ATLANTA -- Frustrated and essentially desperate to find any way to get a better feel for the timing of his swing, Braves catcher Tyler Flowers strolled toward the plate during the seventh inning of a game against the Mets last year and decided to use a leg kick for the first time in his career.
This unplanned decision to make this unpracticed alteration provided an immediate result for Flowers, who generated a 109-mph exit velocity on a 424-foot home run off Mets reliever Jim Henderson. The leg kick has been a game-changer for the 31-year-old Flowers, who entered Friday hitting .342 with an .882 OPS.
"It's changed my life," Flowers said. "Baseball is fun again. Hitting is fun. It's helped my confidence and everything."
As Flowers struggled offensively through a significant portion of his career, his inability to catch up with plus fastballs often led him to purposefully fall behind overpowering pitchers with the hope of seeing an offspeed pitch. Hitting coaches would suggest he "start sooner." But this advice had no meaning for a hitter who never truly found a feel for the timing of his swing until he made that desperate maneuver to add the leg kick.
Flowers has batted .306 and constructed an .840 OPS dating back to June 19 (the day following the home run hit off Henderson). Per Statcast™ data, he has hit .298 (25-for-84) on pitches that have registered 93 mph or faster and .279 (12-for-43) on pitches of 95 mph or faster.
Flowers' career numbers included a .225 batting average and .663 OPS before he added the leg kick. Dating back to 2015 (the start of the Statcast™ Era) and running through June 17, he had hit .204 (73-for-357) against pitches 93-plus mph and .206 (32-for-155) on pitches of 95-plus mph.
"I just got enthralled in it," Flowers said. "I think you find that with a lot of guys. They start leg-kicking and start hitting better. A lot of times, it starts to clear things up for guys. It kind of simplified my load and helped me find my timing. All of a sudden, I had a chance against guys who throw 98 [mph], and I started recognizing offspeed better. I was swinging at better pitches overall."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.