What’s wrong with Padres center fielder Trent Grisham?

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

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 Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Padres center fielder Trent Grisham is in the middle of an enormous slump. What is causing this? 

The Padres acquired Trent Grisham ahead of the 2020 season. The hope was to shore up their center field spot and have him contribute as a speedy, left-handed bat atop the lineup. In the shortened 2020 season, that was exactly what happened.

Grisham had the best season of his short career during his first year with the Padres. He batted .251 with ten homers, a .808 OPS, and 123 OPS+ in 59 games. He capped it off by playing elite defense in center, earning himself a Gold Glove. He was a vital part of why the Padres ended their postseason drought in 2020.

Even to start the 2021 season, he was playing at a high level. From the beginning of the 2020 season up until June 30, 2021, a span of 121 games, he hit .265 with a .847 OPS, 131 wRC+, and 46 extra-base hits.

Since his solid start in San Diego, he has utterly cratered at the plate. From July 1, 2021, through Thursday’s big home opener against the Braves, he is batting .204 with a .597 OPS, 67 wRC+, and just 21 extra-base hits.

So, what happened?

Exploring deeper into his numbers, Grisham is not making as hard of contact as he once was. During that first stretch in San Diego, he had a 9.2 percent barrel rate. That has plummeted to 4.3 percent since.

His hard-hit percentage went from 35.3 percent to 22.7 percent.

Trent Grisham 2020-First Half 2021 Second Half 2021-2022
AVG .265 .204
OPS .847 .597
wRC+ 131 67
XBH 46 21
Barrel % 9.2 4.3
Hard Hit% 35.3 22.7
Avg Exit Vel 89.4 87.2
Launch Angle 13.2 11.7
ISO .224 .105

This is no longer some small slump that he will easily snap out of. That stretch is 87 games long, a large sample size.

ISO means “isolated power,” is one’s slugging percentage minus their batting average. It’s a great indicator of someone’s power numbers, weighing extra-base hits more heavily. In this case, Grisham’s ISO is cut by more than half.

Given his barrel rate, hard-hit rate, and ISO, all are in a nosedive. It’s easy to see the thump is gone from his bat. For one reason or another, Grisham is not generating the same power when he makes contact. Both his exit velocity and launch angle are also lower.

Another possible culprit is his plate discipline. During his best stretch at the plate, he swung at pitches outside of the zone 19 percent of the time and made contact with swings outside the zone at a 57.7 percent rate. Usually, swinging at and making contact with pitches outside of the zone will generate more outs.

During his period of struggling at the plate, the rate of swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone has increased to 23.3 percent, while his contact rate with those swings is way up to 71.7 percent. That is nearly a 14 percent increase in contact made when swinging outside of the zone. Contact outside the zone likely leads to weaker contact and more outs.

His overall swing percentage at all pitches increased by nearly five percent as he has struggled more as well.

Overall, it appears Grisham has become less selective at the plate, swinging at more bad pitches. In the event he does make contact, it is not generating as much power off the bat. Could this be due to an underlying injury? One would hope that if Grisham did have something ailing him after the 2021 season, it was taken care ahead of this season.

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However, this year, he is continuing his dreadful stretch at the plate, batting .118 with a .307 OPS and zero extra-base hits in the first eight games.

The hope is new hitting coach Michael Brdar can help Grisham get back to how effective he was at the plate early on in his Padres career. The Friars need him to be that on-base threat atop the lineup ahead of the big thumpers like Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., Jake Cronenworth, and Luke Voit. With the Padres already thin in outfield depth, their playoff hopes may hinge on someone like Grisham being an everyday contributor.

4 thoughts on “What’s wrong with Padres center fielder Trent Grisham?

  1. Thank you for writing this, it was a good and timely article.

    Something happened last year, and he has not been the same since. One thing was he went out of his way to hot-dog EVERY play in CF, whether it was an easy play, a difficult play, or just a fielding a routine base hit to the OF.

    While, on one hand, he clearly has a confidence problem, he also has a cocky problem on the other hand. Never a good combo.

    Also, he has the problem of swinging at pitches outside of the zone, and taking pitches down the middle, or at least good pitches to hit. Never a good combo. (Myers and Hosmer definitely do this as well).

    Overall, the problem is between his ears, and in his heart. Perhaps time in AAA will do him wonders. At some point they have to bench him, or send him back to the minors.

  2. Last night was a Prime example… It drives me crazy when a hitter fails to protect with 2 strikes, and stares at strike 3….Trent does it a lot….little leaguers are taught to protect with 2 strikes…. Bottom line is Grisham doesn’t look ready to hit very often…and now his confidence is non-existent…. At some point soon, Melvin needs to make a decision…Lead off is too important for it to fail this much…

  3. Grisham has looked terrible at the plate. We have all three starting outfielders hitting .200 or less. Both Abrams and Grisham are both flirting with .100. We cannot have all three outfielders hitting so poorly and hope to contend.

    1. Profar has started well. Far better than I thought he would. Myers, Abrams, and Grisham have got to get going.

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