Even more intriguing than the increased power Albert Almora Jr. has shown lately is whom he’s doing it against. Long thought to be a platoon bat, Almora has been crushing right-handed pitching.
Almora has already hit three homers with a total .346 wOBA against righties this season. This is in sharp contrast to last year when he only smacked four homers and finished the season with a .297 wOBA against righties. Okay, so what’s different this year?
Much of Almora’s success this season has come against pitches in on his hands, the same kind he couldn’t barrel up in 2018. We can see this by plotting his base-hit probability against righties year-over-year. The left portion (inside) of the zone is hot this year compared to last season when it was all cool colors.
One explanation for Almora’s newfound success is improved pitch recognition due to a reduced leg stride, as Evan Altman pointed out recently. Being quieter and more balanced may allow Almora to better recognize and jump on those inside pitches.
Almora is not only crushing inside pitches, but he’s been more willing to swing at them this season. See how the lower left portion of the strike zone is hotter in 2019 than 2018?
Almora, who has been used against righties and in late-inning defensive situations, hitting righties consistently would be an unbelievably huge development for this team. The ability to provide offensive value against like-handed pitchers would give Joe Maddon more flexibility with his lineup construction.