Hey look, it's a St. Louis-area baseball writer writing about Albert Pujols even though Albert Pujols hasn't played for St. Louis since last October. It's like, get over it already, right? Except actually it's not like that at all. Here's Bernie Miklasz discussing Pujols' wildly uncharacteristic struggles with the Angels, and while some of what he says is uninteresting and some of what he says we already knew, some of what he says is extremely insightful. In this author's opinion. I just assume that all your opinions mirror my own. Here are my two favorite parts of Miklasz's analysis:
* One disturbing sign for Pujols: the ball isn't traveling as far when he hits it into the air. (I'm talking fly balls, not liners or pop-ups.) According to the web site beatthemaps.com, Pujols fly balls are traveling an average of 266 feet so far this season. That's a drop from an average of 313 feet in 2010, and 303 feet in 2011. (Hat tip to Fangraphs for alerting readers to the beat the maps site.)
* Pujols seems to be awfully anxious to end his home-run drought. He's been pull-crazy so far, yanking way too many batted balls to the left side. According to STATS, 41 percent of Pujols' batted balls have been grounders to the left side. This year 27 percent of Pujols' batted balls have been hit in the air to left field. So if you add it up, 68 percent of his batted balls have been pulled to left. Last season 40 percent of Pujols' batted balls were pulled to left. Big difference. Pujols has always been at his best when he's shooting hard-hit balls to all parts of the field, especially the middle.
If you analyze virtually any player's slump, you'll probably find some negative indicators. Some reasons for that slump's very existence. Otherwise the player probably wouldn't be slumping. Far more often than not, the indicators reverse, and the player pulls out of his slump and goes back to being himself. I think the expectation is still that Albert Pujols will be more or less fine when he gets going.
But it's interesting to think about where Albert Pujols' new true-talent baseline might be. The fact of the matter is that he is now doing some things he hasn't done, or hasn't done as much, in the past. He's getting older, and he's around the point at which we expect players - even the great ones - to get worse. Pujols is under contract for a very long time and already, with just a month in the books, we're wondering if he's even Albert Pujols anymore.
Pujols will improve on his .547 OPS. Mario Mendoza posted a career .507 OPS. Will Pujols improve by two hundred points, three hundred points, four hundred points, or five hundred points? We don't know right now. Which is ... well, it's crazy, is what it is. He's Albert Pujols!