To say Dexter Fowler had a rough 2018 for my Cardinals would be an understatement.
While he's never been a .300 hitter, Fowler put up an .840 OPS for the Cubs in 2016 and an even better .851 OPS for the Cardinals in 2017.
But then, in 2018, Fowler's OPS collapsed to .576.
While I'm not thrilled with his Front Foot, I think the bigger problem is Dexter Fowler's Front Elbow.
He seems to be obsessed with keeping it DOWN.
While that problem looks like it may have always been present in Fowler's swing to some degree, it looks like...
- It's likely become a bigger issue as he's aged.
- It's gotten worse during Fowler's time with the Cardinals.
First, as anyone who's older than 30 can tell you, that's a big birthday performance-wise; you stop being able to get away with stuff you could when you were younger. As a result, I believe some of the idiosyncrasies in Dexter Fowler's swing -- "Don't try this at home," stuff that he could get away with due to his athleticism and youth -- started to affect him, and especially lately.
Second, while I'm not sure the Cardinals created Fowler's problem with his front elbow, as I explain in Hitting Myths: Front Elbow Down given what they teach with respect to the front elbow, the Cardinals could be the worst possible team for a guy like Dexter Fowler -- who already has a borderline front elbow -- could go to.
I say this in part due to what I saw in David Freese's and how, that -- and why -- he declined as fast and much as he did.
n an attempt to address the problem, Fowler went to Barry Bonds during the off-season between 2018 and 2019.
However, when I look at the picture on the left -- which is the picture that inspired me to write this piece -- I don't see ANY improvement.
And things might have gotten worse.
If you're swinging through pitches at the letters, you've got a HUGE problem.
And, speaking of Barry Bonds, I believe this very famous -- and important -- clip of him swinging holds the secret to Dexter Fowler's struggles.
The Front Elbow
What does -- and doesn't -- the Front Elbow do during a high-level swing?
That's a question I touched on in my Rotational Hitting 101 DVD, particularly when I talked about the Running Start.
However, I didn't spend that much time talking about it because, in my experience, most hitters move pretty well, naturally.
My Younger Son
Then my younger son naturally developed an inefficiency.
And then, and more importantly, I started talking to the hitters at HSSU and came to realize how much -- and how badly -- they had been taught about the front elbow.
Donaldson & Trumbo
As a result, I've put together this piece that draws upon an understanding I first started to develop during some conversations with Josh Donaldson that resulted from my working with Mark Trumbo and my efforts to help him.
The Front Elbow and the High-Level Swing
How do I decide what to write about?
To a large degree, I follow my obsessions.
And, ever since I left HSSU, one of the things I've been obsessed with is the Front Elbow.
In large part that is because fixing -- and refusing to fix -- a problem with the front elbow made huge contributions to my hitters' ability to be successful.
This piece is still a work in progress but, while I work on it, I discuss related topics in these pieces.
The Key Difference
One thing that helped me see the flaw in Dexter Fowler's swing -- and what I believe is the biggest cause of his recent struggles -- is by studying Matt Carpenter's swing and comparing and contrasting their swings.
What I started to notice, and to focus on, is the POSITION of their front elbows Into and AT Contact.
And, by comparing the 2018 picture above of Matt Carpenter with the February 2019 picture below of Dexter Fowler, I was able to see what the difference -- and in my opinion the problem -- is.