Rewind to the fall of 2017. The Cardinals were seeking Marlins outfielders like seniors were seeking a date for prom night. They tried to swing for the fences with Giancarlo Stanton, and Stanton nixed the deal. They opted for Ozuna right after Stanton became a Yankee. They were said to be interested in Yelich but that never became a thing, and he went on to win an MVP in Milwaukee.
It looked like the Cardinals were left taking the ugly girl to the prom. Ozuna's numbers were a far cry from his 2017 season when he hit 37 home runs. At times he looked lost at the plate and was seemingly a ground ball machine. And let's not talk about his play in the outfield. (Let's... um...still not talk about it)
Part of these struggles was a lack of range of motion in his shoulder which sapped his power. But very oddly, his best months corresponded with when his shoulder injury should have been at its worst. The Big Bear felt like a big question mark.
Here's the thing though...
As I pointed out last year, Ozuna's 2018 peripherals were in line with the rest of his career. Based on his batted ball number's, his expected wOBA of .359 would have fallen right in line with expectations. Cardinal fans were calling him just another disappointing acquisition and proof that Mozeliak was falling off. I just shrugged and said baseball is weird.
I thought he'd bounce back. But he's done more than bounce back so far. Right now, the Big Bear is looking pretty sexy. The Cardinals are no longer dancing with the ugly girl at the prom. Ozuna's hitting .257/.353/.635 with 8 bombs.
While it's too early to draw some conclusions, there are a few reasons to get excited about Ozuna's turnaround.
- His career launch angle is 10.1. MLB average is 11. Last year Ozuna's launch angle was 10.8, this season it's 14.9%.
- Ozuna's groundball rate for his career is about 47%, which is what he hit last year. This year he's cut his groundball rate down to just 37%.
- Ozuna's fly ball rate is up to 42.6% from 34.9% last year.
- The one trend that excites me the most is that his hard-hit rate% is 52%. Despite a disappointing season last year, Ozuna's hard-hit % was a career-high 45.2%. His career average is 38.8%.
OK, so now that that number dump is out of the way, here's what I'm optimistic about: Ozuna's building on the trend of him smoking the ball, but now he's hitting the ball up in the air. With an added range in his shoulder (we hope), another 35+ home run season seems to be in the cards, which is the Marcell we were hoping for.
It's early in the season, but the trends are looking good, my friends. I have to wonder with the improvements we've seen thus far with DeJong, Wong, and Ozuna if there is some sort of Jeff Albert effect taking place.