The Steady Decline of Albert Pujols

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

It's official. Albert Pujols is no longer a first round pick. In fact, he is no longer a Top 5 fantasy first baseman. Ray Guilfoyle takes another look at the decline of future Hall of Famer Albert Pujols.

Coming into the season, Angels first baseman had an Average Draft Position of 14 according to Mock Draft Central. I have written here several times about how down I was on Pujols coming into the season. Without looking back, I am pretty sure I was the low man on the totem pole on Pujols in our consensus first base rankings last offseason. My reasoning for being down on him has been the steady decline in his power and on base percentage.

This season, Pujols is playing injured, dealing with a very bad case of plantar fascitis, and some think he should be on the disabled list right now. I understand that has affected his play this year, but he has played with injuries for several years now. I just think age has caught up to him, and as the injuries mount, the less productive he will be at the plate.

Let's take a look at his career stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year G AB R H 2B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2001 161 590 112 194 47 37 130 69 93 .329 .403 .610 1.013
2002 157 590 118 185 40 34 127 72 69 .314 .394 .561 .955
2003 157 591 137 212 51 43 124 79 65 .359 .439 .667 1.106
2004 154 592 133 196 51 46 123 84 52 .331 .415 .657 1.072
2005 161 591 129 195 38 41 117 97 65 .330 .430 .609 1.039
2006 143 535 119 177 33 49 137 92 50 .331 .431 .671 1.102
2007 158 565 99 185 38 32 103 99 58 .327 .429 .568 .997
2008 148 524 100 187 44 37 116 104 54 .357 .462 .653 1.114
2009 160 568 124 186 45 47 135 115 64 .327 .443 .658 1.101
2010 159 587 115 183 39 42 118 103 76 .312 .414 .596 1.011
2011 147 579 105 173 29 37 99 61 58 .299 .366 .541 .906
2012 154 607 85 173 50 30 105 52 76 .285 .343 .516 .859
2013 86 340 42 84 18 13 51 36 48 .247 .320 .415 .735
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/8/2013.

If you focus on the period from 2009 - 2013, you can see that his power, specifically his home runs totals and slugging percentage, have declined in each of the past four years, including this season.

Here is a snapshot of the decline in his power from 2009-2013:

Year HR BA OBP SLG OPS
2009 47 .327 .443 .658 1.101
2010 42 .312 .414 .596 1.011
2011 37 .299 .366 .541 .906
2012 30 .285 .343 .516 .859
2013 13 .247 .320 .415 .735
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/8/2013.

Not only has his power declined, but so has his batting average and on base percentage, with his batting average dropping 80 points, his on base percentage dropping 123 points, and his slugging percentage dropping 243 points over the last four seasons.

Injuries or not, Pujols is in the decline phase of his career, and should no longer be considered a first or second round pick. In fact, I am in the middle of my Midseason Position Rankings which will publish next week, and there is a good chance he falls out of my top 5 and end up closer to the 9-10 range among fantasy first baseman.

Most great hitters go through a decline phase, some hit it earlier than others, and Pujols is definitely in the decline phase of his Hall of Fame career. His name value still carries plenty of weight, but his production at the plate is steadily dropping.

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