Albert Pujols: Is The Machine Getting Rusty?

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 31: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits an RBI double against the San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium on May 31, 2011 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Last year. only 5 hitters had a higher slugging percentage than Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols: Jose Bautista, Josh Hamilton, Miguel Cabrera, Joey Votto and Carlos Gonzalez, and only one of these hitters-Bautista-hit more home runs than Pujols.

That is why I am so surprised at the season Pujols is having this year. He is having an historic collapse across the board. Consider this: coming into the 2011 season, he averaged 40 HRs, 120 RBIs and a triple slash line around .330-.420-.600 over his 10 year career. This season, he is hitting .262-.333-.412 with 9 HRs and 31 RBIs.

More on Pujols after the jump:

Albert Pujols was probably the #1 pick in many fantasy drafts this season. I would put the number at around 90%, but it's probably higher. Who wouldn't draft him when he has averaged 40-120-.330-.400-.600? I would have in all of my leagues, no question. Factor in that Pujols was in his walk season, and it was an easy decision to draft him #1, right?

Right. Well....but who saw this coming? I certainly didn't. Every year at least one first round pick turns into a bust, but Albert Pujols-a bust? So far, yes he has been a bust. Consider this-Pujols is on pace for the following:

 

  • 25 HRs
  • 87 RBIs
  • .263 BA
  • .333 OBP
  • .411 SLG
  • 64 walks
  • 48.5% ground ball rate
  • 36.1% fly ball rate
  • 15.3% line drive rate
  • 12.3% HR/FB rate
  • 1.34 GB/FB rate

All but the fly ball rate are career lows. By a large margin in many cases. So what happened to Pujols? Baseball America's Ben Badler speculated that since he injured his hamstring back in April, he has not been the same player. And the numbers prove that he is right. 

In his career, Pujols has hit .319-.427-.627 with 78 HRs and 231 RBIs in March/April, and .319-.408-.578 with 75 HRs and 212 RBIs in May. Let's just make things easy and divide these over 10 years, and he has averaged 15 HRs and 44 RBIs at this point in the season. This year, he has hit 9 HRs and driven in 31 runs. 

 

Will he turn things around this season? If anyone can turn around a poor start, it's Pujols. Back in his sophomore season in 2002, heading into June, Pujols had 10 HRs and 30 RBIs, and ended the season with 34 HRs and 127 RBIs. So, what about 2011? I know we have 2/3rds of the season left to go, but I am worried.

He is on pace for a 25-87 season this year. That's Carlos Quentin circa 2010. Or Hunter Pence circa 2010. Will he outperform these guys? I think so. I can't imagine where he gets drafted in 2012 if he doesn't. 

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