While watching White Sox games recently, I noticed something different about Tyler Flowers. He’s sporting a conspicuously new accessory, a white pair of Oakley glasses. Apparently, according to Chris Cwik from CBSSports.com, Flowers began wearing them July 9th, right before the All-Star break. Count me as one Sox fan that is happy about the adjustment.
I know Flowers is working on his mechanical approach at the plate with hitting coach Todd Steverson, which probably plays a part in his recent improvement. However, I can’t completely dismiss the correlation between the glasses and Flowers finding his way out of a two and a half month slump. In May and June, Tyler hit .208 and .129 respectively. Since eschewing contacts and donning the Oakleys on July 9th, he’s hitting a formidable .382! It gets better. Pre-Oakley’s the poor guy struck out 41% of his at-bats, since sporting the shades of glory he’s cut that rate in half, to about 21%. I don’t know about you, but as a fan Sox fan, I don’t care if he wears a darn poncho to the plate if it lowers his strikeout rate by 20%.
For a while Flowers couldn’t hit the fastball. That left him down in counts and susceptible to pitcher’s pitches.
There’s a lot of questions I would like to ask Flowers to get an idea about how the glasses may be positively effecting his comfort level at the plate. Did he used to wear glasses during his formative playing years? Do the contacts make his eyes itchy or dry? Does Tyler’s new baby like playing with the glasses when he’s home?
I can’t tell for sure, but I do know the mental part of the game is just as important as the physical part of it. I’ve mentioned before that watching Flowers at the plate gave me the impression he was overthinking his approach; he seemed stiff and robotic. While glasses may or may not be allowing him to see the baseball better, they could very well be making him feel like he can.
One pitch he I know he’s seeing better are fastballs. He crushed one last night in the seventh inning, when he took Minnesota Twins reliever, Jared Burton, deep on a 0-1 fastball over the inner half of the plate. That was definitely not the case in May and June. I’ve often heard that if you can’t hit the fastball, you can’t hit. For a while Flowers couldn’t hit the fastball. That left him down in counts and susceptible to pitcher’s pitches. The result was a frustrating couple of months before the break.
Some people might chalk the correlation between Tyler’s recent offensive surge and new glasses up to coincidence, but I’m not buying it. In fact, neither should his teammates. Maybe, Gordon Beckham could run to the nearest optical center and pick up a pair for himself.