This morning I came across this article about Albert Pujols by Scott Miller at CBSSports.com. Miller discusses Pujols’ struggles with the bat over the first two months of this season and also seeks to find some sort of explanation.
One of the most interesting observations came from a scout:
Odd thing about Pujols’ slow start in 2011 is, surrounded by Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday in the lineup, and with Yadier Molina having a career-year offensively, Pujols has more protection than he’s ever had.
Maybe, suggested a scout, that’s factoring into his early funk: Maybe since he knows he doesn’t have to carry such a heavy RBI burden, he hasn’t been as disciplined at the plate.
“He’s not the same guy right now,” the scout said. “He’s pull-happy. He’s not interested in going the other way anymore.”
Consequently, the scout said, opposing pitchers are pitching him away successfully more often than not.
It seems curious that Pujols’ struggles could be because of increased lineup protection, but who am I to question a scout?
Reading the article got me wondering just how outside of his career norms Pujols’ pathetic (relatively speaking) start to the season has been. My hypothesis was that he had probably had month or two month stretches similar to this over the course of his illustrious career.
So I looked at the stats. And I realized I was wrong. Very wrong.
- OPS: .752
- 8 HR and 26 RBI
I decided to go through Pujols’ yearly split stats (as provided by Yahoo) and find all of the other months in which he had at least 50 ABs and an OPS as low as the two he has turned in so far in April and May: .794 (April) and .743 (May). Here they are:
- July of 2001: .793 OPS
Yes, just one bullet.
Only once before, during his rookie season, has the great Albert Pujols had an OPS of less than .800. It was sandwiched between a June in which his OPS was .969 and an August OPS of 1.137.
Barring some kind of torrid finish to the month of May, Pujols will have finished below .800 twice in two months here in 2011.
When you go through Pujols’ month-by-month numbers over the course of his career, you find that you are much more likely to find an OPS greater than 1.000 than less than. So for Pujols to now have spent nearly two full months some 200+ points below that number is rather eye-opening. Maybe it’s just a sign that I have been underestimating Pujols’ greatness all along, to think that his pedestrian start to 2011 had some sort of precedent in his career. It doesn’t.
I’m not sure really what this means, and I’m not positing this as any kind of deep, suggestive statistical analysis. I’ll still be shocked if Pujols finishes below .300, 30 HRs, and 100 RBIs. But even the most LaRussaian lover of Albert Pujols has to admit, now almost 200 official ABs into the season, that something is wrong with The Machine.
The search for answers will continue. My hope and expectation is that Pujols will find them before anyone else and resume being the most complete hitter of my generation.