Swings and Takes: Bohmer Booming

Now that we are in the middle of May, with 40 games played for most teams, we have enough information to start dissecting changes hitters have made to get an idea of whether they may lead to sustainable performance changes. While we covered rookies getting their first taste of the majors last time, we are examining established hitters this time here at Swings and Takes. This point of the season is a lot like seeing the first few letters go onto the board on “Wheel of Fortune”; many times we have enough to see the full picture, but often it's a fake-out of sorts. Using one of my most consistent resources, the FanGraphs Sample Size Library Glossary, we can look into the data on everyday players with around 200 PAs to more reliably predict the future with less noise and more signal. There is still a lot of room for variance, but this is no longer completely a fool’s errand. To start the 2024 analysis on established hitters, we are diving deep into one of the biggest risers so far in 2024, with some notes on other hitters included at the end as well.

Bohm Putting It Together

Alec Bohm has been one of the best players in baseball so far in 2023, with a .343/.406/.538 triple slash line that has translated to a 167 wRC+, 9th in baseball to this point among qualified hitters. If you only knew the beginning of Bohm’s career and his 2024 performance thus far it would all make sense, but as often happens in baseball there have been a lot of rough patches in between. Bohm is a classic case of allowing a young hitter to slowly grow over time and how many moving pieces are often involved in the development of a young hitter eventually turning into a great hitter.

From the time Bohm was the 3rd overall pick of the 2018 draft, picked by the Phillies out of Wichita State University, he had question marks around him about whether he could play third base and whether he would ever hit for power. One thing that was supposed to never be in question was whether he would hit, as for a very large man (6’5’’, 218 lbs) Bohm always possessed a short, direct to the ball swing along with a classic approach to drive the ball up the middle and the other way. If you were teaching a young hitter how to hit in many different ways, Bohm was a classic example, and he looked like a potential batting champion through the minors and into his 2020 MLB debut, where he hit .338/.400/.481 in his 44-game debut. 

As it often happens, however, Bohm had a rough sophomore season in 2021, slashing .247/.305/.342. Though he got slightly better each year in 2022 and 2023, at .280/.315/.398 and .274/.327/.437 respectively, he was improving only from a below-average MLB hitter to an average one, far away from the batting title and All-Star aspirations that were cast on him on draft day and after 2020. There were a few fundamental issues that plagued Bohm. One problem was that despite consistently hitting the ball hard (with an 89th percentile average EV in his poor 2021 season for example), he had trouble elevating the ball. Luckily, Bohm has slowly been driving his ground ball rate down, as it has steadily decreased each year from 54% in 2020 to 41.7% so far in 2024. 

Another main interrelated issue for Bohm was a problem hitting fastballs, as while he debuted strong with a .404 wOBA against fastballs in 2020, he was well below-average against them from 2021-2023, with his .327 wOBA against them in 2022 as a high point. This was a multi-tiered issue, as pitchers adjusted to Bohm’s approach of trying to stay up the middle and opposite field by pounding him with fastballs, especially on the inner half. Because Bohm is so tall and long levered, he would often struggle to get to those fastballs on the inner half, and was consistently late and getting jammed. 

Pitchers had the opportunity to jam Bohm and get him to swing at their pitches because of one other main issue and the focus of this column: Bohm was an aggressive hitter who had his contact ability leveraged against him, as for his career he has a 70.8% Zone Swing%, a good bit above the 66.9% league average, and a 83.9% Zone Contact%, above the league average of 82%. Bohm would also expand out of the zone, with a Chase Rate in the 33rd percentile in 2022 and 39th percentile in 2023, which along with well-above average Chase Contact Rates (career 66.7%, MLB average of 57.9%) gave pitchers the ability to get him out with their pitches.

Bohm made a major approach change from the jump in 2024, which was an organizational impetus after a 2023 flameout in the NLCS: swing less. This was apparent in his early season walk rate, as on April 8, in 40 plate appearances, he had a BB% of 15%, but his production still was not what he wanted it to be with a .235/.350/.353 triple slash line. Enter Trea Turner, who has served as an informal hitting guru for Johan Rojas, Bohm, and even Bryce Harper this year. In a column from Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Turner explained that before April 8, going into a series in St. Louis, “Bohm’s adjustment was mechanical. He was sliding – meaning his left hip was moving toward the mound instead of getting his foot down and turning his body. His hands were late. As a result, he was missing pitches and getting jammed.” 

We can see this from two swings, one on April 2 against Buck Farmer, and one on April 20 against Michael Soroka. In this first clip against Farmer, Bohm lets his hip slide, causing his lower half to slip from underneath him, giving him little lower half to hit off, and consequently getting jammed:


Bohm Jam


In this next clip on April 20, we can see that Bohm is in a much better position to hit, stronger on his lower half with his hands on time:

Bohm Single