Albert Almora Jr.’s More Pull-Heavy Approach Leading to Extra Bases
Earlier this season, I wrote about how frequently Albert Almora Jr. was grounding out. At one point in April, over 70% of balls he put in play were on the ground. But after Cubs Insider editor-in-chief Evan Altman wrote about Almora’s mechanical changes, I wanted to look at the results to see what effect the swing adjustments have had.
His ground ball rate has dropped from 60.7% in April to 56% in May, which is still significantly higher than his 51% rate during the 2018 season. That being said, it is certainly better than 74% after the first three weeks of 2019. While the grounder rate has fallen, the fly ball rate has remained the same (26%) from April to May.
The big change has come on line drives, which have spiked from 12.5% to 18% month over month. Not surprisingly, this jump has led to a lot more extra-base hits for the man with the power perm. Of his 19 hits in May, nearly half (six doubles, three homers) have gone for extra bases. For reference, 16 of his 18 hits in March and April were singles.
I expected to see that Almora’s hard-hit rate had gone up along with the dramatic increase in slugging. Turns out it barely changed, moving from 31.6% through April to 32.1% this month. So if he isn’t hitting the ball with more force, what has changed?
Almora has pulled the ball 47.2% of the time in May, up from 38.6% the first month of the year. He doesn’t have the raw power to do a lot of opposite-field damage, so hard-hit balls to left are going to yield better results. And he’s able to do that with better timing as a result of quieting the leg kick he had re-implemented this spring.
With his BABIP on the season still below his career average and the way he’s hitting righties better than lefties, there’s reason to believe Almora can maintain this recent improvement. Or at least that any future regression will be balanced by more consistent performance. In the meantime, just keep pulling for him because he’s pulling for you.