The second half has not been kind to several Chicago Cubs players. This includes Albert Almora and Addison Russell. Can they turn it around soon?
It has been a real tough go of things the past few weeks for Albert Almora Jr. and Addison Russell at the plate. Joe Maddon has shifted the lineup around a lot lately, Almora has been put in several different spots with Russell batting behind the pitcher. Not much luck changing anything yet.
What can be made of these struggles? They can be looked at through both similar and different lenses. Almora and Russell are both still young players, though Russell has been around a bit longer and has been an everyday player since coming up in 2015. Almora has been on the roster since 2016 but has not been an everyday player for much of that time. Sample size is something to consider for each of these players.
Almora was probably due for a slump
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Albert Almora Jr. has played in 282 total games in the majors, counting Saturday afternoon. He started just 156 of said contests. This year, he has started in 67 percent of the games he has played in, while starting just 44 percent of the games he played in from 2016 to 2017. So he has started more frequently this year and has already exceeded his season-high in at-bats and games started.
This basically means we have seen the longest sample size of him in one season, and, for much of it, he hit very well. In the first half, he slashed .319/.357/.438 in 86 games. Since the All-Star Break, he carries a .178/.196/.217 line with two extra-base hits and two RBI in 17 games. Almora is batting just .200 with a .229 OBP with four extra-base hits since July 1.
He has struggled for a while, but right now this looks like one of his first major slumps. He was putting up a .372 BABIP in the first half, including a .403 BABIP in June. As good of a job he was doing making contact for a long time, there is going to be a regression of balls put in play resulting in hits.
His BABIP has been below .225 since the break. Unsurprisingly, that includes a lot of weak grounders and popups. Almora will need to make some adjustments and work out of this slump, hopefully sooner than later. Expect him to be played to matchups down the stretch and not every single day.
Russell’s bat just not coming around consistently.
Addison Russell is a bit of a different case. He has started in 457 of his 494 career games (92 percent starts) and has slashed .245/.317/.401 in his career. Even in 2016 when he hit 21 homers, he hit just .238/.321/.417 in 151 games. While just 24, he has not proved to be a consistently good hitter over nearly four seasons.
Russell had a really excellent June, slashing .329/.386/.401 with three homers. He is batting .229 since the break and is batting .266 on the year with five home runs and a .374 slugging. The power has not been there all year, and he has just seven XBH since July 1. It seemed like the good May and June months were setting up for him to come around, but this slump ended that brief good run.
So, is Russell really going to greatly improve? Coming into the majors he was called the next Barry Larkin by Athletics president Billy Beane. Still need to see that. There have been flashes of it, but little more. Right now, it looks like this is who Russell may be, unless there is a dramatic improvement. He has two months to turn it around and prove he can be effective in 2018.