After watching Francisco Lindor’s blast for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic, Twitter user Robert Cruz (@Cruzan2117) made an astute observation:
Since the clip of Roberto Alomar’s home run off of Eckersley is a bit dark, I pulled up another clip to run a better comparison.
Here’s Lindor’s shot in the WBC, and then another from this past season.
Both swings are certainly majestic, but the symmetry extends all the way to the footwork. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if we someday learn that Lindor modeled his swing after Roberto Alomar’s. Both players switch hit and are similarly built at the same age, though Lindor packs a bit extra muscle, which may explain the power he’s added to the swing.
I’m not suggesting that Lindor built his swing off of Alomar’s just based on the visuals; it’s well-known that Lindor grew up idolizing him.
Forget about the symmetry in their swings, baseball upbringings, and homeland — let’s go a bit further and compare each of the player’s first two seasons.
Roberto Alomar broke into the league with the Padres in 1988 at age 20. He arrived on April 22, 1988, collecting his first hit on a single that day off of Nolan Ryan. He immediately contributed to the team with excellent fielding and slightly above average hitting, an exceptional accomplishment for a kid who couldn’t legally drink a beer during the season. A number of sportswriters selected him as Rookie of the Year, although the award ultimately went to Chris Sabo. His production at the plate ticked up in his second season at age 21 as he continued to play excellent defense at second base. Alomar is now a member of the Hall of Fame.
Francisco Lindor broke into the league with the Indians in 2015 at age 21. He arrived on June 14, 2015, collecting his first hit that day on a single off of Joakim Soria. He immediately contributed to the team with excellent fielding and fantastic hitting, a surprise coming from a young prospect who some felt might struggle offensively in the Major Leagues. A number of sportswriters selected him as Rookie of the Year, although the award ultimately went to Carlos Correa. His production at the plate ticked down slightly in his second season at age 22 as his defense at shortstop somehow became even better. Lindor represented the Indians in his first All-Star game that year.
That gives us a nice frame for the narrative. Let’s stuff it with numbers.
|2015||438||12||12||6.2 %||15.8 %||.313||.353||.482||.358||126||-0.6||4.5|
|2016||684||15||19||8.3 %||12.9 %||.301||.358||.435||.340||112||1||6.3|
|1988||611||9||24||7.7 %||13.6 %||.266||.328||.382||.319||107||2||3.9|
|1989||702||7||42||7.5 %||10.8 %||.295||.347||.376||.327||110||1.5||3.8|
Yes, what you’re seeing is correct. Over the course of his first two seasons, Francisco Lindor is a better version of a Hall of Famer. Even if you consider the fact that Lindor is a year older, the facts do not change; here are Alomar’s numbers from his age 22 season:
|1990||646||6||24||7.4 %||11.1 %||.287||.340||.381||.326||100||1.8||3.0|
One interesting thing to note looking at the statistics is that both Baseball Reference and Fangraphs (used in the article) rate Alomar as a good, though not spectacular defender. In fact, for most of his career in Toronto, Alomar is rated slightly below average. I blame the fact that he was forced to play on the original carpeted cement of the SkyDome.
The other is that Lindor is better in pretty much every way at the same spot of their careers. Similarity score states the Lindor is most like Vern Stephens at the same age, which is fantastic comparison. Stephens would more than likely have made it to the Hall of Fame if not for his knees failing in his early thirties.
Lindor, of course, has a very long career ahead of him. It is possible that he will still play Major League baseball in twenty years. It is also possible (why am I even writing this dear god no please no don’t do this to us) that he may suffer from injuries that sap his potential, or never manage to match the production of his earliest seasons. What set Alomar apart in the prime of his career was his ability to reach base and then wreak havoc on the basepaths. In five seasons, Alomar logged an OBP greater than .400; in eight, he stole at least 30 bases.
With a fWAR of 6.3 last season, there really isn’t anything that Lindor needs to improve upon to remain one of the best players in baseball today. However, if he continues to imitate his idol by improving year after year, adding different facets to his game? A few years of that will steer him into the conversation as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
As a final note, one of my favorite baseball quotes of all-time comes from Sandy Alomar Sr. When the Indians faced the Baltimore Orioles in the 1997 ALCS, Sandy Alomar Jr. and Roberto Alomar played on opposing teams. One of the broadcasters asked Alomar Sr how he was handling the series. Did he feel strange, or unsure whom to root for? Alomar Sr replied with something like, “No matter what, one of my sons is going to play in the World Series again. I couldn’t be prouder.”