How Ken Griffey, Jr. helped Clemson's Seth Beer get his home run groove back
One thing that's become a certainty in college baseball is that Clemson's Seth Beer hits home runs. A lot of them. Beer entered his junior campaign as one of the most impressive power bats in the nation with 34 home runs already under his belt.
But it was a slow start for the junior outfielder/first baseman in 2018. In a matter of five games, that has all changed.
Beer was hitting .232 on March 25. His average is now up to .286 amid a six-game hitting streak. The last five games, in particular, have been mind-boggling. Beer is 9-for-16, homering in four straight games while recording at least one RBI in each of the last five games (13 total over that span), including one in this week's big win over No. 24 Coastal Carolina.
So what changed? Earlier this week, Matt Connolly of South Carolina's The State, reported that Twitter helped save Beer's season. How can social media change the course of one of the most feared hitters seasons?
With this , here are Beer's updated numbers in four games this week:— Clemson Baseball (@ClemsonBaseball) March 31, 2018
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"I follow a lot of baseball players [on Twitter] and Ken Griffey, Jr. popped up," Beer told NCAA.com. "They were talking in detail on how his swing works, how he wasn’t so much a strong guy. The thing I saw was his hands were back when he made contact. I was like, ‘I wonder if I’ve been doing that?’ I looked at photos from freshman and sophomore year and realized I wasn’t doing that. I was really excited to try it out and sure enough, it kind of helped my performance and was something I needed to do."
It should come as no surprise that Ken Griffey, Jr. helped right the ship for Beer. Along with the former Mariners and Reds All-Star, Beer has always modeled his game after quality hitters. Growing up in Suwanee, Georgia, Beer is a lifelong Atlanta Braves fan. He certainly had a few quality bats to choose from watching the Braves teams from his youth.
"There's three guys I really think of," Beer said. "The first is Chipper [Jones]. Not just his swing, but how he treated the game and played the game. I always liked Josh Hamilton. And Joey Votto. If they end up walking him, then that’s a win. I kind of treat it the same way. That’s a guy I like a lot."
One of the new trends in today's game at every level is to get the high on-base percentage players up to the top of the lineup, increasing their chances of starting a rally. Beer had been up and down the lineup this season, batting out of the 2, 3 and 4-holes. Since moving to the 2-hole four games ago, in what may just be a permanent move, Beer has gone 6-for-13, homering in his first three games in the slot. Most importantly, he's walked four times and struck out just twice.
"It's something I'm really getting accustomed to," Beer said. "You definitely get a better opportunity to hit. It gives me a little bit of a cushion and better opportunity and situations to get pitches to hit."
That's what makes Beer such a dangerous hitter. His advanced plate discipline, especially for a power hitter, has always led to more walks than strikeouts; he says his brain is wired to recognize strikes. Through his first 154 games with Clemson, Beer has walked 152 times and struck out just 76, good for a career .494 on-base percentage. He's reached base in 148 of those 154 games, a remarkable feat in itself.
Seth Beer follows up his #SCtop10 catch last inning with this to give #Clemson a 2-1 lead in the sixth inning!— Clemson Baseball (@ClemsonBaseball) March 3, 2018
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There have been rumblings that Beer's play in the field will be a question mark on draft day. Some feel he can be a viable right fielder, while others see first base in his future. He admittedly knew that was the focal point of what needed to improve. As the improvements seem to be coming along, Beer's focus seems to be back on hitting, and that is a good thing for the Tigers.
"Honestly, either of those is something I’m working extremely hard at," Beer said. "I think it has shown. The letters DH come up a lot these days. I just don’t want to play a position where all I have to do is hit. I’m doing everything in my ability to be reliable to field at either first base or the outfield."
Beer's list of accolades is seemingly endless. The freshman, who graduated from high school early to get a jump start on his collegiate career, took the nation by storm. He was a Golden Spikes Award finalist and was the first freshman to win the Dick Howser Award as the best player in college baseball. Beer is a two-time All-American, earning first team honors as a freshman and second team honors as a sophomore. And now, coming off National Player of the Week honors, he is widely regarded as a Top 30 draft prospect this coming June.
As the Tigers enter the heart of ACC play, Beer's recent hot bat will be key in keeping Clemson in the top 15. While no one can predict the future, or what honor Beer will claim next, we are almost certain to see more of these before the season is out.