April 26, 2012

Pujols Continues to Struggle With the Angels: Are His Days of Being Baseball's Best Hitter Over?

By - Kris Fletcher

Maybe the St. Louis Cardinals knew what they were doing when they decided to let Albert Pujols walk.

For a decade, as a member of the Redbirds, Pujols was the most feared hitter in baseball. Now, it's starting to look like those days are over.

Photo by: Getty Images
Since joining the Los Angeles Angels, Pujols is hitting just .227 and is homerless through 18 games and 72 plate appearances. He has a total of 4 RBIs, or, one less than Washington Nationals first baseman Chad Tracy, who has started all of one game this season.

Grant you, it's April, and it wouldn't take much for Pujols to get going again. But the fact of the matter is, for $240 million, you shouldn't be allowed to have month-long slumps.

Still, the Angels should have seen this coming.

In 2008, Pujols posted a career-high 1.114 on-base plus slugging percentage. Since then, his batting average has fallen from .357 to .327 to .312 to .299. His on-base percentage has dropped from .462 to .443 to .414 to .366, and his slugging percentage, which was at .653 in '08, fell to .541 last season.

Seems like a semi-alarming trend for a guy you just inked to a 10-year deal.

Three consecutive seasons where he wasn't quite as good as the year before. Was he still a great hitter? Yes. He ranked 10th in the National League last season in OPS. But the problem is, Los Angeles didn't sign him to be the 9th, 10th or 11th best hitter in the league. They signed him to be the best, even at 32-years-old.

Teammate Torii Hunter believes it's just a matter of Pujols adjusting to a new league.

"For Albert, this is totally different," Hunter said. "He doesn't know any of the pitchers. But when he figures it out, there's going to be trouble. This guy is good, man."

Yeah, he's good. One of the best of all-time. And maybe it's that simple. Stop pressing and get use to the pitchers he's facing.

Except -- again, there are signs that Pujols' days of being baseball's best are over.

He's clearly not as patient at the plate as he once was. In 2008, he averaged one walk every 7.5 at-bats. In '09, it was up to one every 9 at-bats. Now, he's up to one every 23.


He's also now constantly chasing curveballs and sliders that are outside the strike zone. A classic example of an older player trying to speed up his bat against fastballs and being fooled by off-speed stuff. In fact, Pujols is hitting just .091 against those pitches this year.

In short, if you throw him anything besides gas, odds are he's not doing much with it.

Again, it's only 18 games into the season. Maybe it's just a slump, or maybe he is in fact pressing. But regardless, those 72 at-bats have reinforced the image of a hitter that opponents no longer fear. And if Pujols continues to be only a shadow of his former self, the next decade is going to seem like an eternity for Los Angeles fans.


  1. My thoughts on Albert,
    This horrendous performance wont be a trend, but something not much better may be.
    1. Let's face it Albert feasted on inferior NL pitching against the Pirates, Cubs, and the other AAA call ups the NL throws out there. In the AL for the rest of his career he faces a gauntlet.
    2. Every year he gets older, the further away from the St. Louis Albert he will get without steroids it's just fact.
    3. He truly doesn't want to be in LA. His ego and pride was just too hurt to stay in St. Louis. I honestly don't think he'll ever be happy again in baseball. He ruined his legacy of a honeymoon ending with a statue by taking more money.
    4. He has no protection in that lineup mixed with the fact he is pressing= bad statistics.

    Before Albert left for more money during the middle years of his career I asked my friends to tell me an athlete that had just as good or better second half of his career when they leave for money? It just never works out and is never the smart decision. Lebron certainly has played well in Miami, but still hasn't won a title and probably will never be as loved. Albert made the wrong choice, but he must live with it.

  2. He's off to a slow start, but I'm not ready to declare him past his prime yet. I still expect him to have real solid numbers by seasons end.

  3. Hope he hits .220 the remainder of his career. Damn traitor.

  4. I agree with Jay. It's still early. He'll bounce back. He always has some sort of cold streak during the season, it's just rarely at the START of the season.

  5. I think his days of being the best are over. Just look at the numbers. Steady decline the last 4-5 years. It's to be expected though. We all get old eventually.

  6. I'm not saying he is or isn't done, I'm just providing the facts as I see them.

    But regardless, he's clearly struggling at the plate right now.