In 2016, Jared Oliva started a majority of the games for the Arizona Wildcats, but never really developed into a huge offensive threat.
He only hit .240 on the year, and his slugging was a meager .378 in 217 at bats.
Something needed to change, and over the offseason, he discovered what that was.
“What I tell everybody is that I made a big adjustment getting my right eye, my dominant eye, locked in on the pitch longer,” Oliva explained after Saturday’s contest against McNeese State. “Before I used to see it, then I’d turn and lose vision of the ball, and it’s already hard enough to hit.”
“So the biggest thing is keeping my eyes locked in. I’m staying more square to the plate, and it’s allowing me to see the ball better. I’m laying off the tough pitches, and now I can swing at a better pitch and ultimately have a better end result.”
“We did some things with his stance that allowed him to see the ball better,” head coach Jay Johnson added. “It’s allowed him to hit mistakes and lay off pitches that he shouldn’t swing at that maybe he would’ve swung at this time last year. He’s turning into a complete player, which is a great evolution for our team.”
“We always default back with our hitters that if you fix your eyes, you fix your swing,” continued Johnson. “If you see the ball well, you have a chance to be a good hitter because you evaluate pitches properly; which ones to swing at and which ones to take. Really it was a simple adjustment of getting his dominant eye a little better look at the pitcher and when you see it, his discipline is better and he’s not chasing pitches out of the zone, and I think it’s because he’s recognizing pitches earlier. I think it’s also allowing him to hit mistakes really well.”
Those end results through eight games have been a .457 average, including more doubles (7) than he had all of last season (4), and a slugging percentage of .886, which is the best on the team. Oliva also has the best OPS on the team (1.386).
The new vision was put to the test against McNeese State when the Cowboys ran a right-handed submarine thrower out to the mound. But Oliva answered by roping one of his seven doubles.
“Tough facing those sidearmers man,” he said after Sunday’s game. “You really gotta see the ball well, so it’s competing every pitch and really locking in on my vision. They made a couple mistakes over the plate and I was able to capitalize on it.”
Oliva adjusting this has been a process, and is still a thing he thinks about in each and every at bat.
“We (me and the coaches) were all working on it,” Oliva explained of how he made the change. “It’s more not turning so much when I load, and more just rocking straight back. That allows me to keep my eye more locked into the pitcher. It just allows me to see the ball better. I can pick up changeups more; I can see the spin on the ball. It’s really resulting in a better output for me.”
“He’s under control in his ABs,” Johnson added about Oliva’s early season success. “He’s very committed to his plan and he’s not coming off of it. He’s putting good, healthy swings on the best pitches of each at bat, and that’s a great job by him. A lot of maturity.”
“He’s starting to come into his own as a good player. It’s really exciting.”