By acclamation, Albert Pujols entered the 2011 season as baseball's greatest hitter.
He's about to enter June as the St. Louis Cardinals' fifth-greatest hitter, behind Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina and Colby Rasmus. Which wouldn't be so interesting, except a) Rasmus is not having a particularly good season, and b) Yadier Molina?
So what (if anything) is "wrong" with Pujols? Ben Badler has a theory:
Here's what I think: Pujols' hamstring injury is bothering him way, way more than people realize.
Pujols came down with some "mild tightness" in his left hamstring on April 24. His pre- and post-hamstring injury numbers are telling.
Through April 24: .250/.306/.500, 7 HR in 98 PAs
Since April 24: .286/.372/.327, 0 HR, 113 PAs
See the difference? Yeah, the batting average is a little higher lately, but the power has disappeared. I wouldn't freak out over a 100-PA sample, but these results are just the secondary evidence that confirm what I'm seeing (and what I'm sure a lot of people are seeing) from him at the plate.
Badler goes on to analyze Pujols' swing and sees evidence that the hamstring injury is problematic.
I tend to agree. Pujols' slugging percentage since the 24th of April seems a bit much to just be a slump. Badler's big finish:
I'm not around the team every day, but the bottom line is I think there's a decent amount of evidence that suggests Pujols is more injured that he's letting on, which is affecting his mechanics and taken away much of his power.
It's at least worth talking about.
At .286/.372/.327, Pujols isn't exactly killing the Cardinals, particularly considering all their other injury problems. But if spending two weeks on the DL would allow his hamstring to heal, don't you take the lineup hit? Because as well as the Cardinals have played this spring -- which is an incredible testament to Tony La Russa, by the way -- it seems like they're not going to win all summer if Albert Pujols can't hit the ball over the fence with some regularity.