Big things can come in small packages.
That was the mindset LSU senior shortstop Kramer Robertson adapted to his approach at the plate before the second game of LSU’s series with Texas A&M last week.
Throughout his baseball career, the generously listed 5-foot-10, 168-pound Robertson has been told he was built to hit the ball hard on the ground or aim for line drives and rely on his speed. He decided that approach needed to be shaken up.
“Before the game on Friday, in (batting practice) I made a little adjustment to my approach trying to hit more balls in the air,” Robertson said.
The adjustment has yielded immediate and striking results. Entering this weekend’s series against Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark., Robertson has clubbed a home run in each of his past three games, bringing his season total to four.
His previous career high in a single year? Two, last season. His home run binge in the past three games alone matched his career total coming into this season.
“For 3½ years I’ve been trying to hit low line drives and hard ground balls,” Robertson said. “I’ve slowly tried to get away from that. I’ve always had the strength — I think that’s a misconception about me, that I don’t have power to hit home runs, which has never been true.
“It’s just that my game has always been to hit the ball hard on the ground.”
Robertson said his mind was opened up to the possibility of changing his approach by listening to interviews conducted with major leaguers, such as Josh Donaldson of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Donaldson succinctly described his philosophy in a March 1 tweet from his aptly-named account @BringerOfRain20 when he tweeted “Just say NO…. to ground balls.”
While Robertson was the first to acknowledge that he is not a Josh Donaldson type of player, he saw some wisdom in the philosophy — especially when the situation calls for it.
“When the count’s right and the opportunity is right, when I get the pitch, instead of trying to hit a low, line-drive single, maybe try to hit the ball far and see what I can do,” Robertson said.
“I’ve always had the power to do it. I think it’s maturing as a hitter and incorporating that into the game during actual games.”
Maturation is a big part of it, LSU hitting coach Micah Gibbs said, because the key to the whole thing is knowing when to go for a fly-ball swing.
“(It’s) knowing his ability and knowing that, in certain counts, we can be a little more aggressive and we can try to drive balls,” Gibbs said. “Get it up in the air in the right situations.
“… He’s still taking his hits the other way, getting his singles when we need him to get on base. But it’s situations like that when it’s a pitcher where he can really take advantage of elevating the ball, he’s done it and been very successful.”
In his three-game streak, Robertson has gone 6-for-13 at with the three home runs, a double and a single. It’s a small sample size, but it also shows he hasn’t completely abandoned his old approach.
Of his seven outs, two have been fly ball outs, two have been groundouts and three have been strikeouts.
The results have been generated taking advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves. He was in hitter’s counts in each of his home run at bats (3-1, 1-1, 1-0).
“I’m not necessarily going up there trying to hit a home run, trying to hit the ball straight up in the air, but trying to get the ball off the ground with velocity and play gap-to-gap,” Robertson said. “I’ve gotten a few good pitches to hit, and I’ve turned on them in hitter’s counts.”