Carlos Correa wasn't satisfied.
He was an All-Star and a World Series Champion in 2017, but he felt one area of his game was ripe for improvement—defense. Correa's advanced fielding metrics weren't very impressive in 2017, as he totaled a Defense Runs Above Average (DEF) of 2.6 over 103 games. He's already surpassed that total this season, as his DEF currently sits at 3.0 through 73 games. Correa's also committed just two errors in those 73 games after totaling nine errors in 103 games last year.
One big reason for his defensive improvement? A revamped ready position that's resulted in increased range. In a pre-game segment on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball earlier this season, Correa explained how he identified the issue and what he's done to address it:
"This year, I came up to (Joe Espada), who's our bench coach and he works with us in the infield, and I was like, 'I make a few errors but the defensive graphs don't have me really high.' We looked at video and stuff and he said, 'Your first step. You gotta get better at your first step,'" Correa says. "And that's something I took pride in this spring training. We started working on the first step and so far this year it's been working great. So for me, the first step is the most important thing I'm focusing on."
What changes has Correa made specifically? While the 6-foot-4 shortstop used to use a traditional "creep step" to get into his ready position, he often found himself to be slightly off-balance when the ball left the bat.
"For me, (the first step is about) being ready. When the pitch is gonna cross the hitting zone, when he's ready to hit, I'm ready to move. Before, I would creep forward, and then when he'd hit it, I'd (still) be moving. So I'd be late or too early sometimes," Correa says. He's since switched to an approach that sees him stay in the same spot as opposed to creeping forward, but he now rises on his toes as the ball approaches the hitting zone before popping down into an athletic position at the time the batter would or does make contact. In that athletic position, his weight is on the balls of his feet and his heels are slightly off the ground (photos via ESPN):
"When he's going to swing, I get into an athletic position in order for me to move once he hits the baseball. I want to be able to react as soon as possible. My weight is on the balls of my feet. Athletic position, not too wide where I can't push off as much. I want to be in a good position where I can just go like this, 'Boom!', and push off and crossover," Correa says. "Stay low, before I would get up too soon."
Props to Correa and the Astros coaching staff for identifying a potential flaw in his game and working hard to fix it. It just goes to show that even the best of the best still have things to work on.
Photo Credit: Cooper Neil/Getty Images, ESPN
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