July 24, 2008

Is Pujols straying from proven formula?

Is it just me or has Albert Pujols been trying to pull everything lately?

This has been going on for some time, and it seems his basehits have mostly been hard grounders through the hole on the left side and the extra-basehits are into the left-center field alley.

There were probably some to the right side, but they just don't come to mind.

Makes me wonder if Albert is pushing for the longball, getting away from his "total discipline approach."

It's not really an argument, either. More of an observation ... hmm ... okay, a concerned observation, if that makes any sense?

Just don't want to see Pujols getting away from something that has worked pretty darned well. Of course, Pujols is such a good hitter, he could probably decide to try to hit the ball only on the right field line, 57 feet past first base, and he would probably do fine.

Seems, however, that he is pressing, chasing high pitches that look too good to pass up, popping them to the left side or hitting high flies to the left fielder.

The telling swings are the ones where it appears he has been fooled on speed variations. It's not the curvature, be it roundhouse, some variant of slider, or just a small cut. It's the speed, all right. Sure this happens to everybody with a bat and a few tenths of a second to decide on whether they're swinging, and where, and how hard, and wow, let's permit the brain to do this.

Which brings us to the point, that it just seems that there has been an increase in the amount of off-speed pitches on which Pujols has been fooled. When this happens a whole lot, like, for instance, with Chris Duncan, we know why. He's pressing, going through a rough patch, trying too hard, call it what you want. And when you have to guess too much as a hitter, you end up with non-productive swings.

Which brings us to a more exacting point: why is (if indeed, he is) Pujols guessing? He certainly isn't having a rough time as far as production. Maybe it just seems like he's pressing and guessing and what-all because he appears so frustrated on some of his sky-high can o' corn hits, the way he has been slinging the bat down after watching another pop-fly arch harmlessly into the sky.

Having perked an interest in the mechanics of Pujols' hitting, though, it will be interesting observing his upcoming plate appearances to see if this is all nervous-Annie speculation, or if he seems to make an adjustment back toward the middle of the field.

Normally, when a good hitter "thinks" middle, and revs up some bat speed with a quiet head, that's when an occasional ball gets yanked into Big Mac Land, or some such location in the lofty distance.

It's fun to play hitting coach with a lot of players, but when it comes to Pujols, there's more of feeling that the exercise in observation and speculation will end up being more like "watch and learn."
photo by Barbara Moore