The name of the game in any sport is adjusting. I mean, that's why we have coaches, right? Currently, adjustments appear differently across different sports. Mid-game adjustments are common in several sports, including football, basketball, and soccer. A team's performance in the first half doesn't necessarily predict how they'll play in the second. There may be strategic changes, personnel swaps, a mentality adjustment, or any combination of the above. It took me a while to understand how adjustments are made differently in baseball. It might be a knowledge gap or blissful ignorance on my part, but I thoroughly do not believe a lone adjustment fixed Ryan O'Hearn after his KC Royals tenure.
MLB Network sparked debate on former KC Royals player Ryan O'Hearn.
MLB Network started this fire on July 6, when they highlighted O'Hearn's quiet resurgence at the plate among first basemen. The statistics they pointed out are not wrong. The barrel rate is up, the OPS is skyrocketing, and he is on a competitive team. All the things that were not present in his Royals tenure
Mark DeRosa, an MLB veteran and MLB Network analyst, commented on his impressive turnaround. DeRosa simplified an adjustment to the extreme, though, pointing out that O'Hearn's "is working for him tremendously".
Is taking the bat off the shoulder the adjustment that solved everything for O'Hearn? Well, not according to the man himself. O'Hearn said in a June 26 interview that the focus for him was actually landing with a better posture, not his actions before the swing.
"Almost immediately it was amazing how much easier I could get to certain pitches when I consistently landed with better posture," O’Hearn said. "… I know that if I’m landing correctly, and I have some good rhythm and I land in a good spot, I’m going to be able to get certain pitches."
He did note that this new approach had a steep learning curve in Baltimore. He found himself "[falling] back into maybe something you did" and establishing the new process that Baltimore coaches had prescribed.
DeRosa doubled down on this new-look O'Hearn, saying he has "waited his life to get honest [at bats]" in the MLB. Really? O'Hearn had his fair share of opportunities in Kansas City. He played in at least half the Royals' games from 2019 to 2021 and barely missed that in 2022. O'Hearn had chances here in Kansas City, so I am unsure what DeRosa is referring to.
Once that clip of MLB Network hit, everyone started blaming the Royals hitting coaches for not noticing the same thing and addressing it earlier. Why should we be surprised? The running joke about Royals players is that they leave the team and do better, whether that is true or not. Regarding O'Hearn specifically, though, I do not believe he is fixed overall or that he will ultimately be a different player in Baltimore.
O'Hearn's resurging performance is all about such a small sample size. In his last 30 games, O'Hearn has a .885 OPS with five home runs and 17 RBIs. He still has 29 strikeouts to five walks, so that ratio has not improved much since his Royals days. Here are 30-game spans that O'Hearn had similar or better performances.
Aug. 13, 2018–Sept. 18, 2018: 1.146 OPS, 10 home runs, 24 RBIs
Aug. 21, 2019–Sept. 29, 2019: .908 OPS, seven home runs, 15 RBIs
He has done this before, folks. This is not new. O'Hearn had similar or better performances in previous seasons. But that is just the facts, and if people think he is truly playing better in Baltimore, power to them. Personally, I am not frustrated to see him succeed in an Orioles uniform. He is finally on a competitive squad, has a clear role, and is thriving in it. That is certain. But don't think that his stat line is something new. It only feels different because he is playing meaningful baseball.