I noticed something peculiar about Albert Pujols' approach at the plate during an at bat last night in Arizona. He picked up and put back down his normally semi-stationary left leg as the pitch came in.
Pujols hasn't had a leg kick in his swing for a long time.
Only after seeing him in the minors on 60 Minutes did I know he ever did it on a regular basis before. I saw him lift his foot up for a Home Run Derby, but not in a regular season game.
Has he tried it during other slumps to get his timing right?
It doesn't seem to be helping. From camera angles behind home plate, he's putting the foot down to his left, opening his hips and whole body up. Somebody like Matt Holliday who's used to doing it, puts his foot down in the same place every time and without veering off to the side.
Albert should ditch the kick. It's not going to fix his problems.
The biggest issue he has at the plate right now is that his head's not down on the ball. He's just not looking the ball all the way in. He's swinging too early, and low changeups are inducing all these ground balls he's hitting.
He needs to let things come to him. Hitting is about patience. Base hits and walks will do. He shouldn't feel he always has to hit dingers, but yes, the money is in home runs.
I don't think the slump is about the contract as much as him feeling he has to provide all of the Cardinals offense and extra base hits—again. I'm sure putting up big numbers in a contract year is in the back of his head, but he's just trying to hard to do it all right now, pending free agency or not.
Overall, I'm not worried. I expect Pujols to be okay in a month or two, and he is starting to rip some liners on pitches up and in.
I'm even looking forward to a little doubt being put into the heads of other GMs if he has a slightly off year. Maybe he can price himself back down into the Cardinals range and be worth his future production.