Unlike many other big league players who are usually looking to get on base or keep a rally going, when Toronto Blue Jays slugger Josh Donaldson steps up to the plate he’s always looking to do damage.
Why does he take this approach? Well, in his own words, “Why wouldn’t I?”
Donaldson is the reigning American League MVP and is actually ahead of his pace from a year ago. So what’s the secret to his success? His uniquely aggressive swing.
Speaking with MLB Network’s MLB Central Tuesday, Donaldson drew back the curtain and revealed some of what makes his swing so deadly.
For example, from a layman’s perspective, the most distinctive part of Donaldson’s swing is the high, gradual leg kick. The reason he’s so deliberate with the leg kick is to use it as a mechanism to load his hip with his weight like a coil before he transfers all that energy into his back knee and all the way through the swing.
Another interesting note is that Donaldson doesn’t worry about his hands heading towards the baseball, something that flies in the face of conventional hitting thought. In the case of his swing, Donaldson tries to create bat speed with his shoulders instead of his hands, using that same transfer of energy he started from the beginning of the swing in his hips.
Donaldson calls this entire technique “effortless bat speed” and likens it to a rubber band because he’s able to generate maximum bat speed and, therefore, lots of batting power, without using up a lot of energy.
This methodology of Donaldson’s has clearly created results, but it wouldn’t work for just anybody.
The weakness of Donaldson’s swing lies in that he isn’t using his hands very much. Because he’s using his shoulders to swing, he’s sort of forced to just pick a spot and go for it without being able to make too many mid-swing adjustments.
As such, meticulous preparation is required of Donaldson in order to even make his technique work in the first place, let alone win an MVP award.
“If I have previous at-bats off guys I want to look at that first,” Donaldson said of his preparation practices. “If I don’t then you want to try to look at video, some percentages, different kinds of counts.”
From how he prepares, to his particular swing technique it’s pretty easy to see why Donaldson is as aggressive at the dish as he is. This near-belligerent approach of his is incredibly unorthodox and, according to Donaldson, if kids playing little league want to make money playing baseball his is the tactic they should be using.
“If you’re 10 years old and your coach says get on top of the ball tell him no,” Donaldson said seemingly just half-joking. “In the big leagues, these things that they call ground balls are outs. They don’t pay you for ground balls, they pay you for doubles, they pay you for homers.”
Having signed a two-year, $28.6-million contract and ranking seventh and 18th, respectively, in AL home runs and doubles, it’s safe to say Donaldson’s upholding his keep.
As previously stated, Donaldson’s actually enjoying a better year than he did in 2015 when he won MVP. Despite this, he’s not the frontrunner with names like the Houston Astros’ Jose Altuve and Baltimore Orioles’ Manny Machado being talked about more.
“I feel like it’s kind of hard to do that back-to-back,” Donaldson said of possibly repeating as MVP. “You don’t see a lot of guys run the ship back-to-back. Look, Manny’s having a great year, Altuve’s having a great year. Fact of the matter is there’s time.”
At the moment Altuve is the clear frontrunner for AL MVP, leading the majors in batting average and second in OPS, but as Donaldson said, there’s still plenty of baseball left to play and as his swing tells us there’s never a moment the Bringer of Rain isn’t looking to attack.