Grisham watches himself and works to get back on track for Padres

There is to appropriate. And then there is ownership.

Trent Grisham is originally from Texas, and he obviously only admits it to a large extent.

Last year wasn’t good, and when Grisham looked in the mirror, he didn’t do anything.

The Padres center back was recently asked why he wasn’t the same attacking player in 2021 as he was in 20.

After several questions, he explains a mechanical hitch and a flaw in his approach. But first he came up with something else, and it was just a raw liability.

“I think it was a combination of a lot of different things,” he said recently. “We fell apart as a team and there was a lot of negative vibes. So I think it had something to do with it. I had some mechanical issues that I didn’t like and were unaware of at first. It had something to do with it. And then I just, I kind of didn’t – I didn’t really fight. I didn’t fight for it. I felt like I was turning around.

“And I feel like that’s one of my best attributes – I’ve always been a fighter. I’ve always been a bit down in the dirt and I got gritty with it and I just go look for it. It’s one of the best things that I love about me as a player. So it’s really about getting back to that and focusing on that and keeping those positive thoughts and rolling with them.

There aren’t many more important questions about the Padres heading into 2022 than which Grisham the team will get. It’s a big question, because he showed great talent and had a big fall.

We will see from the beginning what he has. Literally.

New Padres manager Bob Melvin put Grisham in the No. 1 spot early in the spring, and it seemed clear from the start that there wasn’t much chance of Grisham moving.

It wasn’t like Melvin had much choice.

“You look up and down our list and, you know, who else is profiling for this?” he said. “…When you’re looking for the ultimate top guys – guys with speed, guys who have the experience to do it, in our team, it kind of comes out that’s the guy.”

Melvin really likes what Grisham brings to the top of the batting order. But he also saw the same things everyone else did when he was doing his research and considering building the Padres roster.

The truth is, now no one has a clue what the Padres have in 25-year-old Grisham.

Grisham appeared to have a breakout 2020 season, brief as it was. Over 60 games, Grisham was a revelation and looked set to lock down center field for the Padres for years to come.

He won the Gold Glove in the field and at home plate provided a bit of everything. He hit .251 with a .352 on-base percentage and 10 home runs in 215 at-bats. He also stole 10 bases.

But it deteriorated in 2021 into something much less reliable.

His batting average dropped nine runs, his on-base percentage dropped 25, and in addition to twice as many at-bats, he hit just five more homers. His slugging percentage dropped 43 points.

Grisham thinks he’s found answers as to why.

With hindsight and the time that comes in an offseason, he thinks he has corrected some problems. Recent Cactus League results suggest he’s ready to put those fixes into action.

He knows he was working against himself in 21.

“I don’t want to start the way I finished,” Grisham, who after hitting a home run in the first inning of Friday’s game against the Royals, went 5-for-7 with a walk in his last three matches. “I mean, I really want to get back on track in an offensive way – using my strengths as offensive weapons rather than obstacles.”

It’s mostly about using his leading eye in a better way.

Grisham’s swing rate of 20.7% on pitches outside the strike zone was the fifth-best in the major leagues in 21. All other players ranked in the top 17 in this category had a higher on-base percentage than Grisham. Most were much higher. And all but five had a higher slugging percentage.

He just should have produced better.

“I think everyone knows my (strength) is my eye,” Grisham said. “But that can become a hindrance if you’re sitting around waiting, (being) passive as opposed to patient. So basically just trust my eyes, trust that I’m going to make the right decision, know that this is baseball and sometimes I’m going to (mess up). But basically trust my eyes and go.

Grisham too often coupled not swinging on bad pitches with not swinging on good ones. His 65.5% swing rate on area courts was 102n/a out of 132 qualified hitters. His 24% swing rate on the first pitch he saw was 24and lowest in the majors. His overall swing rate was the sixth lowest.

None of these numbers alone indicated a wrong approach. In fact, the players who had a higher turnout were Juan Soto, Max Muncy, Tommy Pham, Robbie Grossman and Jonathan India. All had a higher base percentage. Soto (.999), Muncy (.895) and India (.835) had elite-level OPS (Grisham was .740).

Grisham’s goal is to use aggressive discernment.

“Yes,” Grisham asserted, “as opposed to passive.”

Grisham also identified a flaw in his swing. In fact, a flaw in his swing setup.

“My hands were moving way too much, and it just caused some inconsistency,” he said. “I was firing the barrel from different places each time. When you fire the cannon from different locations, you don’t know where your cannons are, and it’s going to be hard to be consistent.

The numbers there were also striking. Grisham’s barrel percentage is down 50% in 2021.

He believes a candid look at how his 2021 decentralization has taught a lesson that will result in improvement.

Just as he’s one of the biggest unknowns of the season, should he return to the level of play seen in 2020, he could be one of the main reasons for the Padres’ rebound.

Grisham isn’t the only culprit for letting last season’s loss and the negativity surrounding it swallow him up. Other players have commented on how difficult it was to get out of their funk. The major league season has no downtime. There are 162 games in 186 days (182 this year).

Grisham had played 110 major league games prior to last season.

“It was my first full season in the majors, so it was a learning curve,” he said. “It’s the major leagues for a reason. It’s the best league in the world for a reason. I feel like it’s something you have to experience and learn and go through to really understand it, even though you can tell yourself that you did it for seven years before and somehow got over it some things, but sometimes we’re human and we need to be reminded of the things that got us to where we are.

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