Chris Taylor’s phone may be the key to unlocking the secret of his past success

There’s a note-taking app on Chris Taylor’s phone that the Dodgers outfielder keeps open all the time, a simple but useful system he developed long ago to track his swing.

Inside, the 10-year veteran has kept a catalog of hitting tips, from mental cues and mechanical feel to coaching advice and personal observations.

Many of these go back years, stemming from Taylor’s swing changes when he broke out with the Dodgers in 2017.

Since then, he hasn’t been afraid to edit the list, writing new thoughts and erasing old ones, especially in times like this, with the intention of correcting the 2022 performance this spring.

“Last season, I felt like I developed some bad habits,” Taylor said. “So I’m trying to create a more efficient swing.”

It’s a potentially key role for Taylor and the Dodgers, as the club’s new-look roster needs the 32-year-old to rebound from last season’s struggles with injuries and strikeouts.

After earning his first All-Star selection in 2021 and signing a four-year, $60 million deal with the Dodgers the following winter, Taylor’s performance dipped last season. He batted just .221 with 10 home runs. He also had 160 strikeouts in 118 games, a 35.2% strikeout rate, trailing only Joey Gallo among MLB hitters with 400 plate appearances.

Offseason elbow surgery and a season-ending neck injury contributed to Taylor’s struggles, but his swing seemed broken during the campaign. Not since the motherboard upgrade in 2017 has the super utility player looked more matched and in sync.

“Once you get in the box, it’s really hard when you try to think about your mechanics,” Taylor said. “And last year was just a constant struggle to try to find it and get it done.”

Even a reference to old notes wouldn’t save Taylor, revealing a harsh truth similar to many players who undergo major mid-career swing changes.

“The change-up works for a while,” Dodgers special assistant Chris Woodward said. “And then they hit a plateau. For example, ‘I can’t feel the same way I used to.’ “

Woodward would know, especially when it comes to Taylor.

“Last season, I felt I had developed some bad habits. So I’m trying to create a more efficient swing.”

– Dodgers outfielder Chris Taylor

When he was drafted as a fifth-round draft pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2014, Woodward was part of the club’s coaching staff.

When Taylor was traded to the Dodgers in 2016 after three poor seasons that left his future in doubt, Woodward was the Dodgers’ third manager.

Woodward was as impressed as anyone by Taylor’s changes in 2017, when he transformed his natural slap motion by adding a bigger leg kick, improving his pre-swing hand position and blasting the ball with surprising frequency.

“It was very different,” said Woodward, who left the Dodgers in 2019 to manage the Texas Rangers before returning this offseason in a part-front-office, part-on-the-field instructional role. “He had to make some adjustments. He had to add some things.’

Taylor became an integral part of Dodgers teams that won three National League pennants and a World Series from 2017 to 2021. In each of those seasons, he had an on-base percentage of at least .775 while playing multiple positions. providing the club with much-needed defensive flexibility. He also reached the 20-homer mark twice, which seemed unthinkable after hitting just one in his first three big league seasons.

But in the same way that a renovated house needs constant maintenance or a fixed sports car needs periodic tune-ups, Taylor had to constantly adapt to his swing – trying to maintain the same intricate motion amid the inevitable changes in his body and mechanics. .

And last year, that “high maintenance” approach, as director Dave Roberts has called it, finally caught on.

“I’ve seen so many hitters go through that,” Woodward said. “When you make a swing change, it usually feels pretty good the first time you do it. And then when it becomes normal, your body adapts and your brain adapts. You get a little mad at what you feel.’

Enter Taylor’s note-taking routine, which has given her a new perspective on her swing work this spring.

“Some of the thoughts that worked for me in the past eventually became too much, where I went too far in the other direction,” said Taylor, like a golfer who’s been chipping away at a slice but is now hooking too many drives. . “Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what those adjustments are. I have to find new ways to get to the positions I want.”

The clock is ticking for that.

Chris Taylor, who worked in the outfield during spring training, could play more at shortstop because of the injury to Gavin Lux.

(Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press)

Entering camp, Taylor appeared poised for a likely outside platoon role while making his final adjustments. After Gavin Lux’s season-ending knee injury, however, Taylor may need to be more of an everyday player as a shortstop in addition to the primary center fielder.

Woodward said he has been encouraged by Taylor’s progress so far, despite going three-for-16 in Cactus League games.

“The swing is on time, there’s consistency (with the mechanics),” Woodward said. “It’s just a matter of time before we start hammering the balls.”

Roberts also remains optimistic about Taylor’s rebounding this season, though he noted that he was still “hesitating” to make a definitive assessment early this spring.

“There’s a recalibration of the body,” Roberts said. “I know our guys are doing everything they can to call him and keep him. But there are many moving parts.’

Taylor, who went to Driveline this winter to help get his tunes up to speed, offered a similar self-assessment. Although he has felt better in the batting cage in recent days, he admitted there are still many variables — from his approach to hand position — that need to be worked on.

“No, it’s not fun for me at all,” she said with a chuckle when asked if she enjoyed the challenge of her process. “I wish I had the same thoughts every day.”

As he talked about each nuance and drawback, standing in his locker at the Dodgers’ Camelback Ranch clubhouse this week, Taylor looked over his shoulder and envied teammate Freddie Freeman’s position.

“I’m jealous of guys like Freddie, who’s had the same swing his whole career,” Taylor said. “Guys like that, they’re talented. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t kick ass. But they were gifted to hit and make a great swing.’

For Taylor, playing in the majors has never been so simple.

He has cell phone notes cross-referenced to prove it.

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