One of the questions I’ve been getting a lot lately is “Why is Albert Pujols struggling?” Being as Albert has been the hitter over the past couple of years that I’ve pointed to as the example of the hitter for my clients to watch some are confused as to why this great hitter is off to such a slow start. Obviously I can only speculate as I have no direct experience with working with Albert and can’t say for sure what’s going on in his mind. I have however looked at his swing and it’d be easy for me to point out the fact that it appears as though he’s “pulling off” the ball and not getting the extension that he normally gets which would cause him to pull the ball more, roll over more balls, and give him less room for error.
Unfortunately this answer is far too obvious and doesn’t allow us or him for that matter to get to the source of what’s creating this small breakdown in his mechanics. I mean Albert is a hitter who for the past 11 years has been at the very top of his profession. Someone who is the model of consistency and has a very strong work ethic that would allow him to stay consistent with his swing. In addition he has a tremendous understanding of swing mechanics and as such would know that he’s “pulling off” and would take the steps necessary to physically correct the issue. The real question is “why?” What is creating this small breakdown in a hitter that has achieved such a tremendous level of physical mastery over his swing?
I think that Albert’s early season struggles are a perfect example (and again I’m only speculating) of how mental resistance manifests itself into physical form. Think of everything he’s been through in the past 6 months. I know no one is going to feel too sorry for him after he signed that big deal and that’s not what I’m saying this just goes to show how even the best hitters can experience mental resistance and just how important the mind is on physical performance. In the past 6 months he’s signed a new contract (a big one that he probably wants to live up to), joined a new team in a new league, left the only city he’s ever played in, moved his family to a new part of the country, and let’s face it Anaheim is not St. Louis. What I mean is the atmosphere is totally different and for a player like Albert this is just another thing that can have an impact on him mentally.
It’s understandable that with all of this going on it would be difficult for him to stay completely present in the batter’s box. As such the mental resistance he might be experiencing is creating tension in the muscles which won’t allow him to execute his swing efficiently or to maximize his bat path or extension.
I see this all of the time in the hitters I work with. Their inner resistance manifests itself in the form of muscular tension which prevents them from maximizing their performance as a hitter. They can’t maximize their hip separation, their posture doesn’t stay sound, their bat path is effected, and their extension is greatly reduced all preventing the player from playing at their highest capacity. Most of the time players look at these breakdowns in mechanics as a purely physical issue. As a result spend hours upon hours in the cage trying to fix what’s broken without ever getting to the source of the issue. If they understood that it’s the mental resistance they are experiencing during game play that was causing their mechanical breakdown they could save themselves a lot of time by simply becoming present and eliminating the resistance that is inhibiting their performance.