Is there anybody who doesnâ€™t love Ozhaino Jurdy Jiandro Albies? In an age where a lot of players are hard to like, Ozzie isnâ€™t one of them. He has an obvious competitive fire; heâ€™s a tireless worker; he keeps teammates loose; he smiles a lot; he produces good results; he does all this on a modest (by MLB standards) salary. He earned everybody in America a free taco (if you can call a Taco Bell taco a taco.) Everybody likes him.
But you folks know all that. (Well, maybe you didnâ€™t know he has a brother named Zhhihir, but now you do. Iâ€™ll wait on Chipâ€™s pronunciation before I give it a try.) Letâ€™s see if we can get critical of somebody everybody likes.
2022 was pretty much a lost season. He started slow, never really got his stroke, broke his foot swinging the bat and then broke a pinky one day after returning from the broken foot. One broken foot doesnâ€™t make you injury-prone, but breaking a foot while swinging the bat is an unusual enough injury to at least make you take notice. And of course Ozzie is one of those guys who doesnâ€™t want to take a day off. Will his body be able to hold up to 150+ games per season? The man is tough, and he wonâ€™t turn 26 until next month, but heâ€™s only listed at 165 lbs. Ozzieâ€™s about the same size as Jose Altuve, who, after playing virtually full-time from 2012-2017, now plays about 140 games per year. Again, if you told me now that Ozzie will average 140 games a year for the next 5 years Iâ€™ll be thrilled, but it does suggest lower production than his top production.
Ozzie was a 4 WAR player in 2018 and a 5 WAR player in 2019. Since then, though, his progress has stagnated and even fallen back a bit. Letâ€™s ignore 2020. In 2021, though, he fell back to 3.4 WAR even as he won the 2nd baseman Silver Slugger. An .800 OPS is just fine and I would drool to have that be his standard of performance, but it certainly falls short of his .852 in 2019. But it is not impossible that we have already seen Ozzieâ€™s best offensive year. Or, he could be just entering the prime of his career.
But these are quibbles. The big question is Ozzieâ€™s left-handed swing. He now has a career 1993 plate appearances against right hand pitchers as a left handed batter. His career OPS as a lefty is .741. Now .741 isnâ€™t bad, but it ainâ€™t great. Itâ€™s Kolten Wong territory, not Dustin Pedroia territory.
By contrast, when he bats right handed, he OPSes .919 (admittedly in far fewer plate appearances â€“ just over 700.) That substantially exceeds Pedroia. Itâ€™s 90 points higher than Jose Altuve. Indeed, it exceeds the best-hitting second baseman of this millennium: Robbie CanÃ³. Heck â€“ itâ€™s better than the only two second basemen better than CanÃ³: Charlie Gehringer and Eddie Collins.
Of course, you canâ€™t just start hitting right-handed all the time. Iâ€™m sure Ozzie has thought about it, but has discovered that his bat speed right-handed against right-handers is too slow to catch up to MLB fastballs. Thatâ€™s why substantially all of his right handed at-bats against right-handers have come against position players and guys throwing junk. But it’s not like he hasn’t had success:
Ozzie is going to face right handed pitchers in over 70 percent of his at bats. If thereâ€™s anything he can do to improve his performance from the left side of the plate, he ought to focus on that. Or pick a few more right-handers to experiment. He strikes out 18.7% of the time against right-handers, over 20% in 2021. (It’s under 14 percent against lefties.)
There is, as far as I can tell, nothing that means the next five years of Ozzieâ€™s career wonâ€™t be five of the greatest years any second baseman has ever had. He has that potential. And heâ€™s got the makeup to achieve that potential. (Potential isn’t everything, though. Just ask Dan Uggla or Marcus Giles.) And all Braves fans are rooting for him. But as Joaquin Andujar memorably said: â€œYou can sum up baseball in two words: You never know.â€