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Albert Pujols poised for bounce-back year

Mar 1, 2013, 11:30 PM EST

Albert Pujols AP

MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols will be ready for Opening Day after having off-season surgery on his right knee. The word “certain” appears in the headline, referring to the probability of Pujols appearing in the Opening Day lineup. Pujols should see some spring training action by the middle of the month if all goes according to plan.

Pujols hit 30 home runs with a .285 average, .343 on-base percentage, and .516 slugging percentage — all career lows for the veteran, entering his 13th year. However, it was mostly just his April that dragged him down. During the first month, he didn’t hit a single homer and posted a .570 OPS. He hit his first homer of the season on May 6, and from that point until the end of the season, he posted a .934 OPS, a number more in line with our expectations.

Some have soured on Pujols, citing his age (33) and vanishing unintentional walk rate, which fell to five percent last year after hovering between nine and 11 percent through 2010. Given what he did after April last year, though, there is no doubt he can continue being one of the best hitters in baseball.

  1. joerymi - Mar 1, 2013 at 11:59 PM

    I would say Fielder and Votto have passed him, but there aren’t many better bats at first.

    Hamilton is added protection (as if that lineup needed it), but he is prone to slumps and injury. If I were an Angels fan, I would be thrilled with another line like he had last season. Year 7,8,9,10 of that deal may be very painful, but I think he will still be a high-end bat for 3 or 4 more seasons.

  2. prosourcetalk - Mar 2, 2013 at 12:00 AM

    Bill, are they paying you $30 a post? Sweet Jesus

    • mscxvd - Mar 2, 2013 at 2:39 AM

      give the guy a break… he has one season that is not quite as good as his hall of fame stats, but still pretty damn good and everyone jumps on the “hes done” band wagon! I gaurantee you there are plenty of players who would love to hit .285 w/ 30 hrs and 105 rbi’s

      • paperlions - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:57 AM

        Actually, he’s been in continual decline since 2009. As soon as he hit 30 (in 2010), the decline started…he was just so fantastic before that even his decline years have been good to great so far. It is likely that he’ll sprinkle in one MVP-type season over the next few years, but the pre-2010 version of Pujols is gone. I don’t thin anyone is saying that he is done…but the perennial MVP is gone.

        He is a fantastic player, but time catches everyone.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:42 AM

        paper, stop being a sourpuss about it. Pujols may not be playing as well as he did before, but he has hardly hit his decline years yet. Don’t worry. You’ll see them…and you won’t have to watch him do it in a Cards uniform. Whiner.

      • paperlions - Mar 2, 2013 at 3:27 PM

        I’m just being pragmatic and forming opinion based on data….and yes, he has already hit his decline years….all you have to do is look at the numbers the last 4 years. Of course he is still a good-to-great player, but he clearly is not the player he was from 2007-2009…and he hasn’t been for a while.

        Also, stating facts is not whining….hell, if anything, I’d be celebrating since Pujols isn’t a Cardinal anymore so they aren’t going to be stuck with a horrible contract for 5 years….these years, it is only a bad contract, because he’s being paid like he’ll be an MVP candidate every year, but he probably won’t be a legitimate MVP candidate more than a couple times from here on out.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 2, 2013 at 6:16 PM

        There is a difference between not being the historic player you used to be and being in decline. It’s not like he fell off a cliff in his performance or even that his career is dwindling.

      • scoocha - Mar 3, 2013 at 5:01 PM

        Still a great but playing in the AL will mean a continued decrease in output.

    • mscxvd - Mar 2, 2013 at 2:41 AM

      ^^ this not directed at you. i have no idea why this replied to you

    • historiophiliac - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:37 AM

      I thought the same thing. It really sucks when an overeager guy tries to do too much too fast…. Slow it down there, buddy.

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:50 AM

        “It’s not like he fell off a cliff in his performance.”
        But his performance has very much fallen off a cliff Philiac.
        Look at his numbers the last few years. Most telling to me…his K/BB rate. In addition to his IBB numbers. Teams just aren’t as afraid of him as they used to be.
        He is still an all time great. Will certainly be a first ballot HOFer. He did things no one in the history of the game has done during their first 10 seasons. Father time invariably catches up.
        His performance numbers have dropped significantly as a direct result of him setting the bar at unreachable heights. Now…he is an above average player. His first ten years…on another level.

  3. mscxvd - Mar 2, 2013 at 2:41 AM

    Give the guy a break… he has one season that is not quite as good as his hall of fame stats, but still pretty damn good and everyone jumps on the “hes done” band wagon! I gaurantee you there are plenty of players who would love to hit .285 w/ 30 hrs and 105 rbi’s

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Mar 2, 2013 at 9:12 AM

      Except it’s not a one year trend, look at his peripherals over the last 4 years:
      (’09 to ’12)
      BB% – 16.4, 14.7, 9.4, 7.8
      K% – 9.1, 10.9, 8.9, 11.3
      ISO – .331, .284, .242, .231
      wOBA – .447, .419, .384, .360
      wRC+ – 180, 164, 146, 132

      He’s still good, but he’s not the elite, best in the non-barry-bonds division anymore

      • stlouis1baseball - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:51 AM

        What Church said.
        Thanks Church…I was too lazy to do the research on the K/BB rate.

    • carbydrash - Mar 2, 2013 at 9:59 AM

      Ummm….I don’t know anyone who says “he’s done”. Except for maybe “He’s done posting 1.100 OPS seaons”…which he is.

      Pujols is *clearly* in decline the past 4 years, with each season being worse than the one before it in most every category. ( http://www.fangraphs.com/graphs.aspx?playerid=1177&position=1B&page=0&type=mini ) I don’t see how anyone can look at his numbers over the past few years and say otherwise.

      But…well, when you’re on top of the mountain, it’s a pretty long descent to get to mediocrity. Albert is still a fantastic ball player. He’s just not the on the same level as he was when he dominated the National League for 10 years.

      • spudchukar - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        Something tells me you may be eatin’ them words come October.

  4. carbydrash - Mar 2, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    That .934 OPS after May 6th still would have been the 2nd lowest of his career…after his .906 of 2011 and 100 points less than his career total through 2010.

    Pujols is still an *excellent* ballplayer. The guy had 80 extra base hits last year and everyone was disappointed! If you’re expecting a guy to hit 30 homers and a .900 OPS, he has a pretty good shot at doing it. If you’re expecting him to produce like he did in 2008-2009, hitting .330 with 40 homers and 1.050 OPS, prepare to be dissapointed. It’s pretty clear those days are behind him. You’ll just have to suffer through a merely very excellent 1st baseman.

  5. aceshigh11 - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    Goddamn, people are fickle.

    Pujols has done NOTHING but be a brilliant ballplayer …his first 10 seasons in MLB are FLAWLESS.

    I don’t think any player has ever put up such gaudy numbers so consistently from the word “GO”.

    12 straights seasons of at least .285 /30 HR / 99 RBI. Those were his WORST numbers in his first 12 years, mind you.

    And before 2011, he NEVER hit below .300 or had less than 100 RBI.

    But now he’s a bum because he’s getting older. Unreal.

    • spudchukar - Mar 2, 2013 at 11:56 AM

      Well Said.

    • paperlions - Mar 2, 2013 at 3:22 PM

      No one is saying that. Pay attention. All people are saying is that he is clearly in his decline phase, just like every other player that hits 30…and his decline has been pretty steady, just as one would predict. Everyone has also noted that he was so uber-fantastic that even while in decline he has been a great player. Getting old sucks, and it starts a lot earlier than people realize.

      If anyone thinks the 2007-2009 Pujols is coming back for any more than a cameo, they are delusional.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 2, 2013 at 9:38 PM

        Can we agree on a word besides “decline”? There’s a lot of space between spectacular and declining.

      • Kevin S. - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:14 PM

        No, declining is accurate. The problem is people seeing “declining” and thinking “bad” instead of “not as good as once was,” which is how PL has been (correctly) using the word here.

      • historiophiliac - Mar 2, 2013 at 10:23 PM

        I disagree. When we say something is “in decline” we mean that it is in bad shape — not that it’s become average (and Pujols isn’t even really that yet). No one expects him to be what he was in 2009, but how he is today (absent terrible injuries, etc first) is not even close to what he will be at 38. “Decline phase” sounds like the end of his career. This is like when people start crabbing about A-Rod being washed up…only worse, I think. I think we all agree that he is not as good as he was before; we just seem to have a serious disagreement how to describe where he is at.

    • stlouis1baseball - Mar 4, 2013 at 8:54 AM

      I hear you Aces. As I stated…dude put up numbers NO ONE in the history of the game put up his first ten years. The bar was set so high he couldn’t possibly dupilicate them well into this 30′s.
      Still an above average player. He just isn’t at another level.
      Oh…and god doesn’t need a dam. He can walk on water.

  6. cintiphil - Mar 2, 2013 at 2:33 PM

    Albert is my favorite ballplayer in the game. I do feel that he is trending downward, but after so long at the top, isn’t it just natural? He is not the same player as he was when he spent the Summer beating up the Reds. There is no doubt that the Angels overpaid for him by millions, because he is not at 25 Mil a year player now. But of course, like at AROD, these guys usually do not earn their keep for the length of the contracts. I am more than happy that he is out of our division.

  7. beerndrums - Mar 2, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    He’s all roided up

    • jwbiii - Mar 2, 2013 at 6:59 PM

      So someone who has there peak season at age 28 and begins a slow decline is roided up. Then someone who has their peak season in their late thirties is not roided up? Y’know, like Ted Williams?

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