After the struggles of the Cubs bats in 2020, I wanted to look into each player's individual performance. Can they bounce back? What caused the poor performance? Today, it's Kris Bryant. KB had the worst numbers of his career in 2020. His RC+ of 76 is nearly 50 points worse than his previous career low. He has never had an OPS below .825 before 2020, when it plunged to .644. What in the heck happened?
There were plenty of injuries, and there were plenty of other stars that struggled. Could it have just been a health thing? Perhaps. Let's dive into the numbers.
For starters, Kris Bryant's walks were way down, and his strikeouts were up. Walks were down nearly 4%, while Ks were up by nearly the same 4% margin. His ISO reached a career low, and that also generated a BABIP nearly 50 points below career trends. Across the board, everything was down. If KB was nursing injuries, I can explain the lack of power. But I'm not sure that explains the poor strikeout and walk numbers.
Moving along into Kris Bryant's Statcast numbers, notice the following:
Exit Velocity down slightly, but within his normal range.
Launch angle up, just slightly
Barrels way down, nearly half his career average
Hard hit down, but just slightly.
A few slight differences from years past, but the huge drop in squaring up the ball could have drastically affected his performance. It certainly explains the lower BABIP
Moving along, start with the last column, soft%, med%, hard%. The hard % was a career low. Soft and med were in line with his career averages. His infield fly percentages were up pretty high. Notice his huge plunge in HR/FB rate. His fly ball rate was within career averages, but not nearly as many flew out. KB was just not driving the ball as much.
Bryant had a career low pull %. His oppo% was also down slightly. All those hits now went up the middle. Was Kris Bryant late on pitches?
Looking at Kris Bryant's swings and contact rates, I'm not noticing huge differences. His contact was at it's lowest since his rookie year. This mainly stems from a down O-contact rate, on pitches outside of the strike zone. His in strike zone contact rate was actually up. With his swing rates all within normal ranges, he was just making slightly less contact.
The "Too Long; Didn't Read":
KB's walks were down and strikeouts were up
KB made slightly less contact despite swinging at similar rates for his career
KB's power was down
KB pulled the ball less
In my opinion, Kris Bryant is fixable. Combine COVID factors with being a new dad with injuries and an oddball season, I'm not surprised he slumped. With only 2 months, he had no time to work through any of the struggles.
Considering his approach was similar and he was just slightly off on driving pitches, I bet he can bounce back in 2021. All of these little struggles were career outliers for Bryant, and I think he can fix them in the offseason.