The Adjustments Andrew Lambo is Making After His Slow Start

Tough beginnings

After a rough spring training that caused him to lose the first base battle handily to Travis Ishikawa, and an 0-for-8 start to the Triple-A season at the plate, Andrew Lambo set off some warning alarms within the organization. However, Lambo has rebounded well from the slump, by going 8-for-16 in his five previous games through Friday.

As for the cold onset to the campaign, Lambo blamed some of it on the success that he had last year — where he smacked 33 home runs between Altoona, Indianapolis, and Pittsburgh. The power numbers that he was able to produce last year created the mindset that he should hit home runs on every trip to the plate.

“As a hitter, if you have a good year, as far as my standpoint, you kind of expect that it will always be there,” Lambo said. “You forget the work that you need to put in to create that year. I went out to Venezuela and didn’t really do a whole lot and created some bad habits that carried over into the Spring, unfortunately.”

Though Lambo knows that he is expected to drive in runs and produce extra-base hits, he also now realizes that the power numbers will come naturally with the pitches that he is thrown and the various situations.

“You can’t control if you hit home runs or not,” Lambo said. “All you can control is what your plan is and what your approach is. Am I a home run hitter? In my head, I don’t think so. Throughout my career, I have been a guy who puts the barrel on the ball.”

With this approach, Lambo sets goals to hit over .300, have over 40 doubles, and drive in over 100 runs each season. He said that home runs come and go and he lets the fans worry about them more than he does.

Adjustments

Not wanting to dwell on the slump, Lambo referred to himself as a “big fix it guy.” The main adjustment that Lambo has been working on with hitting coach Mike Pagliarulo is to let the ball get a little deeper in the zone before attacking.

“We kind of simplified it for him and focused on some of the things that he does well,” Pagliarulo said. “We are working on staying on the ball a little longer. It is really a commitment to that. He’s the kind of guys that is not afraid and is willing to commit to things, as long as they are connected to the right stuff. That’s what we are trying to get him focused on, so that it is just one thing at the plate.”

In addition, Lambo has put a focus on using all fields and driving the ball from foul pole to foul pole, which is a skill that Pagliarulo thinks will contribute heavily to Lambo’s future success.

“I did not really know him until last year when he came up here,” Pagliarulo said. “The way that he was able to hit the ball to all fields, was really effective. It was really difficult for pitchers to face him because he is dangerous to all fields. We are just getting disciplined on his contact point and using all fields.”

Another goal that Lambo is taking to the plate is quite simple – don’t beat yourself. Rather than trying to replicate his swing from last year, Lambo is looking to get back to the basics and start from square one. Lambo said that not having a plan or an approach at the plate was also to blame with his struggles.

Though Lambo admitted that he is not where he wants to be offensively just yet, he stated that getting back to the basics has him a lot closer to where he wants to be, and ultimately, Pittsburgh.

Success against lefties

Though a bugaboo for some left-handed hitters is facing situational left-handed pitchers late in the game, Lambo has thrived against lefties early in the season. Through Friday, Lambo was 5-for-8 against left-handed pitching with two doubles.

Lambo’s initial expectations at the Major League level is to be facing right-handed pitching as a platoon player. In 2013, his splits were .288/.353/.591 against righties. In addition, in 2013, Lambo handled lefties fairly well. He had an .810 OPS against left-handed pitching, compared to the .944 he posted against right-handed pitching.

If Lambo can continue this success against southpaws, his value in Pittsburgh is even stronger than it would otherwise be. Hitting lefties gives Lambo the opportunity to also beat out Gaby Sanchez and take over the everyday position, regardless of the match-up, rather than platooning.

Defensive adjustments

Lambo is also looking to adjust to his defensive role with the organization from outfield to first base, as the road is blocked to years to come in the outfield.

While this is a change that Lambo is embracing, the first thing that he learned was the heavier workload that comes with playing the infield, as opposed to the outfield. This alone provided an adjustment for Lambo physically. However, he did not blame the position change on his early offensive struggles.

“I’m not going to blame me moving into the infield on why I didn’t hit,” he said. “Why I didn’t hit was for me and the reasons in the box. Me in the box had to iron some things out. Playing a new position is not why you don’t hit. I don’t believe in that.”

The agility with side to side movement and the focus within the game in the infield are two more aspects that Lambo acknowledged as adjustments. Though Lambo downplays the effect of the position change, Pagliarulo think that it may have had an impact on Lambo this spring.

“This spring, he was asked to play a new position and to do a lot of things,” Pagliarulo said. “I think that some people underestimate the difficulty of playing a new position, especially outfield to infield. We have a lot of things going on. I think that he is going to be fine and he is going to help later in the year in Pittsburgh.”

It is well-known and foreseen that Lambo’s chance to contribute for the Pirates is at first base, as Gregory Polanco has the route to the final outfield position locked down. With Ishikawa as the only obstacle in the way, Lambo will take the role if his offensive efficiency continues for another month or so, regardless of his defensive prowess in the infield. However, he is gaining necessary experience at Indianapolis that will prove valuable in the long run at the next level.

Ryan Palencer

Author: Ryan Palencer

Ryan joined Pirates Prospects as the Indianapolis Triple-A writer in 2014. Prior to joining Pirates Prospects, Ryan covered high school, college and professional sports in the Indianapolis area. For more updates throughout the season, follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanpalencer.

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  • lharmon20

    Love the in depth coverage provided here! Nice to learn more about Andrew.

  • Travis Persinger

    Outside the box here and it could be just plain wrong but if they weren’t afraid to move Lambo to 1B what would keep them from making Travis Snider a 1B/OF if who he is at the plate so far in April is who he can be and build from going forward? People can always be wrong about prospects and we’ve seen our share in Pittsburgh but there was something that almost every scout saw not too long ago that was making Snider was of the top up and coming players. This could all be for not if he doesn’t keep squaring up the bat on the ball, but IF (I know, big if) he continues to look good at the plate all summer….boy o boy. What an interesting article we could be reading next spring.

    We all know we are a hitting starved organization and you have to imagine that Neal and co. don’t want to see hitting walk out the door.

    • stickyweb

      I like the outside the box, Travis, but played a lot of 1B in high school and was actually considered the 2nd best 1B in California his senior year (behind Freddie Freeman I think), so he only needs to relearn the position and get serious reps, as opposed to Snider learning it for the first time. Also, while I Tabata’s potential, I like Snider as the 4th OF once Polanco arrives, because 2 of the 3 starters are RHH so a LHH backup would be better. Plus Snider has shown an ability to pinch hit, which is definitely needed on this team.

      • stickyweb

        that s/b Lambo was a good high school 1B

        • Travis Persinger

          O I totally agree with you on all that. I was looking Lambo having that inside track for all those reasons. But thinking of 2015 and beyond as a piece of the puzzle. With as few opportunities as Sanchez is getting at 1B I just wonder if Snider through winter league/spring training could be that rarely used platoon at 1B and be that 4th OF/Bench bat. He may get what….35 games at 1B? Maybe another 35 starts in the OF as well? Id be happy with that…assuming Lambo really can hold down the job day in and day out.

  • stickyweb

    Nice write up Ryan. I’m not sure why some people think all Lambo has to offer is HRs. He hit over .280 with a an OBP near .350 last year. Yeah the HRs are great to see, but he’s not Mark Trumbo. He could be a solide all around hitter. Glad to hear he’s buying into the HRs or nothing mentality too.

    • stickyweb

      s/b not buying into the Hrs…

  • https://profiles.google.com/105668650510920614054 Brian Bernard

    Agree. Appreciate this kind of article Ryan. Thanks.
    I like the quality of talent to choose from. Lambo, Ishikawa, Snider, Tabata. That is a pretty decent group of depth… toss in Tony Sanchez as well. Taking depth as an asset towards a championship club is really the question. If we’re talking about a competive window I like this group. IF your focused on THIS YEAR, then it’s fair to question if trading assets like these for a right now player is the more valuable approach.
    I think we have enough high caliber players in other positions to field a league average type at 1b for this year – especially if with their growth and experience they become better than league average in the near future. (See Matt Adams, STL.>= Lambo?)

  • emjayinTN

    Ryan: Great article on a timely subject. What I got out of the article is that Mike Pagliarulo is an excellent hitting coach and will help all of our kids. Like Charlie Lau years ago, driving the ball straight out using the whole field is going to be Lambo’s “Basic Approach”. Check out where Pedro has hit 4 of his 5 HR’s this year – straight out, and ‘Cutch is always making better contact when he is hitting straight out. It does not mean that any of these players will not turn on an inside pitch, but establishing a basic approach at the plate to stay back, see the ball longer, and drive it straight out is the key to more consistent AB’s.

    • leowalter

      While agreeing on Lambo being a possibility at 1st base soon,there is one comment of sticky’s I seriously question. That is liking Tabata’s potential. I have been hearing and seeing the same thing about him for the past 6 years,and I wonder just what potential he does have. He has very little HR power,and has seemed to have slowed down considerably. His non appearance on Sanchez’s throw into right/centerfield the other day enabling Bonifacio to score from 1st seems to be standard procedure for him in the field.He might not be going anywhere even when Polanco arrives,but I think he should be……if there are any takers.

      • emjayinTN

        Last night he was fielding a sharply hit ball as Braun was touching 3B. To me it looked like he was trying to read the play before throwing rather than just do his job by charging hard to field the ball and releasing quickly to the plate to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring in the bottom of the 8th. It looked too nonchalant for my money, but we are going to have to package him with some SP/RP to a team looking for an OF. No doubt he has the talent to hit and play the game, but he needs to be starting and playing somewhere rather than being a part-timer for the Pirates.

        • leowalter

          I have seen him play since he was in the Yankee’s organization em,and it has been the same old same old ” non chalant ” since that time. I though he just need motivated when he was 19,but I don’t think that is ever going to happen.

  • glassers

    OK nothing to the best to Lambo . I saw him over at Pirate City the last couple days of March after he was sent down . He was cordial to everyone who said hi to him and was acting as a professional should act . I am not sure a lot of players who just went through what he went through would have done the same thing . Hopefully we will see him soon !!

    • paurry

      Agreed. I just saw him at the Indians autograph session. He was very pleasant and professional.