Arizona Diamondbacks third baseman Jake Lamb is slowly putting together a season for the ages.
With the dog days of summer just around the corner, Arizona Diamondbacks’ third baseman Jake Lamb has caught fire and his team is reaping the rewards.
On a 108 degree, last Wednesday afternoon at Chase Field, fans were itching to sing Rodger Clyne and the Peacemakers “D-backs Swing” for the 21st time this season.
Having won seven of eight games coming in, a win Wednesday over the Chicago White Sox would have secured the Diamondbacks second three-game inter-league series sweep of 2017. On the season’s opening homestand, Arizona swept the defending American League champion Cleveland Indians.
With the game tied 2-2 going to the bottom of the fifth, field manager Torey Lovullo needed someone to “win a moment.” Ahead of Brandon Drury 0-2 to start the frame, White Sox ace Jose Quintana did the unthinkable. The left-hander hit the Diamondbacks second baseman with a 76.7 mph curveball.
That set the stage for one of the hottest hitters in baseball, Jake “The Snake” Lamb. The third baseman came into the game with just seven hits in 46 at-bats against southpaws in 2017 — but crushed a 0-1 91 mph fastball to left against one of the toughest lefties in baseball. The opposite field jack started a six-run rally and
Lamb, 26, came into the game with just seven hits in 46 at-bats against southpaws in 2017 — but after a pickoff attempt at first and a called strike, the third baseman crushed a 0-1 91 mph fastball to the opposite field against one of the toughest lefties in baseball. The solo shot started a six-run rally, enough to beat Chicago, 8-6.
After the game, Lamb talked with the Arizona Republic about the opposite field jack.
"He (Quintana) threw a curveball first pitch, then he quick-pitched, threw a fastball down the middle and put a good swing on it."
Baseball typically rewards patient players that see the game as a process and Lamb’s patient is finally paying off against left-handers.
In 110 at-bats against same-handed pitchers last season, Lamb had 18 total hits. Entering Saturday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers, he had almost as many hits (8) — in 48 at-bats.
Lovullo has the confidence in Lamb to play him every day, including against tough lefties and that can make all the difference. Last Thursday, the first-year skipper talked about Lamb’s growth with Jody Jackson of Fox Sports Arizona.
"I want Jake to know one thing every day, that he is an everyday player. In my mind, he is going to be a superstar third baseman and he is on his road to being that.You don’t just flip pages and all of the sudden become Derek Jeter, it takes a little time to get there. As far as development, we know there are areas of improvement for Jake that he is addressing every single day and he has our backing and he deserves that.He is having moments of success against left-handed pitching and we love that time for him. We love that he is able to go out and have a really good at-bat against a tough left-handed pitcher and we hope he builds upon that."
Last season under Chip Hale, Lamb often sat against lefties. While he might move down in the order this season against southpaws, it is clear Lovullo believes the Seattle, Washington native will learn best by playing instead of sitting.
Lamb’s May results speak for themselves. Coming into Saturday’s contest, he was tied for first in home runs (9) and tied for second in RBIs (21) this month.
From May 15 to May 21, the University of Washington alum hit .412 with four home runs, 10 RBIs and a ridiculous 1.742 OPS and was named the National League Player of the Week.
In his first eight games, Lamb hit .115 and knew he had to make an adjustment. After winning Player of the Week, the former 38th-round selection by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 2009 draft spoke with MLB Tonight about what he did.
"Just working with our hitting coach, Dave Magadan on getting back on time with the heater and staying on all off speed pitches."
The extra work has paid off. Since April 15, 12 of Lamb’s 37 hits have left the yard and he has drove in 32. In the last 30 days, Lamb’s .383 ISO, which measures how many extra base hits a player averages per at-bat, ranks fourth in the majors, behind only Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon and Kris Bryant. That is some heady company.
Peripheral stats often lie and Lamb is a great example. Batting average suggests Lamb is elite against righties (.328) and well below average against lefties (.167).
Hard contact percentage splits tell a different story. So far this season, Lamb is actually hitting the ball harder against southpaws.
In May, Lamb is hitting the ball hard over 40 percent of the time and elevating to all fields. If you look at his full season numbers, Lamb’s contact rate is up around four percent from last season (76.6), while his whiff rate and swing percentage are down which suggests he is swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone.
The above stats, along with the fifth highest hard percentage (39.3) and the second lowest soft percentage (8.0) at his position explains why he is one of the best cleanup men in baseball.
Not only is Lamb carving up fastballs but lately, he has destroyed sliders and curveballs and owns the longest home run in the majors this season (481 ft).
In 2016, Lamb also had an all-star caliber first half but hit just .197 after the all-star break. The slugger’s improved approach, especially to the opposite field against lefties suggests 2017 will be different.
After all, the following spray charts are pretty lovely.
This season, Lovullo said the Diamondbacks have been taking left-handed batting practice and practice usually pays off. Watching Lamb taking BP at Chase Field this season is a treat because he takes pitches away to left, pulls pitches to right and lines pitches up the middle to center.
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If Lamb can avoid a second-half slump, he should help the Diamondbacks contend for their first N.L. West title since 2011.