Jose Pujols and Evaluating in Context

This all starts with a question.  If everyone is aware of a problem, knows the solution to the problem, and has a plan to fix it, is it really a problem?  The answer is probably still yes, but the problem is a lot smaller than it really appears.  If your pipes are leaking and you called a good plumber you have good odds after some time and pain to your wallet, it is going to be fixed with a small chance there might be something more wrong.  Until then, the pipe is going to continue to leak and expecting anything else is really just lying to yourself.  This analogy factors a lot into prospect evaluations, if things happen exactly as we expected be they positive or negative then there really is no change to the original analysis.

To this case study enters Williamsport right fielder Jose Pujols.  Pujols enters today batting .245/.319/.348 with a 8.7% BB% and 26.6% K% and is not showing much game power.  Yet Tucker Blair of Baseball Prospectus wrote up one of the most optimistic reports I have seen on a Short Season hitter.  To illustrate Pujols’ problem I will let Mitch Rupert take it away with his observations from a month ago.

If you look closely you can see the little hitch, it isn’t much and the rest of the swing is totally fine.  It is actually a similar problem that the Phillies have had to deal with with Maikel Franco, and one that I have written about in length over the years.  The result is that Pujols is often late on pitches, and because of his aggressive approach he is really struggling with pitch sequence because he is late on pitches.  He has the power to send some stuff the other way, but he has been unable to really turn on and drive pitches out of the park.

The Phillies think all of this is totally correctable and they plan on removing the hitch this fall in instructs, but it is going to be a time intensive and repetitive process which is why they are waiting.  Once the hitch is gone he should be totally fine swing wise.  He still shows off crazy raw power in batting practice so it isn’t like his strength is gone (not to mention that he has more room to add good weight).

So if we know that this issue exists and that the plan is in place to correct it, how do we judge Pujols down the stretch.  His stats are more useless than they already were, but we can use them to see deviations from his baselines.  Is he working deeper counts (regardless of results), is he tracking breaking balls.  Can he continue to show the ability to line balls the other way when he is late on the ball?  What does the bat speed look like, how does he control the bat through the zone?  We can’t be lazy, we have to look at the components and not the final result, but this is really just a lesson in how we have to evaluate all players.

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

5 comments

  1. Travis

    I like what, I think, you said on twitter, paraphrasing. If someone thinks a prospect will be ranked somewhere at the end of the year, than they should rank them there now.

  2. Tim

    Him and Jan Hernandez remind me of each . They both have big power and big arms but both have contact issue’s .

  3. allentown1

    I hope Pujol’s contact problems are as easily solved as this article suggest. That view would be a lot easier to accept if this were his first year with the Phillies rather than his third. If the cause of his contact problem is so clear and so fixable over this winter, then why hasn’t it already been fixed. Each year it persisted, the bad approach became more ingrained. Meanwhile, the kid continues to K in about a third of his AB, while the power, which is supposed to be his carrying skill, remains modest.

    • Matt Winkelman

      Some things to keep in mind:
      – They have already made huge strides with his swing, if you go back and look at his pre-signing tape and early in 2013 he had an exaggerated uppercut to his swing. They have smoothed that out and gotten it more line drive (which is fine for the power because he still can hit them 400+ feet)
      – He has a bad wrist injury this spring and miss almost all of Extended Spring Training (this was largely unreported, it really came out around midseason)
      – The hitch is a fairly new thing has they have worked through other things (like getting it synced up) and as said earlier he has taken well to swing adjustments
      – The approach is bad, but from talking to people he does recognize spin now from both sides, the problem has been that if he is sitting breaking ball the swing length is preventing contact with fastballs, and if he is sitting fastball he is way out in front on breaking balls, post hitch he should be able to adjust to both because of the bat speed.
      – He also works deep counts, he does hack early at times, but he also works pitchers into deep counts
      – The power is all there. His home run last night was an absolute blast and he has broken part of the sign in center field (400+ feet away 20+ feet up) on a line in batting practice.

  4. Romus

    Looks like Pujols was reading your article…he went long last night.