Q&A with Maxx Garrett, Hitting Trainer at Driveline Baseball
Curious what JP Crawford did to elevate his game this offseason? Hear from the man that helped the Seattle shortstop make big time changes to his training and approach this offseason.
(Photo via Mariners/Twitter)
When the Mariners acquired J.P. Crawford back in 2018 from the Philadelphia Phillies, there was still plenty of optimism about his bat. As the years have gone by we have seen a consistent version of Crawford, one that consists of plus on-base and bat-to-ball skills, with well below-average power.
Many believed the Seattle shortstop had reached his ultimate ceiling, especially after a rough second half in 2022. In January, I wrote a column here detailing three reasons why Crawford could be better in 2023.
One of the main reasons I believed in an improved version of the 28-year-old shortstop was his decision to train at Driveline Baseball this offseason. Crawford’s average exit velocity is up from 85 MPH all the way to 90 this season, and his hard-hit rate is up nearly seven percent from 2022.
So what did Crawford change? I sat down with Maxx Garrett, one of his hitting trainers at Driveline to find out.
Enable 3rd party cookies or use another browser
Check out my conversation with Maxx Garrett below, and make sure you subscribe for all the content we offer plus an autographed card of your favorite Mariners! You can also find the audio version here.
What was J.P.’s focus or reasoning for signing up to train at Driveline? Why Driveline over somewhere else?
MG- J.P. really wanted to get healthy and improve at the plate. He battled a lower back injury and a knee injury for most of the season last year, which was really difficult on him. He also knew the track record of success Driveline has because of some of his teammates who have hit here. He also lives in Seattle in the offseason which makes it logical for him.
What did you think of him as a hitter before his assessment?
MG- Watching the M’s a lot, you notice that JP is a scrappy hitter. He finds ways on base. You’ll see him extending at-bats, fighting off tough pitches, and coming through in big moments. He doesn’t pose a huge threat to hit a ball out of the yard but he’s disciplined at the plate. It also seemed like he had this innate ability to catch a ball super deep with two strikes and throw it into left for a hit. I even thought about him not wanting to lose this with the work we were doing haha.
When we got word that his training here might happen, I looked a little deeper into it and his swing decisions grade was pretty good on our models. He swung at good pitches and his contact quality was good. There was room for improvement as far as bat speed and bat path (attack angle/spray angle) go.
How did the assessment go? What issues and strengths showed up?
MG-He started in a unique position and put himself in a difficult position to swing and generate speed from through his load and stride. At contact, things looked pretty good, but he was basically fighting himself the whole time trying to get there. We thought if we could get him into some better positions earlier in the swing, it would improve his efficiency, and therefore improve his bat speed.
We also wanted to help him get on plane with the pitch sooner in the swing. His attack angle was negative in his initial assessment so it was important to get the barrel working up earlier in the swing. We saw that he was above average in swing decisions and smash factor, but below in bat speed and top 8th exit velocity.
(Smash Factor is Smash Factor measures the collision efficiency of the bat and ball at contact. In simpler terms, balls that are “squared up” with minimal deflection or glancing at contact will have the highest Smash Factors.)
(Top 8th exit velocity is the average of the top 12.5% of a hitter’s hardest hit balls.)
How did you address his weaknesses? What drills, tools, etc..
MG-Besides changing intent, one of the big things was changing up his load. We worked on setting his hips further back during the load and stride to put him in a better position to rotate. We had him swing long implements to help him feel his barrel get behind him sooner (less steep into the zone) and hit the ball out front (working on spray angle and turning the barrel). We had him hitting higher descent angle pitches out of the machine to force matching planes at higher attack angles.
There are a bunch of cage environments we could talk about here but the drill he liked the best was the Hook’em. It helped him set the pelvis into a good spot that he felt much more powerful from (more hip flexion and over his back leg). That combined with a LH breaking ball from the 1B side is something I’d probably tee up today for him haha.
What kind of progress did you see him make both in the gym and so far this season?
MG- Of course, we ripped the speed trainers too because it was important to us to increase his bat speed so he had the capacity to hit the ball harder. He puts the bat on the ball too well to not be swinging faster.
In his re-test, we saw some really cool changes. The biggest change was his bat speed increasing from 65.6 to 71.1. We’ve seen that play out this season in-game where he went from below league average last year to above, this year. His attack angle went from -3 to 4.7, so that was a nice change as well. His attack angle this season is slightly up from last year (about 1 degree) but his top 8th exit velocity is above league average and he’s maintained his high-level swing decisions and smash factor. Of course, him putting in the concerted effort to move faster and produce more force has a great deal to do with these changes. I think he also found some better positions to move through allowing his body to create speed a little cleaner.
For years people have said that Crawford “is what he is” at this point. Do you believe that and if he were to continue training what kind of strides could he make?
MG- Moving forward, we want to continue to work on getting the ball in the air more. I don’t think JP is done getting better. As we’ve seen this year, he’s a gamer. His production at the plate has been better this year and I’m excited to see how he wants to continue to grow. His abilities are not capped here.
Sea Level is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.