July 18, 2012
Albert Pujols Walks Again, and Other Reflections on Earlier Articles
July 18 is as good a time as any to go back and read old pieces to see whether they make a lick of sense in hindsight. It is as good a time as any because there is, from the writer’s perspective, no good time to do this without wondering why that thing was written in the first place. Baseball is really just a lifelong project to break down any sense of certainty you might have about cause and effect.
Topic: Albert Pujols was hitting poorly, but beyond that was the continuation of a trend that started the previous year: Few walks, less plate discipline, lot of swings at sliders outside.
Excerpt: "The Angels signed Albert Pujols for 10 years because even the decline phase of a .328/.420/.617 hitter should be pretty good. It turns out they’re getting a different hitter entirely. Probably a great hitter, maybe still the best hitter, and if there's anything you take from this piece, I really hope it's not that Albert Pujols is anything less than awesome still. He is awesome still, and I hate all of you who quit reading way up there and think that I'm giving up on Pujols. But he's a different hitter."
Update: Since April 24, Pujols is hitting .279/.347/.496, but I don’t mind using a more generous endpoint for this. Going back to the midway point in May, Pujols is hitting .317/.397/.603 in 53 games, with 20 unintentional walks. Over a full season, 60 unintentional walks would be at the low end, but not the lowest end, of his career norms.
So Pujols doesn’t quite have the same patience he used to have, and the Angels probably wish he did, but he has mostly gone back to the swing rates and walk rates he had during his MVP seasons. Optimistically, you could look at his performance since mid-May, and the underlying swing rates he has since then, and conclude that Albert Pujols was merely going through a really weird phase and that he is still mostly the hitter we thought he was. Swing rate is about the fastest measure to stabilize, so you might say he is stable huzzah. But you might also note that even measures that stabilize quickly can fluctuate quite a bit.