When Angels hitting coach Mickey Hatcher was trying to teach Peter Bourjos how to shorten his swing last season, he used Albert Pujols as the model.
That might seem counterintuitive, using an elite power hitter to instruct a speedster on how to avoid strikeouts, but it worked. After quieting his hands and simplifying his swing, Bourjos went from 79 strikeouts before the All-Star break to 45 after it.
Now, Hatcher doesn't have to scrounge up video of Pujols to show his young hitters. He can just point at the cage when the future Hall of Famer is taking batting practice.
"His swing is so simple," Hatcher said. "You would love to have every kid learn that swing and that approach. It's what we preach with, because it's so controlled, from the hands getting through the zone to where the head needs to be.
"He has very little movement, which allows you to see the ball better. It's a fact. You've got the guys who have the legs kick and everything, too much movement, the consistency's not there."
In 2006, Pujols had nearly as many home runs (49) as strikeouts (50). He has never struck out 100 times in a season and, since his rookie year, has never reached 70 strikeouts. He also has a keen batting eye. His lifetime on-base percentage is .420.
Thus far this spring, fans who have flocked to Tempe Diablo Stadium to watch Pujols' batting-practice sessions might have left a little disappointed. He has been concentrating on hitting line drives rather than home runs. Sunday, he hit low shots into all nooks of the outfield. He has a jovial demeanor with his teammates everywhere but in the batting cage, where he wears a scowl of concentration.
"He's a perfectionist, but he really understands his swing," Hatcher said.