Q&A: Ben Revere and Anthony Rizzo, Adjusting to Stardom

Ben Revere and Anthony Rizzo are distinctly different hitters, but they have a few things in common. Most notable is the fact that they are rising stars: Revere with the Minnesota Twins; Rizzo with the Chicago Cubs. Another is that they each credit a minor-league hitting coach for helping them turn the corner.

Revere, a 24-year-old outfielder, is following up a so-so rookie campaign (.267/.310/.309) with a breakout season. His slashing left-handed swing has produced a .325/.356/.382 line, as well as a 21-game hit streak that came to end Wednesday night.

Rizzo, a 23-year-old first baseman, is emerging as a big-time power threat in his first year with the Cubs. He hit just .141/.281/.242 in his rookie season with the Padres, but in 154 plate appearances with his new team, he’s hitting .301/.344/.524, with nine home runs.

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Ben Revere: “When I first got up here, I was doing alright, but then I kind of dropped off. Going into the off-season, I wasn’t satisfied. I batted .260 and, really, that’s not the kind of player I am. Usually, I’m a .300 hitter. I needed to focus on trying to find the swing I had when I was driving balls up the gaps for doubles and triples.

“Last year, I was rounding up a bunch of balls. I was coming around them and getting jammed. I watched film of myself, and coming up through the minors, I had my hands higher. When I went back down to Triple-A [this year], I told my hitting coach, Tom Brunansky, what was wrong, and we did some drills. Now I’m keeping my hands higher, so that I can go down and stay through the ball — instead of having them low where I come around and get jammed on fastballs right down the middle and a little bit inside.

“The drills we did included some sock toss. It was about having my hands in position for when I’m about to make contact with the ball — keeping my hands inside. When I start, I usually have my hands behind my head, for my trigger. He brought them out. For some reason, I kept bringing them down behind my head. Keeping my hands out a little bit let me get some freedom, instead of trapping myself. It’s a better trigger because I can stay through the ball, and inside the ball.

“[Brunansky] is the type of coach who will ask how you feel, like, ’What’s wrong with you?’ and stuff. We sat down, one-on-one, in the dugout and I told him, ’I know this is the problem.’ He said, ’OK, I think I have some drills to work you out.’ He’d flip me the ball, but only if he could see my hands out beside me, instead of behind my head. He also made sure I was using my hips to clear myself out.

“I only moved my hands an inch — a couple of inches, maybe. It was a little, small detail that has helped out a lot. I was talking to [Brunansky] and he said that with some guys, you change a whole bunch about them. With me, it was just a couple of inches on my hands. That was it. I did that and feel like I’m back to my old self. I’m happy, because I’ve found my swing again. Opponents have been pitching me the same way they did last year, but now I’m driving the gaps and getting on base.

“I like to get deep into the count if I can. I never really swing at first pitches a lot. And I’m an opposite-field hitter, so I’ll let the ball travel a little bit. The main thing is, the only time I’m going to kill myself is when I’m getting around the ball and jamming myself, and rolling over to second base. If I can keep my hands inside — and drive the ball up the middle of the field — I can be a good hitter.”

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Anthony Rizzo: “I’d say that my mechanics are a little different from when I first signed. My hands are lower, but I’m still relaxed. I’ve always been a relaxed hitter. I’ve been taught to always put a good swing on the ball and be in a ready position. That’s the main thing I try to do.

“A lot of credit goes to Dave Joppie, who was my hitting coach in Double-A [in 2010, with the Red Sox]. He taught me how to hit for power. I had never hit for a lot, and in Portland that year I hit 20 home runs. I give him a lot of credit for that. He helped me with my legs and my hands.

“He told me that my swing then, in Double-A, is not going to be anything like it will in the big leagues. He was completely right. It’s just evolved. If you look at anybody’s swing from four years ago, it’s probably going to be different than it is now. Even two years ago. That’s just baseball.

“Joppie is so individual with everyone, and he knows how to talk to the players. He really gives them confidence and that’s the main thing with hitting. You have to have the confidence.

“I’ve learned how to pull more balls that are inside, but I primarily try to stay to left-center and into the gaps. Occasionally I’ll run into one. Turning on a ball is all reaction. If you’re in a ready position and have confidence, you can pretty much hit anything.

“When I got called up last year, I felt that I was ready as can be. It just didn’t work out. Fortunately, I got traded here and things are going well. I want to keep building off of this success.

“What I learned [last year] is that it’s the same game. Pitchers aren’t throwing any pitches I haven’t seen before, so I have to just keep it simple.

“I don’t think I necessarily tried to hit any differently [in Petco Park]. Maybe subconsciously I started to, but mostly I wasn’t keeping it simple. I was thinking too much and was trying too hard. It was like I wanted to get four hits in one at bat, and that’s obviously impossible.

“Petco is tough. I don’t think guys do it on purpose, but when a ball doesn’t go out in batting practice that normally should, maybe you’ll try to swing a little harder. If you try to do that, it’s usually not going to go well.

“[Starting this season in Triple-A] was frustrating, because I worked hard in Spring Training. But it was also the best thing for me. I needed to go down there and hit, and hit fastballs, and hit them hard. That’s exactly what I did, and I feel good about where I am now.

“I’ve been on a mission all year to prove wrong the people who had kind of written me off. It feels good to be having success, but I also know that I need to go one day at a time and one at bat at a time.”




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David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from February 2006-March 2011 and is a regular contributor to several publications. His first book, Interviews from Red Sox Nation, was published by Maple Street Press in 2006. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA

9 Responses to “Q&A: Ben Revere and Anthony Rizzo, Adjusting to Stardom”

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  1. Dan Greer says:

    My favorite series on this website. Nice job.

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  2. TwinsFan says:

    The difference in Revere from last year to this year is night and day. His quality of contact has greatly improved, almost to Mauer level of barreling up the ball. The ball is jumping off his bat, you can hear the sharp crack. If he puts one in the gap, even if the OF cuts it off he’s looking to take the extra base on any sort of misplay or hesitation. While he may not walk, he looks to get into hitters counts and makes a living on fastballs when ahead, you cant get one past him. His range in the OF is incredible too. A real exciting guy to watch at the plate and in the field.

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    • MLB Rainmaker says:

      Revere’s been great this year, but can they really afford to keep both he and Span in the lineup going forward? I’d rather see Span go, but it didn’t seem like the Twins were willing to pull the trigger at the deadline.

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      • TwinsFan says:

        I don’t see a problem having both Span and Revere out there. The Twins don’t really have any worthwhile replacements for Span until either Hicks or Arcia are ready anyway. Span is signed to a friendly contract so unless the Twins get a decent young pitcher for him theres no real incentive to move him at this point. The lineup isn’t what’s holding the Twins back, they’ve been putting plenty of runs on the board after their TERRIBLE start and have been an above .500 team over the last 2+ months even with the rotation they run out there. If Pavano and Baker had been healthy and performing at recent levels the Twins would be breathing down the tigers and Sox necks right now

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  3. DC Nats says:

    My cats love sock toss.

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  4. shel says:

    “He hit just .141/.281/.242 in his rookie season with the Padres, but in 154 plate appearances with his new team, he’s hitting .301/.344/.524, with nine home runs.”

    this is a pretty misleading comparison, since the padres slash line refers to his time on the MLB club, whereas the cubs line refers mostly to his time in AAA – he has certainly not hit 9 HR’s in his month with the big club.

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  5. shel says:

    I take it all back, I spoke too soon – I must not have been paying attention, he has in fact hit 9 HR’s

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    • Ruggiano's Pizza says:

      Hey, I wouldn’t let something like the facts get in the way of your Cubs’ hate. You know that There Is No Such Things As A Cubs Prospect …

      Dumas

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