Sisco continues swing adjustments, plus other notes

It might surprise some to learn that Orioles catcher Chance Sisco was a better-than-league-average hitter in 2020. While his batting average was .214, an OBP of .364 led to a .741 OPS. That was five percent better than the league and better than teammates Cedric Mullins and Austin Hays. For the year, just five Orioles topped that number.

But Sisco, 26, is still trying to find the consistent success on offense in the majors that he had on the farm. He was the 2016 O’s Minor League Player of the Year and played in the All-Star Futures Game twice. His batting average was .305 and he had an .816 OPS in the minors, but those numbers are just .205/.691 in Sisco’s 525 big league plate appearances.

Sisco-RBI-Single-Black-Away-Sidebar.jpgHe said his winter focus on the defensive side was on improving every aspect he could, and he had several discussions with O’s coach Tim Cossins.

“Offensively, (I) looked at any number you can really think of, like line-drive percentage,” Sisco said. “Obviously, that had gone up a lot from the previous years. So, I wanted to build on that as much as possible going into this next year.”

Sisco’s line-drive percentage, according to FanGraphs.com, was 20.0 percent in 2019 and went up to 33.3 last season. Sisco said some swing adjustments led to a better number in that stat.

“That, for me, started after the 2019 season,” he said. “I was hitting the ball really hard, but a lot of it was on the ground, so I went into the offseason and worked with some guys - just trying to build a swing that’s a little bit more in the zone longer, I guess I would say. And that produces line drives. It helped me, and my line-drive percentage definitely went up last year. So, I’m just continually trying to build on that and kind of make that as natural as possible.”

Sisco’s groundball rate was 38.1 in 2019 and went down to 29.8 percent last season. So he was able to keep the ball off the ground more and produce more line drives.

During a Zoom interview Friday, Sisco was asked about the young pitchers in the organization.

“Yes and no,” he said when asked whether the Orioles’ pitching talent is better now than in previous seasons. “I really think that the talent has been there. It’s just about guys getting comfortable here and taking those next steps. Just continually learning themselves and trying to make themselves better pitchers and players. We have really good talent. It’s just about taking those next steps. Learning to play the game the right way and putting it all together.

“I think they (the young guys) all have a shot to be really good. Each one is a little bit different, but they all have good stuff. And they did well when they came up last year, which was very encouraging, to see the young guys come up and pitch well right away. So, definitely excited to continue that relationship and build on that and just see how far they can go.”

Means up first: To no one’s surprise, lefty John Means was named the Orioles’ opening day starter. He will take the mound on April 1 at Boston against former Oriole Eduardo Rodríguez.

“He was very happy to hear the news from me, and that’s always a special moment as a manager, to give great news to players,” manager Brandon Hyde said before yesterday’s game. “It’s something that guys hold dear. To be able to make it as opening day starter is something he can say that he did for the rest of his life, so proud moment for him. And everything he dealt with last year, he is a high-character guy and we felt for him and he’s definitely earned it.”

For more of Hyde on Means getting the opener, click here.

The Orioles won a messy, wild game 11-9 last night, beating the Pittsburgh Pirates. After going through a stretch where they scored just 13 runs over seven games, they have now scored 29 runs their past four games.

Trey Mancini hit his first homer of the spring, and you can read some of his quotes on that and more here.

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