Giants Analysis

How Giants' Bailey evolved into dangerous right-handed hitter

Share
NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- As he stood in the minor league clubhouse one day this spring and broke down his 2022 season, Giants catcher Patrick Bailey smiled when his minor league splits came up.

"I'm a natural righty," he said, laughing. "Yeah …"

For much of his time in the minors, it didn't look that way. Bailey hit .131 against left-handed pitching last year and .225 the year before. He had two homers from the right side in his entire minor league career when the Giants brought him to the big leagues in May.

Bailey now has three homers against big league pitching in just 27 games, and when he digs into the right-handed batter's box at the game's highest level, he looks like … well, a natural righty.

After picking up two singles against an otherwise dominant Blake Snell on Thursday, the rookie hit a two-run blast off former All-Star reliever Joe Mantiply on Friday, capping a five-run inning that led to an 8-5 win. Bailey now has 12 hits in 29 at-bats against left-handed pitchers in the big leagues, including three of his four homers.

“It’s wild,” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t understand it, but we’re going to keep going with it.”

Bailey joked that he’s “as surprised as anyone” by the early success from the right side, but the Giants have reasons to believe it's somewhat sustainable. The main one is that this isn't something that happened overnight.

Throughout the offseason, Dustin Lind, the team's director of hitting, would wake up to a set of 10 videos from Bailey. Half were swings from the left side and half from the right. From the left side, Bailey worked to improve against four-seam fastballs. From the right, he tried to flatten his swing and make better contact.

The progress was slow. There were days when there were few signs that Bailey would ever reliably hit left-handed pitching at the big league level, and at times he questioned whether switch-hitting was still worth it. But this spring, Bailey started to take swings that showed him what was possible, and one day the staff helped accelerate the process with an unusual teaching method.

Bailey has only hit lefties at one level of the minors, going 10-for-29 in his time in Low-A but not flashing much power. At every level, though, he was a gifted thrower. During spring training, the hitting coaches showed Bailey a video of him throwing right-handed and tried to emphasize how well his hips and hands worked.

Bailey started working to get his foot down early against left-handed pitching, rotate well in the box, and use his hands. He brought that approach with him to the big leagues.

"He really took to it and when he went to Double-A and Triple-A, he kept working on it," hitting coach Justin Viele said. "He always has a leg up because he's such a smart catcher. He has a quick brain, and guys who do foot-down-early, it takes a quick brain. This move suits him well because of how quick he thinks and how mature he is for his age."

As Bailey thought about his future as a hitter, he often came back to a simple stat that Giants coaches had shown him after last year's struggles. There are far fewer lefties in the minors and the best ones move quickly, so an extremely high percentage of Bailey's at-bats in the minors came against right-handed pitching. That made it harder to adjust in-game, but Bailey still felt he was making progress.

He went just 3-for-18 against lefties in the minors this year and got only six at-bats against them in Triple-A. But he felt better in the box.

"It's been a crazy ride. Obviously we worked hard on it in the offseason but I still struggled this year in the minor leagues (hitting) right-handed," he said. "I was finding more barrels, but there were still pop-ups or groundballs. There were probably some things behind the scenes that were improving and then since coming up here I've just tried to simplify everything as much as I could and it's been working out so far."

RELATED: Yaz's IL stint comes at unfortunate time for him, Giants

The homer on Friday gave the Giants a four-run lead and came on a 3-0 count. It left the bat at 106.6 mph, but Bailey put his head down and started sprinting before he heard Oracle Park erupt.

Day by day, he is allowing everyone to trust that he can switch-hit at the big league level. But the rookie still doesn't fully trust a ballpark that has frustrated hundreds of right-handed hitters who tried to go deep to left-center.

"I still kind of get surprised," he said, smiling. "I can't trust myself not sprinting out of the box. We'll keep running hard."

Download and follow the Giants Talk Podcast

Contact Us