Almora's Huge Pull-Side Problems, the Reds' Incomplete Leap, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Almora’s Huge Pull-Side Problems, the Reds’ Incomplete Leap, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I see the commentary, but shrug. I thought the half-time show didn’t pass an acceptable level, in terms of the outfits and the booty-shaking. Eye-catching, to be sure, but not really anything I would’ve hid from my kids (who were long asleep at that point anyway). I thought the show was impressive in most other respects, with some bonus love for the not-so-subtle appearance of the Puerto Rican flag when ‘Born in the USA’ kicked up.

  • Anthony Castrovince looks at the teams that look most improved this offseason by projected win totals (using FG projected WAR – very imperfect method, but a checkpoint), and it’s actually kind of illuminating. Among the teams projected to blow up their win total from last year, the Angels rocket from 72 to 91 wins (and that’s without considering whatever impact Joe Maddon will have). In the NL, the big leap comes from the Padres (70 to 86 wins), who not only made a number of useful additions this offseason, but also have a young core that could keep improving. Those Mookie Betts trade talks may not be crazy (though I’m sure it would sting if the Dodgers got him instead).
  • The Reds, for all their maneuvering and their low win total last year, actually still do not project for a big leap: from 75 to 80 wins. Mostly, FG rakes the Reds over the coals for the impact their defense will have. As much as it buys the bat additions of guys like Nick Castellanos and Mike Moustakas, the gloves are projected to takeaway almost all of that value. Throw in an outfield that FG absolutely hates, and you’ve got the fifth lowest position player WAR in all of baseball. The pitching – 7th highest – isn’t enough to offset, and thus, you’re looking at a team projected to be a touch below .500, even after all the moves.
  • Relaying via Jordan Bastian, Theo Epstein pointed out recently that Albert Almora has struggled in particular when pulling the ball (Bastian notes Almora’s negative launch angle when pulling the ball – that ain’t good). Adding to that, something has been off to the pull side for Almora for a while, as his groundball rate to the pull side has climbed every year he’s been in the big leagues, from 54.3% in 2016 to 60.0% in 2017 to 69.1% in 2018 to an obscene 74.7% in 2019. Pull side is where you’d like to see Almora generating his power, but it doesn’t matter at all how hard you’re hitting the ball if you’re putting it on the ground three outta four times you pull the ball.
  • I’m gonna predict something likely very obvious before I check it: my guess is pitchers have done the very simple thing and continued to work him more down and away over the years, taking advantage of his high-contact, high-swing tendencies, which would generating a ton of additional groundballs to the pull side.
  • OK. Now I’m looking at the heat maps on FanGraphs. And sure enough, pitchers progressively went from doing this in 2016:

  • To doing this in 2019 – the inside half just disappeared:

  • Sometimes the problems are very easy to see in baseball, even if the solutions are extremely hard to come by. That’s what makes the sport so difficult. Almora would have to change his approach in a very, very fundamental way to alleviate this serious problem, and it’s not as if it hasn’t been on the organization’s radar for years … but it’s only gotten worse. I will always have hope for a first round draft pick with some of his natural tools, but I am not optimistic that Almora is a meaningful contributor in 2020.
  • Good Deals of the Day at Amazon today, including Tide, light therapy, and, most importantly, Valentine’s candy. #ad

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.