My current typical schedule is such that I’m frequently trying to wrap up the Bullets before I head to an exercise class, and, since this intro of the Bullets is usually the last thing I write, I’m often scrambling for something to say if an idea didn’t occur to me in advance. Like right now. This very thing that I am saying at this moment. BYE!
- The sum of our offseason conversation about Albert Almora has been limited to “are the Cubs going to tender him a contract?” and then “OK, they tendered him, so I guess we’ll see what happens in a reserve role, but good Lord the Cubs need to add a center fielder.” That’s just how it feels after a year and a half of being, without exaggeration, the single worst hitter in baseball (infamously, Almora’s 56 wRC+ since July 2018 is the lowest among all players who’ve received 500 PAs over that span). Oh, and also seeing the critical defensive component slip to something far shy of elite. Any observer who is completely down on Almora at this point is not being reactionary.
- And yet the Cubs are retaining him, and there is baseball talent in there. So I suppose, with those two facts in mind, I’ll read what Sahadev Sharma has to say about Almora and the organization:
Both Theo Epstein and hitting coach Anthony Iapoce see Albert Almora as a bounce-back candidate. I asked them both how he could improve and a lot of what they say is what we’ve been hearing about him for years. So why would now be any different? https://t.co/zlMhzBU4Uf pic.twitter.com/amKZyvPjdH
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) December 16, 2019
- (Query why, if that’s all the case, Almora was never sent to AAA Iowa for an extended period to work on his game, rather than just a couple weeks long after it was clear he was in serious trouble. Shrug.)
- Sharma ably sums up the problem with Almora’s extreme contact ability when paired with an extreme swing tendency, as we’ve all seen anecdotally for years now: “Almora’s approach isn’t hard to figure out. His swing percentage since he arrived in the big leagues is 52.5 percent, ranking 29th in the game over that span. That’s not always a bad thing. There are very impactful players who swing a lot. The problem for Almora is that both his ground-ball rate (50.4 percent) and weak-contact rate (21.6 percent) rank 29th during that span as well. Which means that Almora swings frequently and due to his strong contact skills — a highly valued trait in today’s game if the quality of contact is good enough — he often hits the ball weakly and on the ground.”
- Let me add a little more statistical color to those comments: during the aforementioned “worst in baseball” stretch, even after Almora started with a 1-0 count – the ideal situation for a batter to start hunting for HIS pitch – he posted a groundball rate near 55%, a hard contact rate barely over 30%, and a soft contact rate approaching 20%. Pitchers know: even when they fall behind Almora early, they can still get him out without yielding into a drivable part of the zone.
- Read Sharma’s piece for more from Iapoce and Epstein on Almora as a bounce-back candidate, but understand: for a guy with as much professional experience as Almora has, and for as deep as his performance has sunk, rebounding to even slightly below average at the plate – a point at which he’s a useful bench player – is extraordinarily unlikely. Almora has so much natural baseball ability that he’d be the kind of guy you might see do it, but that doesn’t make it any more plausible. The Cubs are betting $2 million-ish of exceedingly tight payroll space (sigh) on that bet. Here’s hoping Almora at least rediscovers his ability to hit lefties and play top-tier defense in center field, and proves to be a capable bench bat. That’s the best you can realistically hope for, and it’s a long hope.
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- Still cracks me up:
- Vic still giving Yu the business:
- In 100 days, we will have decided the Cubs are back, or they are totally doomed, based on one game:
- Last-minute shopping:
- If you missed it last night, the Cubs signed familiar Brewers face Hernan Perez to a minor league deal.