Friday, April 27, 2012

Albert Pujol's Terrible Start - Should Fans be Worried?

Albert Pujols is off to a terrible start in his Angels career.  As of this writing he's hitting:

.224 BA, .280 OBP, .316 SLG, .596 OPS, 0 HRs

Yup, that's a big zero home runs for the man who's currently 37th all time in home runs.  It's significantly worse than his April 2011 slump where he hit:

.245 BA, .305 OBP, .453 SLG, .758 OPS, 7 HRs

The question is, should Angel's fans be concerned?  It's interesting that there are instances of Hall of Fame caliber players having ridiculous slumps in their careers.

One that comes to mind is Frank Thomas. From 1991 to 1997, Frank Thomas averaged:

.330 BA, .452 OBP, .604 SLG, 1.056 OPS

Then in 1998-1999, Frank Thomas was just not himself.  In 1998 he hit:

.265 BA, .381 OBP, .480 SLG, .861 OPS

and 1999 wasn't that much better.  Then all of a sudden he was back to form in 2000:

.328 BA, .436 OBP, .625 SLG, 1.061 OPS

Injuries and age slowed down Thomas' production the rest of the way, but at the age of 38 he was still able to produce a .926 OPS with 39 home runs in Oakland.  He even put up 26 home runs and a .857 OPS when he was 39 years old in Toronto.

Another player I remember having a year long slump was Mark McGwire.  From 1987 to 1990 he averaged:

.255 BA, .358 OBP, .515 SLG, .873 OPS, 38 HRs

then in 1991 he had a terrible year:

.201 BA, .330 OBP, .383 SLG, .714 OPS, 22 HRs

I remember Mark McGwire sat out the last game of the year, for fear his batting average would dip below .200.  Then he rebounded and was pretty normal again in 1992:

.268 BA, .385 OBP, .585 SLG, .970 OPS

while he had injuries, we know the story of the rest of Mark McGwire's career, culminating with leading the majors in home runs 3 years in a row from 1997-1999.

The last (and most recent) example I could think of was David Ortiz in 2009.  Through the month of May, David Ortiz had this horrific line:

.185 BA, .284 OBP, .287 SLG, .570 OPS, 1 HR

since then, David Ortiz has continued to be the solid DH slugger he always has been.  He finished 2009 with a .794 OPS, had a .899 OPS in 2010, and a .953 OPS in 2011.

The short story of these examples is that great hitters typically do not disappear and fail to hit in the future.  They may have to grind through some injuries as they age and perhaps adjust as they age, but crazy slumps do occur.  Perhaps Pujols is dealing with the pressure of $250M contract or he's having difficulty handling the new Los Angeles media.  Long term though, he should be fine.

Update (5/14/12):

I forgot about the case of one of my favorite players in baseball, El Grande Donkey Adam Dunn. From 2004 to 2010 Dunn averaged:

.253 BA, .381 OBP, .533 SLG, .914 OPS, 40 HRs

He's not Albert Pujols, but those are great slugging numbers for any power hitter to put up.  Then in 2011 he had a line that was embarrassing.

.159 BA, .292 OBP, .277 SLG, .569 OPS, 11 HRs

Adam Dunn is not Albert Pujols, but how does a player go from about a .900 OPS to sub-.600 OPS for a year and getting benched?  Stress over a big contract?  Trouble adjusting to a new league?  Who knows.  What we do know is he's recovering quite nicely in 2012.  Through the time of this writing Dunn is hitting:

.248 BA, .390 OBP, .607 SLG, .997 OPS, 11 HRs

So he appears to be pretty much back to normal.

Update (6/10/12):

I noticed something funny w/ Albert Pujols of late.  On 5/15/12, the Anaheim Angel's hitting coach was fired.

Through 5/15/12 Albert Pujols hit:

.212 BA, .248 OBP, .288 SLG, .536 OPS, 1 HRs

from 5/15 to 6/9, Albert Pujols hit:

.322 BA, .394 OBP, .678 SLG, 1.072 OPS, 8 HRs


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