After winter revamp of swing in 'the lab,' Paul DeJong eyes decisive spring with Cardinals

Derrick Goold, St. Louis Post-Dispatch on

Published in Baseball

As he pulled his hands back, lifted his left foot up, and readied to whip his bat forward, the sensation Paul DeJong felt this past season was not a swing he could trust.

He hovered there more on the verge of a trust fall.

Maybe this would be the time something caught him and stopped his tumble.

“Whenever I had my leg kick, it was like I was up in the air and I’m floating, and that’s not a great position to be in,” DeJong said. “When you watch old Albert (Pujols videos), when a guy throws at this head and he hits a homer, dead center, against the Cubs, he’s like corkscrewing into the ground. He’s so strong and using his feet and his rotation. That’s how hitting should be as opposed to this nebulous up in the air, falling forward feelings that I have been feeling.”

That feeling, that free fall, and the lack of results that followed dropped the former All-Star from the Cardinals’ lineup, sent his average plummeting below .200 again, and landed, hard, in Class AAA Memphis for a stretch. It also sent him to Jupiter, Florida, where he spent the offseason cocooned in what he called the Cardinals’ hitting “lab” so that he might emerge this spring with a retooled swing — ready to let fly, not float.

DeJong ditched the leg kick. He’s changed his follow-through. He’s measured improvements. He’s steadied his view of pitches. And that’s all because he can see what’s coming: As DeJong enters the final guaranteed year of his contract, the next two, decisive months will determine his immediate future with the Cardinals and whether he has a role with them in 2023.


Now, that’s some gravity.

“Paulie is getting after it, like really getting after it,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said. “It’s easy to sit here, and if I’m being completely honest, well, we’ve done this before. He’s really working really hard, and he comes in and nothing happens. Yeah, that could happen again this year. Honestly, it could. But is he going about it different? Way different. Is he extremely open to everything that we’re wanting him to do and then making strides in the direction we’re wanting? Yes, 100%.

“This is the first offseason where I’m truly optimistic about the changes.”

Asked how best to illustrate those changes, DeJong shared a split-screen video Wednesday that had synced his new swing on the left to his abandoned swing on the right. The three-second clip showed the hours of work he’s put in over these winter months. Gone is the lift of his left foot, replaced instead with a twist for timing. From that moment it’s clear in the new swing how his head remains still, his sight-line level. What follows is a swing that keeps his torso upright, less lunging for balance, and then doesn’t snap forward until contact. His previous swing came down on the ball with a negative attack angle, as if chopping wood, instead of using the lumber to lift liners.


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