Next year's draft season is still nine months away, but the lessons we've already learned this year could carry over.
We’re taking a break from my series on streaming hitters with sharp splits to discuss the future a bit. There is nothing in particular about this point in time that makes it worth discussing 2014 now. Most teams have played about 75 games, but I didn’t even know that before I planned this; again, the point in the season is irrelevant. It’s just something I like to do around the start of summer as the first check-in point.
As much as I love to enjoy the here and now of the season we’re in the throes of, I also like to look forward and see how the current season might be affecting the following spring’s drafts. We are about nine months from the 2014 draft season so a whole lot will change from now until then, but I guarantee that some of what we’ve seen thus far will stick and have a lasting impact on 2014. In fact, in part one of a two-part look at what we’ve learned (or think we’ve learned) thus far, we start with something that I’m certain will be true in March 2014.
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Last week, we saw positive indications that Albert Pujols was playing in less pain. This week, we saw positive indications that Albert Pujols is playing in less pain still. Someday, perhaps, he'll be playing in no pain, except the pain we all feel knowing that death is coming to claim us all, and also knowing we'll never be as handy around the house as our fathers were.
Albert Pujols has trouble running, because of the pain.
All in all, a very good week for Albert Pujols playing through pain. Not necessarily for Pujols, who appears to be in pain, and playing. But he was able to do things (presumably through pain) this week that he wasn’t able to do, because of pain, in previous weeks. Maybe he’s not in pain anymore, but probably he’s still in pain. Here’s pained he pained pain.
Baseball is, it has been said repeatedly, the quasi–team game, the sport that is more than one-on-one and yet, in the conflict that lies at its essence, not. You don't need me to pontificate on that general subject. What you do need me to do is guide you on a stroll through one of the team-oriented aspects of the game, with a promise of some historical greatness at the end. (Don't skip there, though—it's more rewarding this way.)
It's Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton, but it's not just Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
There’s no Grand Theory here. I just keep getting asked—by people at church, family members, Ben—why the Angels have been so bad, and I just stutter a bunch of stuff about Albert Pujols’ legs, and Josh Hamilton’s slump, and Jered Weaver’s injury, and small samples. But it’s not just Albert Pujols’ legs, or Josh Hamilton’s slump, or Jered Weaver’s injury. Or even small samples. Of the 14 players who had starting jobs with the Angels on Opening Day—the nine regulars, and the five members of the starting rotation—11 are underperforming their PECOTA projections. Of the three who aren’t, Mike Trout is perceived as underperforming, and Peter Bourjos might soon be underperforming, as he sits on the DL and waits as games pass him by. And this doesn’t even include the bullpen, which has the American League’s 13th-best ERA, despite a pitcher’s park and a good group of defenders behind it.
So if somebody says it’s because of Hamilton, push back. If they say it’s because of Pujols, argue! It’s nearly the whole team, and this is simply an accounting of how it’s the whole team:
On Sunday, Albert Pujols sat out. The Angels are off Monday, so he'll get the two-day rest, after which, Mike Scioscia says, the Angels will "see where he is Tuesday." Which might just mean "we'll see if he feels better Tuesday." Or if might mean "we'll see where he is Tuesday, as we decide what to do about this." The team "stepped up" his treatment Saturday. Poor guy keeps trying, keeps being hard to watch, keeps being in a lot of pain.
When last we saw our hero, he was limping slowly to first base because of (at best) the pain of his plantar fasciitis or (at worse) lingering effects from his "very minor" offseason knee surgery or (at worst) some undisclosed foot, ankle, knee, or hip injury still to be diagnosed. He was trying his best but he was in a lot of pain. He was slow.