Having had a few months to dwell on what was his first full Major League season, Braves second baseman Ozzie Albies acknowledges he’ll need to harness his aggression in order to repeat the All-Star experience he enjoyed last year.
“I just have to make adjustments,” Albies said. “I’m an aggressive guy, but I have to slow it down a little bit by not being aggressive all the time. I need to slow it down a little bit and see more pitches. You never know, I could change my game with more bunts to get on base, because I have the speed to score every day.”
Albies recently celebrated his 22nd birthday and he has played just 215 games at the Major League level. He displayed his tremendous potential when he hit .281 with 20 home runs and a .834 OPS before filling a National League roster spot at the All-Star Game. But he was humbled during the second half, hitting just .226 with four homers and a .624 OPS.
Fatigue and the switch-hitter’s mechanics from the left side influenced the second-half slide. More important, Albies recognizes opposing pitchers took advantage of his aggressive approach with effective adjustments.
“It was on me,” Albies said. “I had to make my adjustments to get back on track. I felt like I wasn’t as consistent as I was in the first half. I’m going to try to do it over 162 [games] this year.”
Albies was consistent from the right side of the plate, hitting .313 with a .895 OPS in the first half and .370 with a .921 OPS in the second half. But from the left side, the young switch-hitter batted .269 with an .810 OPS in the first half and .161 with a .492 OPS after the All-Star break.
While there have long been concerns about Albies’ left-handed mechanics (primarily the varying aggression of his leg kick), the decline also had to do with the fact pitchers fed him fewer fastballs and fewer strikes.
Per Statcast™, Albies’ percentage of in-zone swings (81.8 percent in the first half/81.3 percent in the second half) and out-of-zone swings (32.8 percent and 32 percent) remained consistent. But given the young infielder ranked second the Majors with a 57 percent swing percentage in the first half, it wasn’t surprising for him to see his selection of in-zone pitches drop slightly from 49.5 percent in the first halt to 46 percent after the break.
Before the All-Star break, Albies hit .291 with a .583 slugging percentage against fastballs, which accounted for 55 percent of the pitches he saw during this span. After the break, he hit .224 with a .337 slugging percentage against fastballs, which accounted for just 49.9 percent of the pitches he saw. This stood as the third-lowest rate among big leaguers who saw at least 750 pitches within this stretch.
Albies hit .277 with a .606 slugging percentage against fastballs while batting from the left side during the season’s first half. He hit just .196 (9-for-46) with a .370 slugging percentage against this pitch thrown by right-handed pitchers in the second half.
So while adjustments made by opposing pitchers influenced Albies’ slide, so did some of the mechanical flaws he has started to fix while spending time working out in Atlanta and in his native Curacao, where his training partners include A’s infielder Jurickson Profar and former Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who is now with the Angels.
“[Last year] was the first time I’ve played in that many games,” Albies said. “I know what I need to do now and I know what I have ahead of me to accomplish.”