Detroit Tigers: We may owe an apology to Zach McKinstry
Zach McKinstry has caught fire as of late for the Detroit Tigers
When the Detroit Tigers acquired Zach McKinstry from the Chicago Cubs at the end of spring training, it seemed like a very puzzling move at the time. They decided to send Cesar Hernandez down and eventually release him and replace him with someone who went 3-for-38 in spring training with the Cubs.
His first couple of weeks with the Tigers validated those concerns. Through April 15, he was slashing .185/.241./.259. It seemd like he was destined to be DFA'd at some point in the near future. But then, something changed.
McKinstry seems to have figured something out over the past two weeks. He's hitting .407 with two home runs and a 1.189 OPS. He's raised his season slash line to a very solid .296/.345/.500. That's good for a 137 wRC+. He's been the best hitter on the team as of late. What happened here?
Well, it sounds like he made a simple adjustment. According to an article from Evan Petzold of The Detroit Free Press, McKinstry made an adjustment with his swing mechanics in an effort to hit the ball harder and drive it more. He was inspired by watching Boston's Rafael Devers and Cleveland's Jose Ramirez take batting practice.
Here's what McKinstry had to say about the changes he made, per Petzold's story:
"Their front shoulders are so on plane (with the ball)," McKinstry said. "That's my thought process. Maybe if I get my hands above the ball, my shoulders will stay more level. They kind of crush baseballs, so why can't I?"
"I'm trying to get my hands above the ball," McKinstry said. "I feel like I was missing late and underneath the ball a lot, so I'm now looking at the top of the ball when it's coming in and trying to hit the top of the ball. It's kind of clicking."- Zack McKinstry
If McKinstry was attempting to imitate the swing mechanics of other left-handed hitters, Devers and J-Ram are pretty good choices. They have a career wRC+ of 123 and 128, respectively. Devers is a two-time All-Star and won a Silver Slugger award in 2021, and Ramirez is a four-time All-Star and a four-time Silver Slugger.
To see him make this adjustment on his own—seemingly without the aid of any hitting coaches—is very encouraging. He may have just saved his career with this simple change. The Tigers need all the offense they can get, so McKinstry's sudden surge is much-welcome.
Zach McKinstry has gone from a DFA candidate to a potential steal in the span of two weeks. The Giants were known for moves like this all the time when Scott Harris was there—trades that didn't make sense at the time, but turned out to be good moves in the end. We may own an apology to both men, but moreso to McKinstry.
We pretty much wrote him off when he was acquired. He hadn't shown the ability to hit at the major league level prior to his time in Detroit. Now he might finally be breaking out. That would be a huge development for a team that sorely needs some quality bats.