his 2017 MLB stint:
- An inflated BABIP of .391
- A stat-line that far surpasses what he’s been able to do at any MiLB level in every offensive category.
If there’s anyone out there that expects Lane to continue hitting above a .900 OPS for the rest of his professional career, I’d ask you to lay off the painkillers. As intelligent as Lane is, I think he’d say the same. However, there’s a lot to like about Lane, his approach, and the time, effort, and energy he puts into making himself an all-around better player. He studies the game, its mechanics, and has the intelligence to maximize his skillset. But enough of me talking about Lane. How about we let Lane talk about Lane! Buckle in as he has a lot to say and it’s very, very good stuff. Like me, I’m sure if you read this, you’ll be glad that he wears a Braves uniform.
First and foremost, thank you for taking your time out to answer a few questions for us at Walkoff Walk! We’re all big fans of the Braves and your stint with them has made an impression on all of us. On to the questions. I am a teacher so you will be graded on your responses.
For those of us that have been following you on Twitter, we have seen you discuss some advanced metrics that have been thrown around baseball lately, i.e. launch angle and exit velocity. We’ve also noticed a spike in your numbers this year, and was wondering if there was any particular metric you’ve been drawn to that has rewarded you with the great numbers you’re putting up at the MLB level?
I have to give you the background first.
Well growing up I played basketball and baseball. My first sport was basketball. Never put any emphasis into baseball growing up. In basketball, I studied the game’s best shooters and scorers. Trying to add what they did into my game. As far as baseball goes, I just showed up and played. After games and practice, I usually went to the gym to get up some shots and to implement the moves I studied. When I played baseball, there was no studying, no technique, no mechanical issues or any mechanical adjustments to be made. Just sorta went out there and played and let myself be an athlete. Mainly just waiting for the game to be over so I could go to the gym. I’m sure you’re all aware of the story of me trying to quit my sophomore year but my mom vetoed that decision.
I then get drafted. I get to AZL rookie ball league for my first go at professional baseball. Within the first week of my professional, I was told I needed a change in approach and in my mechanics. Naturally I thought “these are professional coaches they must know what they’re talking about”. Without any questions or knowledge, I proceeded to abide by their instruction. This is no knock to the coaches who at this time had a lot of major leaguers come up through that system and have had a lot of success. But for myself, I was a literal person. You tell me to swing down and try to create backspin I’m going to literally swing down and create backspin.
For the next 4-5 years, I was searching for a consistent swing. Deep down I knew something with my swing was off. We weren’t allowed to watch video until 2015. And if we did it had to be with a coach. I would watch big leaguer after big leaguer watching swing after swing trying to figure out what I could do, but not knowing what I was looking for. I heard big leaguers talk about it and they’d give the old conventional hitting terms; swing down, back spin etc.
It wasn’t until 2014 when I was called up that we played tigers out 10x in the month of September. That was the year JD Martinez broke out. I went out and watched the Tigers BP one day and casually walked by JD to see how big he was compared to me. He might have had 5-10 lbs on me. But I kept asking myself why he was hitting balls out to the opposite field the way he was. At the time Raul Ibanez was with us. We would talk hitting all the time. I asked him where this guy came from. Raul told me JD went to a guy and overhauled his swing. Raul also worked with the same guy earlier in his career. He tried to go into detail about his technique and philosophy. I didn’t comprehend it at the time. I was a shy 24-year-old and I didn’t want to pester Raul with questions. Although he would’ve talked to me all day if I wanted him to. Raul has been one of the most genuine guys I’ve met still to this day.
2015 & 2016 were years of trial and error. Still searching for what worked for me. I ended up trying to hit homeruns and drive the ball. That leads to a lot of overswinging and the K’s racked up. Sporadically swinging for the fences wasn’t getting it done at AA.
Fortunately, a buddy of mine in the hitting coach department put me in contact with JD’s guy. I flew out to California and hit with that guy for 5 days. They said it best. “I knew what to do I just needed the direction to get me there.” They gave me that direction. The swing they taught me kept my bat in the zone longer. On a plane more south to north. Spent the whole winter working and working on implementing the changes. 26-year-old habits are hard to break. Old habits kept creeping in and that I had to address and stay on top of. I struggled in spring training but I knew it was right so I just kept working and stuck to the plan. At Gwinnett, I was hitting more balls in the air naturally instead of rolling over balls the left side when my timing was off I’d hit balls in the air through the middle of the field and they would fall for hits.
Are players of today more apt to know about sabermetrics? Is there a divide – almost cliques – in which some players have bought into modern stats and others haven’t?
The thing about metrics and analytics are they aren’t intended for the player. Knowing metrics and analytics doesn’t make me a better player. Same as not knowing metrics and analytics don’t make you a bad player. Advanced stats are intended for the guys up in the front office gauge a player’s true value. Baseball is a business. Baseball Executives use analytics to find a player’s true value to save money. Instead of paying a free agent such and such dollars when a player that has rookie status can bring you the same value. Advanced stats are used to so the baseball bosses can get the most bang for their buck. I will say a majority of players in today’s game don’t take analytics seriously. Baseball is a traditional sport so naturally, guys will look at the traditional stats to weight their performance. Which is fine, but traditional stats don’t tell the whole story. Advanced stats can’t tell you everything about a player either. There has to be a balance. You see old school guys saying nerds are ruining the game, which I don’t think they are. Teams aren’t hiring guys with Ivy League degrees because it’s the new trend. They’re being hired because it’s an adapt or die business. Just like everything else in this world. Things get better and evolve and you either keep up or fall behind. The iPhone X is significantly better than the iPhone 1.
How widespread is the “hit the ball in the air” philosophy in both the majors and the minors?
I personally believe the hit the ball in the air is nearing a tipping a point. Though I prefer hitting the ball in the air far more than on the ground. But there’s a way to do it. Too high of an average launch angle will lead to more frequent pop ups and a higher punch rate. I want to think a guy with an average launch angle of 15-20 degrees will have more consistent success. You can compare a BABIP and average launch angles. Not going to tell the whole story but it will lead you to know which player is relying more on luck.
What coach, past or present, has been most influential on your career? Why?
There’s a lot of coaches and players that I have gathered information from. I love information (whether) I benefit from it or not. I like to hear how people perceive and analyze things. Hitting is personal feel. Each individual player receives information differently. Mike Trout thinks swing down and create backspin. That feeling/cue gets him to take his best swings. Is he wrong? No. I try to swing down and create backspin and I will literally swing down. So for me, I have to think differently than Trout. There’s no cookie cutter way to teach hitting. Everybody player is different. Up until the last year, I relied on other people to apply their ideas of the swing when I needed to apply my own for a better understanding. Since I’m the one swinging the damn bat and all. I didn’t have success until I had personal clarity and conviction to what I was wanting to do with my swing. Cue old phrase “different strokes for different folks”
If you could continue your baseball career in a different field, would you choose front office or manager? Why?
I think my ideal job after my playing days would be head of player development or something in the front office. I would like to help younger players just getting started to find themselves as a player. Give them information. Teach them how to analyze/process it and help them build a foundation for them to chase their goals. I personally believe baseball development falls too much under the everybody do this and that and follow the line. I believe players will have more conviction and clarity in what they’re doing if they can have some I freedom in their journey. Of course, you’d have to help guide them. Ask them questions like; what’s your goal? What are you going do to get there? At the end of the day, it’s the player’s career. I rather have them do everything they think they could do in order to reach their goals. Put responsibility on the players for their journey to the big leagues. Everybody talks about having a process in this game. But who’s process is this? The organization for the players?
This is merely theoretical…no story behind it. But if a guy evacuated from Florida, left the best tickets of his life before the bottom of the 9th inning last Sunday and missed Braves tie it in the 9th and your walkoff dinger in the 11th, what would you say to him?
I’d tell him, he and my girlfriend should go have a coffee together and talk about their decisions. She had a flight to catch and she was cutting it close. She had to leave early and got the update on the MLB app when she walked out of the stadium gates.
I want to think Lane Adams for answering some questions for us. You can – and should – follow him on Twitter @LA_Swiftness.
I talked on Twitter how Lane could be a serious late-bloomer to the game of baseball, and the potential is affirmed in this piece as he’s changed a good deal of his approach and is getting good results, especially in his medium to hard contact rate which is over 80% in his 2017 MLB stint! A smart dude. A heck of an athlete. A pupil of the game. I’m excited to see what he can do on the diamond!