No spring training trope is as tired as “best shape of his life,” but “working on a new swing” is growing a little threadbare. You know what, though? I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of poring over video from camp to break down slight mechanical adjustments, using my finely tuned ear to determine whether the extra pop in Albert Almora Jr.’s bat is legit or just a product of beat-writer hype.
Okay, so my ear isn’t really that precise. The decibel meter app on my iPhone, though, works wonders. As for the hype thing, that’s really just a joke. The Cubs have a fine collection of actual journalists following them around Mesa, none better than Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.
While NBC Sports Chicago’s Tony Andracki was whiling away his day listening to Shaggy, Sharma was putting in work at the backfields. There he found Almora pounding BP dingers ($) over the wall with what appeared to be a new swing, captured in a 3-second YouTube clip that ends before you can really get a good look at what’s going on.
See, I told you. But because I love you, Dear Reader, I took the time to get screencaps at various moments of the swing so you can get a better look at what’s going on. The first thing I noticed was the widened, knock-kneed stance Almora has adopted, almost an inverse of Kris Bryant’s crouch. Though it looks as if his back leg is collapsing as he loads, Almora maintains his balance and is able to explode through the ball.
Rather than prattle on, let’s just peruse the stills and then circle back on the other side.
Nothing too crazy here, although, as Sharma noted in his piece, you can see that Almora has gone back to the leg kick he’s employed to various degrees over the course of his career. There were questions about his ability to maintain it as he was coming up through the minors, whether he’d be able to catch up to big league pitching, so he messed around and eventually dialed it down to a toe-tap.
That clearly didn’t work out, so Almora is back to the kick with a twist. Not an actual twist, just a change to the way he’s done it before.
“It’s more of a base,” Almora told Sharma. “If I’m upright and I have a leg kick, the timing has got to be perfect for everything to click. I’ll still have power if everything’s perfect. But if I’m a little wider, I have more leeway with having my bat through the zone longer. I just want to feel strong with every part of my swing.”
Of course, it’s easy to be Mr. Boombastic when you’re in the cage facing BP fastballs. Trying to adjust to 95 mph two-seamers and wicked sliders that test both timing and balance could have Almora saying, “It wasn’t me.” But this isn’t something he picked up on a whim right before reporting, so we can probably assume part of the process included hitting against high-level live pitching and/or a Hack Attack machine.
We’ll get to find out soon enough whether Almora’s new swing works when the cage is folded up and pitchers aren’t trying to help him out. Which is to say there’s semi-real baseball around the corner. Hooray!