Built To Be A Hitter: The Rare Physical Attributes Of The Houston Astros’ Alex Bregman
Conditioning, training, and relentless practice are all keys to success for a baseball player, particularly regarding the art of hitting. Turning 28 toward the end of Spring Training 2022, the Houston Astros’ All-Star third baseman, Alex Bregman, has already established himself as a consistent, reliable, and even feared hitter.
It’s no secret he puts in the work, famously working out at Houston’s Dynamic Sports Training facilities following the Astros’ 2017 World Series win, as well as filming himself running the sands of Malibu, and pumping iron with his buds at the gym.
Bregman’s Gradual Rise to Greatness
It’s clearly paid off, as he led the Astros in eight of 11 key offensive categories in 2018, even garnering some AL MVP votes: Hits (170), batting average (.315), runs (105), home runs (31), total bases (316), RBIs (103), walks (96), doubles (51), and OPS (.926).
In 2019, Bregman led all baseball with 119 walks, while turning in an impressive .296 and a career-high 41 homers, while leading the AL with a 9.0 WAR.
His COVID-abbreviated 2020 included 17 games missed while nursing a right hamstring strain. A quad issue and a pesky wrist injury muddled his 2021, as well, but he managed to get in over twice the number of games (91) in 2021 than ‘20 allowed (42).
So, Bregman’s 2022 will be a re-build of sorts, not only for staying healthy enough to return to the level of play his ascent through 2019 was promising, but to toss aside the PR noise that naturally accumulates with multiple seasons of missed service time. Bregman becomes a free agent after the 2024 campaign, his age 30 season.
Related: Bregman’s full plate of philanthropic work:
Their Bodies of Work
Over the past decade, several publications have zeroed in and taken a close look at the body of recently-retired Olympic swimmer, Michael Phelps, identifying the specific and unique characteristics the different parts of his body help him, and only him, power through the water with such skill and speed.
In other words, citing Thoughtco.com from June 2018: “From head to toe, his body type and proportions are uniquely suited for swimming with both speed and endurance.”
Recently, Bregman’s hitting coach and best friend, in a similar way, has identified the specific physical traits (or physiological quirks) that make Bregman’s body singularly built to be what he is with a bat in his hands… a natural born hitter.
From head to toe, to paraphrase ThoughtCo, Bregman’s body type and proportions are uniquely suited for successful hitting, with both frequency and power…and not just a little proprietary alacrity.
We’ll call it a study in Anthropometry, or the “comparative study of sizes and proportions of the human body.”
In fact, there has been something of a general “size sort” emerging in sports in recent decades, with athletes beginning to focus on participating in sports for which they have an ideal body type. Dr. Michael Joyner, a physician and Mayo Clinic researcher, who is one of the world’s top experts on fitness and human performance, shared this theory with Business Insider back in 2016.
That theory, consciously considered or not, can be clearly seen with Phelps and Bregman: The physical characteristics that came together to make Phelps a world-class swimmer in his prime would make him an awkwardly feeble batter in baseball, in much the same way Bregman’s unique physicality would prove altogether ineffective and worthless in a pool!
Swimming in Anomalies
To fully understand and appreciate the Bregman biological specimen, it makes sense to take a look at what experts have identified as the particular physical traits that make Phelps a once-in-several-generations champion swimmer; or, more to the point, what one publication calls a “biomechanical freak of nature,” a non-pejorative descriptor that can also be easily attached to Bregman, or if he’d like, the new nickname, “BioFreak.”
In an April 2014 undertaking, UK’s Telegraph identifies the 194-pound Phelps’ incredible near-80-inch wingspan as one of the quirks that give “more than a pinch of credence to the swimmer’s nickname, ‘The Flying Fish.’
“For the average person, the total length between outstretched arms from tip to tip is about the same as that person’s height, give or take an inch or two. Phelps’ wingspan, however, is fully [four] inches longer than his [76-inch] height.
“It’s hard to say,” The Telegraph continues, “if this abnormality is the key to success in his signature stroke, the butterfly, but it certainly helped at [one particular race] when Phelps dramatically won the 100m gold by just a fingertip after an awkward final half-stroke.”
Missing from most swimmers is the 6’4″ Phelps’ size 14 feet attached to extremely flexible and reportedly double-jointed ankles (that bend 15 degrees more than most swimmers) that work like a dolphin’s fins to propel him through the water, giving him 90% of his thrust. Special mention goes, also, to Phelps’ paddle-like, larger-than-average hands.
What’s more, once revealed by former Olympian Mark Tewksbury, is that Phelps is also double-jointed in the chest area, allowing him to kick all the way from the chest rather than from the ribs like other swimmers.
Spectators at Phelps’ events can even spot the swimmer’s ability to hyper-extend his knee and elbow joints, not unusual in an Olympic caliber swimmer, but training for doing that must begin while young.
An exceedingly long torso gives way to shorter-than-proportional legs, making for an overall physicality resembling a dolphin, traits that help decrease resistance with the water. In other words, using average proportions, Phelps’ upper measurements are equal to that of a man measuring 6’8″, while his lower body matches that of one under six feet tall!
From the Brim to the Bregs, It Was a Very Good Year
ScienceABC.com used the following to describe Phelps, but I think we can transcribe this description to Alex Bregman just as accurately: “His speedy combination of genetics, willpower, and skill has resulted in his [success so far in his MLB career]. [Bregman] has a weirdly ergonomic [efficiency on the baseball diamond] advantage over his competitors.”
And, “His extreme advantage all comes down to his freaky body structure. The following abnormal features of his body play a major role in his exceptional talent.”
Enter Jason Columbus, who, like Bregman, is from Albuquerque, NM (and like Alex, an LSU alum). Jason not only has been Bregman’s hitting coach for over a decade, but himself was a Cleveland Indians draft pick in 2001 as a 6’6″ first baseman.
Jason’s son, Brady, is Bregman’s godson, and the Astro’s inspiration for supporting autism awareness, as well as founding his AB for Autism (At-Bat for Autism) foundation. Similarly, Phelps is an autism advocate, working regularly with the Path Finders for Autism organization.
In a recent video interview, Columbus answered questions about Bregman. In response to the “How can I be a GOAT (Greatest of All Time) like Bregman?” Columbus immediately replied, “Become obsessed.”
While an insightful clue, it doesn’t necessarily separate the six-foot, 192-pound Bregman from any number of similarly diligent and hard-working players.
“One of the most formidable hitters.”
Columbus, though, later sails into this treasure trove of anthropometrical nuggets for Bregman:
“His hand-eye coordination, his bat speed. The guy is built to hit. Maybe his short arms. I would have been a beast if I’d-a had short arms like him!”
In fact, Bregman is so aware of his physical uniqueness, his plan at the plate reflects things that he could only do with short arms, as he explained in 2016, while still in Houston’s minor league system:
“When I was growing up,” Bregman recalled, “anything [pitched] in, I tried to hit on a line, and now, I’m trying to hit the ball in the air to left field, and on a ball away, on a line to right field.
“So, I’m kind of using the opposite field for doubles and singles, like the average side of the field, and the pull side of the field is the power side.”
Bregman’s short arms not only allow him to avoid being tied up on an inside pitch (he and Columbus employ drills that force Bregman to stay inside the ball), but keep him from overswinging on the outside pitch he’s aiming to right field.
Emphasizing the importance of Bregman’s singular short-arms/inside pitch acumen, Beyond the Box Score asserted in 2018: “The fact is that his plate discipline alone bumps him from what was a 120 wRC+ true talent hitter to 134, which is a world of difference. As long as he hits the pitches on the inside hard, then he could be one of the most formidable hitters in the American League for a long, long time.”
“…Closest thing to perfection.”
Columbus: “[Bregman’s] eyesight is phenomenal; how soon he can recognize a pitch; his knowledge of the game, and the way he can think with a pitcher. He’s the closest thing to perfection in the game that I see.”
Columbus also mentioned Bregman’s “quick twitch,” or fast-twitch muscle fibers, which Men’s Journal defines as “fibers [that] generate far more power and strength, but they fatigue much faster and require more time for recovery.
“There are also two types of fast-twitch fibers: Type IIa and Type IIb. Type IIa yields more endurance but produces slightly less strength; Type IIb [likely what Bregman possesses] creates the most strength, but yields less endurance.”
“If you’re fast-twitch dominant, you thrive in activities with quick bursts of power, speed, and strength. In your training, you respond well to explosive exercises,” Men’s Journal concludes.
Speaking of “explosive exercises,” here’s a brief, whirlwind peek of the variety of workouts Bregman regularly undergoes at Houston’s DST (Dynamic Sports Training), under the careful guidance and tutelage of trainer Kevin Poppe:
Just Below the Surface
In talking about Bregman, what’s underneath the physical surface should also be acknowledged. To that end, Columbus gladly listed some of the intangibles that make Alex successful, as well as popular:
“He’s always been really confident, he’s always been super respectful, super giving; he’s just in a different platform to where he can help more people out. He’s humble.
“The people who were, like me, there when it started are still around. He never left his roots behind. He’s always kept his loyalty. He’s super loyal. I wouldn’t say he’s changed any. Now you see the confidence more and more, ’cause he’s on TV more and more!”
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