The Los Angeles Angels were one of the hottest teams in baseball for the first two months of the 2022 regular season, and a big reason for that was the emergence of Taylor Ward.
The 28-year-old was putting up numbers that rivaled Mike Trout before cooling off in June. One explanation for the drop-off in production was a stinger he suffered on May 20 after crashing into a wall while trying to make a catch.
Since then, Ward has hit only three home runs over his last 42 games. That’s compared to 10 home runs he hit in his first 35 games.
Ward believes the injury has negatively impacted his bat speed and only recently became aware of it, per Jeff Fletcher of the Southern California News Group:
“Honestly, I think that changed who I was as a hitter,” Ward said. “Since then, some bat speed things have been down, and I wasn’t necessarily aware of it until recently.”
“A little bit of that bat speed makes a big difference,” Ward said. “Balls at the warning track are caught. They were doubles or homers. I think the production has definitely fallen because of that.”
Ward fortunately believes his bat speed is improving and expects to see better results at the plate:
“It’s getting a lot better,” Ward said. “I’m not fully back to where it was was, but it is a lot better.”
“From where I was to where I am now, there’s got to be some type of middle ground,” Ward said. “There’s no excuse for that. There should be more production.”
While his numbers have fallen off since the end of May, Ward’s exit velocity has only dropped from 89.7 to 89.5, which indicates some positive regression could be on the horizon.
In 77 games this season, Ward is batting .273/.368/.465 with 11 doubles, 13 home runs and 35 RBI across 326 plate appearances.
Ward: Angels must be more aggressive against fastballs
Ward was among a handful of Angels who recently said the team needs to be more aggressive against fastballs in the second half. According to FanGraphs, the Angels rank dead last in production against heaters since May 25.