PEORIA, Ariz. — In the midst of a frustrating second-half slump last season, Ty France waved off the theory that his wrist and elbow injury was the cause of his offensive woes.

“The wrist isn’t the reason I suck at baseball. You can tweet that,” France told our Ryan Divish in mid-August.

Instead, France blamed his struggles on swinging at bad pitches in an attempt to “chase hits.”

Months later, removed from the heat of a playoff chase, France on Wednesday had a more nuanced account of why things went south for him after one of the more torrid starts in all of MLB. And it turns out the injury was indeed a major contributing factor. You might call it the instigating event that led to some bad habits that sent France spiraling to very uncharacteristic offensive numbers.

The Seattle Mariners conducted Spring Training workouts Sunday, Feb 19, 2023 at the Peoria Sports Complex, in Peoria, AZ. (Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times)

It’s a fascinating insight into how things can go wrong for even an accomplished hitter like France — and how hard it can be to get back on track. But this discussion also provides an encouraging road map for a return to the first-half form that led France to an All-Star selection last year.

You might remember that in the fifth inning of a June 23 game in Oakland, the Athletics’ Sheldon Neuse collided nastily with France at first base as France stretched to grab an errant throw. The resulting arm injury, which started in his elbow and migrated to his wrist, plagued France the rest of the year. It included a stint on the injured list that prompted the acquisition of Carlos Santana, but even when France came back, he was never quite the same.


“I think it stemmed from that play in Oakland, where Neuse took my arm out,” he acknowledged. “There was still some lingering to it. And then I started manipulating my swing to try and avoid any pain or anything like that. So I just created bad habits and kind of got away from my swing. That was the biggest thing, and then I wasn’t getting the results that I wanted. So it was chasing hits, swinging at bad pitches. It was just an accumulation of things.”

The numbers tell the story. Before that fateful game in Oakland, France had a slash line of .319/.393/.480 (.873 OPS) over 69 games. From that point on, he slashed .234/.286/.396 (.682) for his final 71 games. He went from elite to ordinary.

Digging even deeper into the numbers using Statcast, France lost the plate discipline that fueled him during the first two months of the season, when France hit .337 in April and .355 in May. Pre-injury, he was thrown 600 pitches considered by Statcast as out of the strike zone and swung at 174 (29%) and took them for balls 398 times (66.3%). Post-injury, he was thrown 574 pitches out of the zone and took 335 balls (58%) and swung 200 times (35%).

That trend was particularly noticeable on inside pitches as opponents hammered him with hard stuff in on his hands. Pre-injury, he was thrown 360 pitches inside that were out of the zone. He took 236 (65.5%) for balls and swung at 109 (30%). That included 43 sliders, 20 four-seam fastballs and 14 sinkers. Post-injury, he was thrown 217 out of the zone inside. He took 127 for balls (59%) and swung at 73 (34%), resulting in no hits. Of those 217 pitches, 80 were four-seam fastballs and 57 sinkers.

“I think it’s just dependent on the pitcher,” he said. “If it is a sinker guy, a four-seam guy, I have to know that is my weakness. That’s where they’re going to try and go. So I’d have to try and either lay off of it or pull it foul. But I think up until two strikes, the best thing would be taking it because you don’t want to do anything differently with your approach or swing just to hit that pitch.

“One of the curses for me is that my bat to ball is pretty good,” he added. “And I end up getting myself out a good bit because instead of swinging through it or fouling a pitch off, I’m putting that ball in play. So I need to find a way to either not swing at it or pull it foul.”


These are all lessons France can take into this year, now that he says both his elbow and wrist feel great, having benefitted greatly from the offseason hiatus. The injury was initially characterized as a strained elbow and sidelined him for two weeks. Then in late July, he missed some games with what was termed a wrist injury that followed a diving stop on a ground ball and was aggravated by a couple of hard swings and misses.

“Actually it was the same injury,” France explained. ”It happened on the same play. But when it first happened, a lot of the pain was just in my elbow. So that was the main focus. We just wanted to try and clean that up. And hopefully, the rest would take care of itself. But once that got cleaned up, my wrist was taking the brunt of it. … The wrist was so achy. I felt it on a majority of swings, so we did what we could just to get me through the season.”

Eventually, the struggle became mental as much as physical, France admitted.

“Especially when you’ve had the first half I had,” he said. “I was getting a good bit of hits. So once you go from that to not getting any, you put some pressure on yourself. And it’s not easy to get out of that mindset, but it’s one of the things you’ve just got to try to work through.”

Mind you, all this was happening within the context of the Mariners fighting for their first playoff spot in 20 years. France didn’t want to miss it, so he gritted his way through.

“There’s a bunch of different things we did to try and make it go away,” he said. “It came down to I spent almost the whole second half in the training room trying to try to fix my elbow, my wrist. There was a lot we did, and the training staff here did a great job.”


Going on the IL for an extended stay to let it heal was not something France was willing to do, especially when doctors told him there was no structural damage.

“I think it was one of those injuries where it would have taken a couple of months [to heal],” he said. “I didn’t feel that it was severe enough to sacrifice the rest of my season, especially with the group that we had and what we were doing. I didn’t want to miss out on that.”

A resurgent France in the middle of the Mariners’ lineup, likely hitting behind Julio Rodriguez, is vital to their success. And France is striving to regain the vibe he had in April and May, before his untimely meeting with Neuse. That vision is what drove him during his offseason workouts — in between a 17-day trip he and his wife took to London, Rome, two cities in Croatia and Paris — and carried into spring training.

“I’m trying to get that feel of my old swing back,” he said. “You know, the first-half swing.”