Change in approach has paid huge dividends for Austin Romine

Back in February, Yankees manager Aaron Boone challenged Austin Romine to become a better hitter this season. Boone felt that the backup catcher was much better offensively than his career .220 batting average suggested. So far in 2018, Romine is proving his skipper right. In 59 at-bats, the 29-year-old Californian is hitting an eye-opening .373 with four home runs and 19 RBI. In addition, Romine is currently in the midst of a career-best 11 game hitting streak. Romine credited his manager with his offensive outburst.

"I loved it," Romine said, of Boone's challenge. "It wasn't negative, like, 'You're not doing well and we expect you to do more.' It was, 'We know you can hit more than that,' and it was positive. All that stuff has come, and it's all been positive.”
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But one thing is for sure, this marked improvement has not happened by chance. Romine made a concentrated effort to change his hitting approach in Spring Training. He revamped his batting stance, now setting up slightly closed, and has made his swing more compact as a result. As a result, Romine has been taking the ball to right field at a higher clip than ever before in his career. Per Fangraphs, 49% of the balls Romine has put in play have been hit to the opposite field. This is far and away better than his previous career-high of 35% last year.

Another area where Romine has greatly improved is plate discipline. In 2018, Austin Romine is swinging at only 24.5% of pitches outside of the strike zone. Just like opposite field percentage, this is a huge improvement over the career-best 34.8% that he set last year. Because of his increased patience at the plate, Romine has a career-high walk rate of 13.2% and a career-best strikeout rate of 17.6%. Basically, Romine is forcing pitchers to get him out, instead of getting himself out as he did in the past.

“I’m not swinging at pitchers’ pitches,” Romine said. “I’m not trying to hit their best pitch, I’m trying to work counts and get ahead. My game plan is hit the ball up the middle and go the other way.”

One area where the Bombers backup backstop has always been solid is production with runners in scoring position. Before this season, Romine was a career .284 (38/134) hitter with 46 RBI when runners were on second and/or third. Keeping with the trend, he has found a way to improve in this area as well. In 2018, Romine is hitting an absurd .529 (9/17) with one home run and 14 RBI in these situations. He has been one the Yankees’ most clutch hitters without a doubt.

Over the years, the Yankees have traded away several catchers from their system. Some, like Francisco Cervelli, and to a lesser extent John Ryan Murphy, have gone on to have successful careers. Others, like Jesus Montero, flamed out. It always seemed like a risky decision that New York decided to keep Austin Romine out of that group, and before this year, with a career OPS of .577, it seemed like a mistake. Now, with what he’s done this year, it’s crazy to think that Romine once passed through waivers unclaimed back in 2015.
Photo Credit: Presswire
Prior to this season, Romine was viewed as a solid defensive catcher who was an automatic out at the plate. So far this year, he has been a menace to opposing pitchers, already tying a career-high with four home runs, and he has allowed the Yankees to pick their spots to sit down the struggling Gary Sanchez. If Romine continues this type of offensive output, he is going to force himself into the Yankees lineup much more often. It may have taken him a while, but it seems like the 29-year-old has finally figured out how to hit at the Major League level.

Article by: Jake Graziano


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