Almonte Surging

There really isn’t another way to put it. Zoilo Almonte is on fire. He’s batting .351 in his past 10 games with six home-runs. He’s driven in 11 runs and continues to not just hit but hit for power. In his past 10 games, Almonte’s On-base plus slugging percentage is an absurd 1.167.

It didn’t start so hot for him though says Tampa Yankees’ Hitting Coach Justin Turner. A number of factors kept him from really peaking like he has now.

“He was kind of struggling early,” said Turner. “Not really putting good at-bats together. Then he got hurt and was down on the DL. Since he came off, he’s just been ridiculously hot.”

An owner of an ugly .182 batting average in May and a not much better .241 average in April, Almonte appeared ready to slump back into his 2008 form when his average dropped to .239 after hovering around .270 in 2009 and 2010. The left fielder hit for a little power but accounted for less than 10 homers in all but last year (when he had 13). He says not much has changed in the power department though, other than his physical condition.

He only played in 10 games in May and spent the majority of the month on the disabled list.

“Year ago, I could hit homers,” Almonte said through a translator. “But I had other problems like my knees and my back. But now with the three weeks getting over the back, I can hit them more than ever.”

Coach Turner agrees that the power surge is mostly due to his health but also points to a few mechanical issues they’ve ironed out through the first three months of the season.

“He puts himself in a bad spot sometimes,” said Turner. “He has to fly open to see pitches better. As long as he’s keeping himself in good position, his recognition is good.”

Almonte’s pitch recognition is a key to his current hot streak. Frankly, he just isn’t swinging at bad pitches. For the season, he’s struck out roughly twice as many times as he’s walked (40-18) but in his past 10 games? He’s k’d six times to go along with five walks.

“He’s getting good pitches to hit and he’s attacking them,” Turner added.

As for his injuries, Almonte says he’s hoping some extra work-out time will curtail his body’s habit for getting hurt.

“I’m working a lot on my hitting but also in the weight room,” he said. “Getting a better body. Trying to stay healthy all year.”

One of the most interesting stats of Almonte’s recent power binge has to do with his home park. He’s hit nine homers on the road but just one in Tampa. Turner shrugged and said it’s not saying much. He mentioned how dead their home field is in the gaps and how hard the wind comes in toward the plate.

Not all of that explains a 40 point drop in batting average, but on June 15th Almonte knocked a double and a homer in Tampa so maybe it’s all just coincidence. He’s played in 10 more road games this year so maybe it’s just a matter of chance. A larger sample size will reveal that answer.

Coach Turner added that at this point, with how Almonte is hitting, it’s pointless to talk about ballpark dimensions or statistical anomalies. It’s best to just let him hit.

“There’s not a park made in baseball that can keep him in when he’s hot,” Turner said. “It’s going to go out anywhere.”

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