Slimmer Diaz looks for return to form

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Matt Diaz doesn’t think his power has dissipated due to age, and over the winter he took steps to try to prove it.

After seeing his slugging percentage plummet more than 100 points in 2011 and home-run total drop to zero – he hit 20 in the previous two seasons combined — Diaz decided to change his physique.

Not by getting bigger in his upper body, but by slimming down.

Through one week of spring-training batting practice, first against coaches and in the past two days against pitchers, the 33-year-old outfielder said he feels a difference.

“Really good, free and easy on the swing,” Diaz said. “I had some power when I was hitting at the college I’ve been hitting at [during the offseason], but then when I came out here, hitting nice baseballs, I was like, ‘Wow, I do have power.’”

Diaz hit .263 with just a .625 OPS and 20 RBIs in 251 at-bats last season with the Pirates and Braves, who reacquired him in an Aug. 31 trade. He has a year left on the two-year contract he signed with Pittsburgh after leaving Atlanta as a free agent.

A potential return to form by Diaz is significant for the Braves, who could use him in left field when Martin Prado is at third base, and also play or pinch-hit him at other times against left-handed pitchers.

Diaz has thrived against lefties most of his career, with a .329 average and .824 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS). But last season his OPS dipped to .692 vs. lefties.

After his power numbers slipped some in 2010, he bulked up the following winter through heavier weightlifting. The strategy backfired, he said, as his bat speed slowed.

Diaz slimmed down this winter to his weight in 2009, when he hit .313 with career-bests of 13 homers, .390 OBP, .878 OPS and 58 RBIs in 425 plate appearances.

“I knew coming in [to this camp] that my bat speed was better,” he said. “The first time I hit [in later November], I actually was able to hit my back with my bat on my follow-through. Last year I couldn’t get to the point where I finished my swing where my bat was hitting my back. So I knew my flexibility was back.”

36 comments Add your comment

UGA 75

February 26th, 2012
4:05 pm

Glad to see him back where he belongs

bruce

February 26th, 2012
4:09 pm

Matt is back!

Mark (another one)

February 26th, 2012
4:16 pm

I know the general belief is that the Braves made no changes in the offseason, but we tend to forget the addition of Bourn and Diaz, and the subtraction of McLouth, Sherril, Linebrink, Lowe and Proctor. A full season of Bourn might be worth an extra win or two, and the replacement of these pitchers might bring a few more.

Diaz won’t light the world on fire with homeruns but he has an above average BABIP. Remember that he isn’t being asked to be a starter, just a fourth or fifth outfielder.

The real change for this year, will be having Medlen and some other reliable relievers to allow the big three to have some time off.

Choppinmama

February 26th, 2012
4:26 pm

“Lean-back” Matty is leaner and meaner (of course for Diaz, “meaner” is relative) this season………….and a few steps faster in the outfield. I’m glad to see him back.

lanier

February 26th, 2012
4:26 pm

spot on Mark

richbrave

February 26th, 2012
4:36 pm

MATTY D is back and meaner rthan ever. Lefty everywhere be warned. The best bad ball hitter i ever saw has one more great year in him at the plate. The come-back 33-year old

Bravo_F 52

February 26th, 2012
5:13 pm

You can Do IT matty

Really?

February 26th, 2012
5:41 pm

Best bad ball hitter ever (that I saw beyond Diaz) was Tony Oliva… maybe tied with Vlad G. There is no strike zone for them. Diaz can be patient but can also hit one head high and outside

Train Wreck Bystander

February 26th, 2012
5:47 pm

It strangely impresses me that you could write a story devoted to Matt Diaz’s weight without actually stating what his weight was/is.

WAFFLE HOUSE OR BUST

February 26th, 2012
5:50 pm

Do you really trust this free swinging caveman up with bases loaded? I don’t. Drop the Bobby Cox deadweight and move on.

WAFFLE HOUSE OR BUST

February 26th, 2012
5:51 pm

Train Wreck Bystander – Be nice. DOB smokes a little Bill Clinton so cut him some slack.

Fan since 1977

February 26th, 2012
5:54 pm

Your actual weight only gets mentiomed when you are a 40 yr old HOF 3rd baseman.

We never should have let Diaz go in the first place. Sounds like he’ll wear out lefties again this year, and his defense has always been underrated.

MikeY

February 26th, 2012
6:15 pm

I hope Diaz is in RF against tough lefties…Heyward was below the Mendoza line last year vs. lefties.

atlnative

February 26th, 2012
6:33 pm

Matt Diaz, fat or slim, is not an impact player. Who cares?

Orange Brave f/k/a Billy Jack's BBQ

February 26th, 2012
6:59 pm

I concurr. How much did he lose? What did he weigh? more questions are posed than answers…………..

Coach (2012 Fredi's beisbol fandango)

February 26th, 2012
7:24 pm

I certainly wish Matty the best, but he’s got to prove himself all over again.

stew

February 26th, 2012
7:31 pm

What are we interested in Diaz for? His career is finished. Don’t we have anyone that can replace him? He can’t hit, run, or field. He is what I call the perfect no tools player. In addition, he’s thirty three and doesn’t rake against lefties.

hitemout

February 26th, 2012
8:13 pm

It’s the new journalism – report what they tell you as long as it’s not negative, i.e. weight. Need stronger journalistic integrity. Normally I like DOB’s articles and they include good info. Stats we can look up. Here’s hoping and believing Matty D will have a strong year.

Lobosolo

February 26th, 2012
8:42 pm

stew, all of us real fans are a helluva lot more interested in how well Matty does than we are in reading your asswipe post… go kick your dog or something if you just have to take your personal failures out on a very decent bench/role player… why, oh, why do people follow a team just so they can rag on them… what a pee-rick…

Laughing out Loud

February 26th, 2012
8:43 pm

Matt Diaz, a good man and journeyman baseball player, who we all hope (well some of us anyway) has a great year! Looking forward to your effort Matt! I know you’ll give the season your best shot to make your fans happy and prove your naysayers wrong. Go Matt Diaz!

David O'Brien

February 26th, 2012
9:10 pm

I concurr. How much did he lose? What did he weigh? more questions are posed than answers…………..

Asked Matt because I noticed how much slimmer he was. Said he lost plenty of weight, fits in his 2009 clothes now, but that he stopped weighing himself or paying attention to the exact weight years ago. So his answer was, he doesn’t know his weight or how much he lost.

Gran Jen 1

February 26th, 2012
10:32 pm

Matty is one of my favorites, ’cause he plays hard and doesn’t have to be a star. Hope he has a great year! We need him.

Younger Than That Now

February 27th, 2012
12:36 am

I agree… Matty D is back where he belongs and is gonna shut some folks up once again! The man who never saw a pitch he didn’t like and couldn’t hit!

Welcome back Matt… and GO BRAVES!

kinghunterx5

February 27th, 2012
12:41 am

I predict he comes back strong as ever. Career year for Matty.

rico43

February 27th, 2012
5:41 am

Diaz’s comeback might be the third most important on the team behind Heyward and McCann.

Kurt Lawerence

February 27th, 2012
10:06 am

the particular piece lines are quite boring.

Curt Rindy

February 27th, 2012
10:56 am

I’m a big Matt Diaz fan since his days at Florida State. If Matt can return to the .300 batting average level, he’ll help the team tremendously. I believe getting off to a fast start would help his confidence and kick start him off to a big year. He’ll be back to raking the lefties again!

Baseball Fan

February 27th, 2012
12:04 pm

The depth of the bench and the starting pitching will be the determining factors for a winning season. We lost several key bench players that I guess were replaced by Triple A players, the inexpensive Yourth Movement. Along with several pitchers returning from injuries we have the older players to worry about. Prado wiil probably platoon at third with Chipper, and Diaz , Hinzski platooning in right. Mac could sure use some relief help behind the plate so he dosen’t burn-out before the season ends. Other than that, it’s going to be a great season just like last season!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cecil Upshaw's Ghost

February 27th, 2012
12:52 pm

A nice .312, 14 dingers and 65 RBI out of Matty would be great! He has done it before.

Brave New World

February 27th, 2012
1:12 pm

Matt Diaz is an above average hitter for a fourth outfielder. His .296 lifetime BA is very good. Defensively, he’s nothing to write home about, but he’s a good team player and I’m glad he’s back.

[...] with a weakening hold on a major league job + big weight loss and optimistic talk. Take it away Dave O’Brien of the AJC: After seeing his slugging percentage plummet more than 100 points in 2011 and home-run total drop [...]

yo yo yo...........yo

February 27th, 2012
3:17 pm

anybody who pronounces there last name to sound more white is a douchebag yo……………

Shake Weight

February 27th, 2012
4:09 pm

Dave – good to hear Matty D. is looking lean and mean.

Odds the Braves make a run at Bobby Abreu? Slim (sorry) to none?

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