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Projecting Albert Pujols’ 2012 performance for the Angels

Dec 8, 2011, 2:20 PM EST

Albert Pujols Reuters

One of the most difficult factors to try to account for in projecting player performance is the league switch, particularly when it comes to hitters. We tend to think of pitchers having an advantage in facing a largely new set of hitters when they switch circuits. It generally works the opposite way with hitters. Still, I don’t follow any general rule of thumb here when I’m doing my annual projections.

In 2011, we saw Adam Dunn completely lose it upon switching leagues, turning in one of the worst collapses of all time. Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Reynolds, on the other hand, handled the jump from the NL to the AL just fine. Gonzalez obviously seems like a better comp for Pujols than the others. Miguel Cabrera is another. He got off to a slow start in the AL, hitting a modest .284/.349/.489 in the first half of 2008 after being traded from the Marlins to the Tigers. In the 3 1/2 years since, he’s been one of the AL’s very best hitters.

Of course, Pujols has been fading anyway. His OPS dropped from 1.101 in 2009 to 1.011 in 2010 to .906 in 2011. He did play a lot better after a slow start last season, hitting .322/.388/.623 in his final 369 at-bats. That’s the same 1.011 OPS he had in a full season in 2010.

There’s also the ballpark to take into account. New Busch Stadium has been tough on power hitters since opening in 2006. In fact, over the last three years, it has the worst park factor for home runs of any NL stadium, PETCO included. Plus, it’s been even more difficult on right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters.

Angel Stadium is no hitter’s park, but it should treat Pujols somewhat better than his old home did. Over the last three years, it’s ranked 11th of the 14 AL parks for run scoring, putting it about on par with Busch in the NL. However, it’s ranked sixth in the AL for homers and it’s somewhat favors right-handed hitters over lefties.

One more factor worth looking at is Pujols’ overall play versus the AL. He’s taken part in almost a full season’s worth of interleague games in his career and hit .348/.438/.632 with 39 homers in 541 at-bats. That’s slightly better than his overall career line of .328/.420/.617.

So, Pujols being Pujols, I think he’ll do just fine in Anaheim right away. At 32, his very best years are probably behind him, but he should contend for a couple of more MVP awards before he’s done. In 2012, at least a modest rebound seems likely. My projection last year called for him to .322/.435/.609 with 40 homers and 119 RBI. For 2012, I’ll go with a slightly lower average, but similar power numbers. I’m thinking something like .310 with 42 homers and 115 RBI.

  1. 78mu - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    I’d be more worried about Albert getting hurt than having trouble switching leagues.

    • pauleee - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:50 PM

      I can now explain that tiny bit of dread I feel in the back of my mind. Two words. Mo. Vaughn.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 8, 2011 at 4:40 PM

        Mo Vaughn wasn’t 1/10th the player Albert is, though.

    • marshmallowsnake - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:23 AM

      As long as he avoids jumping on home plate, he will be fine.

  2. lovesmesomeme - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    Alex Rios thinks the Angels over payed, just be glad the didn’t re-sign Chone Figgins.

  3. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:40 PM

    His new park will be marginally better, but the parks in the rest of his division get worse. Instead of visiting Milwaukee, Wrigley, Great American, Houston and PNC 18 times a piece, he get Oakland, Seattle and (some good news) Texas. Assuming he’ll play the AL Central more than the east, the crappy hitters parks continue with MIN, KC and DET.

    He’s good enough that it should not matter too much, but it does seem like he is have a tougher row to hoe.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 8, 2011 at 3:03 PM

      Nine times apiece. But, yeah, it’s true, his road parks do look somewhat less favorable.

  4. paperlions - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:48 PM

    It is funny how statements like “he should contend for a couple of more MVP awards before he’s done” sound positive…but then you realize he is going to be paid like he is contending for it every year….and…well…

  5. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Dec 8, 2011 at 2:50 PM

    “it should treat Pujols somewhat better than its old home did”

    The Angels are going to stick this thing they just bought at 1B until Kendry is healthy

    • Matthew Pouliot - Dec 8, 2011 at 3:02 PM

      Whoops. Fixed.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Dec 8, 2011 at 3:15 PM

        Not being the grammar police, I just thought it sounded kinda funny

  6. thefalcon123 - Dec 8, 2011 at 4:09 PM

    Albert *does* seem to be on a pretty clear downward trend. His home runs, walks, batting average, OBP, slugging, stolen bases…EVERYTHING has clearly declined each of the last three year with a 200 point drop in OPS. 2011 was actually his worst season as a big leaguer…a “mere” 5.4 OPS. The days of .330/.430/.650 may well be over. It’ll be a hoot to read stories about how washed up a player is after he hits .295 with 35 homers and a .940 OPS.

    • thefalcon123 - Dec 8, 2011 at 4:10 PM

      Slightly off topic, the best overreaction to Pujols’ departure, via the comments section on STLToday.com: “So very disappointed. I hope The Big Guy kicks Albert out of the temple for counting money”.

      Imagine that conversation between Albert and Saint Peter!

  7. davenstl - Dec 8, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    I predict that 10/28/11 was Albert Pujols’ last World Series game.

    • cintiphil - Dec 8, 2011 at 4:49 PM

      You may be right, but not because of Albert. I think the Angels have a good staff, but vulnerable to up and down swings. they can be very good and very bad. With guys like seem to be traded a lot for some reason too.How many teams has Haren been on? Why do teams see to hold him until they can use him for trade bait? His ERA seems decent, yet he has never been a big winner (20+) Weaver is probably a good young guy who is still developing, but I am not sure they can handle winning for the whole year. But I don’t follow them too much. Now I will.

  8. HitsDingers - Dec 8, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    Why so conservative? Let’s project Albert’s 2022

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