Baltimore Orioles infielder Hanser Alberto showed that an old school approach can still work.
There are many statistics to follow nowadays. Players are measured in ways that make the modern game of baseball seem like a science fiction movie. With all the data points, sensors and statistical analyses that go into each team’s plan of attack, a strong math sense is almost a prerequisite when it comes to watching a ball game. Or, you could just ignore all the numbers, nod your head like you know what it is when they say, “launch angle” and just cheer when the ball flies out of the park.
With all of this, we can forget about the old “hit em’ where they ain’t” approach that ruled the game before baseball mon-stars started hitting the ball over the fence. With the increased usage of data and the persistence of the defensive shift, the game has moved in a direction where a hitter might just as well try to hit it over all the defenders for a home run. But, with only 12 home runs 2019, Baltimore Orioles infielder Hanser Alberto’s season stat line was so unique and in some ways, refreshing.
In his age 26 season, Alberto finally got a chance to hit in more of an everyday role in Baltimore and surely made the most of it. 2019 was a top ten season. Top ten in what you ask? Well, no not stolen bases. Ok, no not home runs. Yea, no, not launch angle, but nice memory. I’m talking about good old fashioned, bat on ball mechanics.
When Alberto swung at a pitch inside the zone, he made contact 93.6% of the time. That mark had him finishing sixth in zone contact rate behind Mookie Betts. When the ball was outside of the zone and Alberto swung, he made contact 47.6% of the time, second behind only Kevin Pillar. Alberto was aggressive and swung the bat 58.3% of the time overall, fifth behind Tim Anderson. Finally, how about general contact rate? Alberto finished tenth behind Jean Segura making contact with the ball 86.5% of the time when moving the bat.
These may not be the sexy statistics that propel a player to MVP status, but these four top ten statistics are the reason for Alberto hitting .305/.329/.422 in 2019. Only 19 hitters finished above .300 in 2019 and Hanser was one of them, finishing 16th, ahead of Cody Bellinger, J.D. Martinez, and Whit Merrifield.
On top of that, Alberto has outperformed his xBA (expected batting average, based off of skills metrics and a look at what the player should hit given their true talent levels) in each year he has played in the major leagues. What does that mean? Some would say he’s due for regression and the batting average will come down, I say not enough data was collected in the form of major league at bats to get a true measurement of his talent, but maybe I’m biased.
Looking at Alberto’s splits really brings to light his biggest weakness and that is against right-handed pitchers. Against righties, Alberto hit .238 in 303 at bats. Against lefties, he hit .398 in 221 at bats. If he can improve his hitting against right handed hitters and continue to make contact at such a high level, Alberto might be a ray of light in the dark days of Baltimore’s rebuid.
With Baltimore Orioles fans in need of something to watch and root for in 2020, Hanser Alberto continuing to hit above .300 could be just the thing.