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.
As always, we're timing Pujols to first base, with a special eye out for two things: Situations where Pujols has to run hard and, therefore, demonstrates his peak speed; and situations where Pujols gets to choose whether to run hard and, therefore, demonstrates how much effort he can comfortably exert without crying.
Fastest time: 4.85 seconds
This is the second time in five weeks of doing this that we've seen Pujols crack five seconds. In those five weeks, incidentally, he has hit into just one fielders choice that wasn't a double play, and that was on a bases loaded play at the plate. If you get the lead runner, you're going to get Pujols. But, like his season-best 4.75 time last week, this is a time that is merely slow, not disturbing.
Slowest time: 5.75 seconds
By comparison, in week 3 Pujols' average time was 6.28 seconds, and his average time in all four of our previous weeks was slower than 5.75 seconds. This, too, is the type of swing that has given Pujols trouble getting out of the box, the low/inside pitch that requires him to really spin off that straightened front leg. It was a pitch like this that caused Pujols to ground to third and not run at all on April 13, and it was a pitch like this that caused Pujols to ground to third, hesitate, and take 7.3 seconds to get to third on May 1. Here, it looks like there's a very brief moment of hesitation in the batter's box, but very brief, and Pujols puts on a reasonable jog to first base.
Unnecessarily long and yet strangely reassuring shot of Albert Pujols jogging across the pitcher's mound:
Best running of the week:
Love hustle doubles, which meet both of our criteria for a significant Albert Pujols Running Event. That double took him 8.7 seconds. His double last week took 9.44 seconds.
So basically Pujols looks like he's continuing to come out of this. He's more willing to run. He's better at running. I asked Mike Scioscia last week whether Pujols' season-best home-to-first time was an indication of some positive trajectory for him, as far as pain. Scioscia didn't quite run with the optimism I was offering him. He was actually a bit pessimistic, saying Pujols' pain was affecting his ability to hit, and shrugging at a question about whether Pujols can ever heal as long as he's playing through it. Said Scioscia: "There's no doubt he’s been impacted from some issues with his lower body and being able to leverage the ball the way he can. At times he feels good and at times there are things that are slowing him down a little bit — I mean, holding him back a little bit from where he wants to be in the batter’s box. When it gets to a point where he feels he’s not able to do the things in the batter’s box that he needs to we’ll have to have a different conversation. You hope it gets to a level he can manage it and still be productive. I think there are some signs he’s able to function as far as running."
But this is now a 10-day stretch of noticeably better running. Scioscia might be more optimistic if somebody asked him today. And we might be pretty close to retiring this feature.
Average time on nine grounders this week: 5.37 seconds
Fastest time: 4.75 seconds
Slowest time: Did not complete
Slowest time (completed): 7.33 seconds