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Albert Pujols doesn’t matter anymore

May 20, 2013, 1:00 PM EDT

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A pretty depressing take on Albert Pujols from Posnanski today:

Each of the last two seasons, he hit well enough the last four-plus months of the season to end up with strong numbers. Last year, for instance, after May 14 he hit .312/.374/.589 with 42 doubles and 29 homers. You have to believe that he will start hitting again at some point.

But, even assuming he does again find the range, even assuming he has a few more productive years, the truth is that Pujols has entered a different phase of his career. After years of being the best player in baseball, Pujols is now sort of beside the point.

But not an inaccurate one. On the same day that most of the baseball press is lauding Miguel Cabrera as the game’s best hitter, the guy who used to hold that crown is inescapably entering his decline phase. Maybe it’ll be a nice, long, still well-above-average decline phase. I hope it is, but it certainly seems like Albert Pujols‘ time at the top has come to an end.

And, as Kay Adams and I discussed this morning, that time comes to every player:

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  1. bfunk1978 - May 20, 2013 at 1:04 PM

    My theory is that Pujols was actually born in 1977, which helps explain 2011-present.

    • rufuscornpone - May 20, 2013 at 1:11 PM

      Why? He started declining in his early 30s like 90% of ball players. People tend to think that players typically decline much later than they think, but 100+ years of baseball data shows that a vast majority of players’ best days are behind them when they’ve hit 30 or 31.

      • jarathen - May 20, 2013 at 1:59 PM

        It’s also something baseball sims stick to. There are outliers, but your average player in, say, OOTP tops out at 26-27 and starts to come down at 31 or 32. A useful player at 34-38 is a pleasant surprise.

      • evanwins - May 20, 2013 at 3:19 PM

        And just look at all of the recent VERY expensive contracts that take players to their late 30’s:

        Votto, Fielder, Hamilton, Verlander, Hamels, Gonzalez, Werth

        Howard signed his deal before all of these and people thought it was crazy but in light of all of these it looks a little better. And besides Pujols (and Hamels), he’s the only one that’s helped his team to a WS.

        Then you look at the new Rizzo and Goldschmidt deals and those GM’s look like genius’s. It’s almost impossinle to get hurt on those deals whereas the others you are almost guaranteed to get taken.

        The Angels. LOL. They’re paying for Pujols’ Cardinals years but getting nowhere near that performance.

      • purpleronin - May 20, 2013 at 8:22 PM

        “….And besides Pujols (and Hamels), he’s the only one that’s helped his team to a WS.”

        Hamilton, Verlander and Fielder helped their teams to a WS too. They just didnt win it.

    • paperlions - May 20, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      Yeah, immigration would never catch that, they don’t review paper work or anything, just a couple of quick questions and you are done…same with becoming a US citizen…paper work is just a formality, no one reviews anything at all.

      • bfunk1978 - May 20, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        How’d that work out for Miguel Tejada?

      • paperlions - May 20, 2013 at 2:27 PM

        Completely different Scenario’s. Tejada only came to the US as a baseball player signed out of the DR. Pujols immigrated with his family as a non-prospect.

        Tejada never became a US Citizen. Pujols did.

      • paperlions - May 20, 2013 at 2:29 PM

        ….and despite far less scrutiny of Tejada’s bona fides, he was still found out and corrected his age in order to continue to get a work visa. There isn’t even a sniff of fake documents for Pujols….and using fake documents to become a citizen is not exactly something the Feds ignore these days….do you really think he risked prison to become a citizen by using falsified documents?

      • bsbiz - May 20, 2013 at 10:07 PM

        To be fair, though, Lions, my wife’s parents emigrated to this country, became citizens, and still have no idea what year they were actually born in.

    • paperlions - May 20, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      Is your theory that Ryan Howard was born in 1976?

      How about Hamilton? He’s fallen off a cliff, was he born in 1978?

      • sprest83 - May 20, 2013 at 5:41 PM

        No Hamilton doesn’t care anymore about baseball. You guys laughed at me last year when I said Hamilton was a cancer to the Rangers and should have been traded at the deadline…luckily I’m a Rangers fan and the Angels have two really crappy contracts on their hands.

      • purpleronin - May 20, 2013 at 8:16 PM

        The Halos have 3 really crappy contracts on their hands….did you forget about Vernon Wells already?

    • Alex K - May 20, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      I always smile at the “He’s older than he says he is!” stuff about Pujols because after his family moved to the US (at 16) he went to high school and one year of colege. It’s not like he moved here exclusively for baseball.

      • paperlions - May 20, 2013 at 1:47 PM

        …and he was a non-prospect the entire time, he wasn’t even a prospect after going to JC.

      • harp63640 - May 20, 2013 at 5:27 PM

        Your right about that but did you know that most Missouri Cardnial fan hate his guts now,because he said he wanted to retire as a St.Louis Cardnial and money din’t matter..He then came out and said he left the Cards because it was more money,he lied to his fans and OMG people began to burn his shirts cards and some even video of funny ways they destroyed anything to do with him..

      • Alex K - May 20, 2013 at 9:33 PM

        Non sequitur of the day there, harp63640?

      • swmocardsfan - May 21, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        @harp63640, I was one of those people you classified. I have been on record on this site as saying that I was bent at him leaving and that I wish he had just came out and said it was totally about the money…but I have done a 180 on Pujols. It is now sad to me how a once mighty, almost worshipped superstar is nothing more than a shell of his former self. 5 years ago, a Cards fan would have literally laughed out loud at the concept of an article saying Pujols is irrelevant, but the simple truth is, it has happened. Do I think things would be different if he was still in St. Louis, probably not, but I can say that if he was still in St Louis, he would still be getting cheered when he came to the plate and they would still be crafting his statue to sit along side Stan’s out front of Busch. But now, as was noted, he is not even the most popular player on his own team and if his stats continue this same pattern and the Angels continue to sputter and never live up to the hype, I doubt he receives the same kind of post-career popularity as he would have in the STL.

    • fanofevilempire - May 20, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      He should have never left St. Louis, I know he wanted to get the money but
      that place was his town, he already got two championships which he could
      have lived off that success, the few millions more really wasn’t worth it and
      you have no success for Angels fan to default to so they will soon resort to
      booing him. I wish him the best.

      • albertmn - May 20, 2013 at 4:56 PM

        I believe that the St Louis front office didn’t really want him back. They made a show of offering a shorter deal so the fans wouldn’t have as much outcry, but I would bet they were quite happy to see him go, as they have more than enough bats to cover 1st base without him (Craig, Adams, etc) that were MUCH cheaper than even the money they offered.

      • bsbiz - May 20, 2013 at 10:08 PM

        And they are looking like geniuses for doing so. Branch Rickey once said, “I’d rather trade a guy one year too soon than one year too late.”

  2. stlouis1baseball - May 20, 2013 at 1:07 PM

    He still matters to Cardinals fans. I know he does with this Cardinals fan.
    I will be forever grateful for what he brought to the table all those years.

  3. tycobbfromfangraphs - May 20, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Hey only 8 more years at 25-30 million per for him to get back on top.
    Silly Angels

    • alang3131982 - May 20, 2013 at 1:24 PM

      So, if the Angels offered Pujols for Howard — would the Philles take it?

      • phillyrox - May 20, 2013 at 4:44 PM

        No chance in hell

        .241 7 25 .314 .418

        .245 6 22 .282 .430

        No what the difference is? 4 years and 100 million.

    • rmcd13 - May 20, 2013 at 2:14 PM

      He’s going to matter to the Angels for a long time.

      • tycobbfromfangraphs - May 20, 2013 at 2:15 PM

        Sure, like the iceberg mattered to the Titanic

  4. tcostant - May 20, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    The Cards look very smart, I must admit.

    • eightyraw - May 20, 2013 at 2:15 PM

      The Cardinals’ reported final offer of 9yr/$200mm doesn’t look that great either right now.

    • jm91rs - May 20, 2013 at 3:42 PM

      I’d call them lucky, not smart on this one. They tried damn hard to sign Pujols to a HUGE money deal. Unlike the Angels, the Cards could not recover from a bad contract that big. I have a feeling the Angels will get it together at some point thanks to the big market money.

      • albertmn - May 20, 2013 at 4:57 PM

        No, they didn’t try hard.

  5. vanmorrissey - May 20, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Nice to enter your declining years knowing your due almost $200 M.

  6. caeser12 - May 20, 2013 at 1:22 PM

    Albert Pujols doesn’t matter anymore.

    And that must be killing “Summer’s Eve and Massengill, aka, Harold Reynolds and Mitch Williams.

  7. wineman2u - May 20, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    “…but it certainly seems like Albert Pujols‘ time at the top has come to an end.

    And, as Kay Adams and I discussed this morning, that time comes to every player:”

    Mariano Rivera, seemingly the exception to the rule…

  8. paperlions - May 20, 2013 at 1:28 PM

    To give people an idea of how few players that are 33 yrs and older are regular position players in MLB, here is a breakdown for you of number of qualified players per age this year:

    33 – 8
    34 – 7
    35 – 2
    36 – 3
    37 – 6
    38+ – 1

    Only 27 of the 169 qualified players are at least 33 years old. Less than 1/2 of them are league average hitters, and many are primarily DHs.

    Last year, it was 19 of 143 players. By the time they are 33, most guys have lost their jobs.

    • insidefastball - May 20, 2013 at 2:22 PM

      Great numbers here. I think it is fair to say that the steroids era certainly prolonged productivity. Before drug testing came about guys like Steve Finley were putting up solid numbers into their late 30’s. Contracts wise, teams have taken a while to come around to the fact that players actually can’t produce all-star level numbers when they are 38 anymore. Hence, the ridiculous long term contracts for people like ARod. 9-10 years ago it might not have sounded all that unreasonable to expect someone like ARod or Pujols to hit with authority when they were pushing 40. Bonds certainly did. Now it seems silly to count on any hitter to produce at a high level much beyond 32-34.

    • jm91rs - May 20, 2013 at 3:45 PM

      Sadly, the market dictates that you must pay for 4+ years of major decline to get the remaining 4+ years of prime. These big contracts are only good for a few years, the key is how many WS rings can you win at the beginning of the contract.

      • paperlions - May 20, 2013 at 4:03 PM

        I don’t know if it is sad or not….it’ll definitely separate the teams that are paying attention from the ones that aren’t. I think smarter teams will be offering higher AAV and fewer years, and if a guy won’t take it (like Pujols didn’t), then you move on and count yourself lucky.

        You probably don’t want to sign a guy for high AAV past his age 35 season. The Reds will probably really regret the Votto deal (unless their finances change drastically)….just like the Angels will be regretting the Pujols/Hamilton deals.

    • jwbiii - May 20, 2013 at 5:09 PM

      That seemed interesting, so here are the numbers for 2003

      Hitters 2003 151 qualified, 30 age 33+, 21* with bWAR >= 2
      38+ – 4 Bonds*, Finley*, EMartinez*, Palmeiro
      37 – 2 Conine*, Biggio*
      36 – 4 EYoung, Walker*, Lofton*, Grissom*, Alou
      35 – 7 TMartinez, Kent*, Castilla, RAlomar, Thomas*, LGonzalez*, Bagwell*
      34 – 6 BWilliams, Sosa*, Salmon*, Olerud*, Sheffield*, BBoone*
      33 – 7 Grudzielanek*, Edmonds*, Clayton, Randa*, Valentin*, JHernandez, Hatteberg

      Pitchers 2003 92 qualified, 15 age 33+, 7* with bWAR >= 2
      38+ – 4 KBrown*, Clemens*, DWells*, Moyer*
      37 – 3 ALeiter*, Glavine, Maddux
      36 – 3 Schilling*, Wakefield, WWilliams
      35 – 1 SReynolds
      34 – 4 Mussina*, Nomo
      33 – 0

    • genericcommenter - May 20, 2013 at 8:10 PM

      I guess I was surprised that there are fewer than 5 full-time regular players per team, on average. I’m assuming this year’s number is higher because it’s early in the season and hasn’t been affected by promotions/demotions, roster shake-ups, non-contenders playing kids, and the grind of the season’s toll on injuries,etc.

      In that context, I guess I’m not really surprised that less than one regular per team is 33+. But it’s still a very interesting statistic, especially when I typically look at a team and think of way more than 5 position players.

      • jwbiii - May 21, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        Right. Many of these are unpredictable, but some are. Right now, Lyle Overbay has enough PAs to qualify as a regular. When Mark Teixeira comes back, Overbay will hit the bench. Neither will finish the season with enough PAs to qualify as a regular.

  9. echech88 - May 20, 2013 at 1:33 PM

    Arte Moreno, everyone!

    • gibbyfan - May 20, 2013 at 5:28 PM

      If the contract winds up to be the worst imagainable catastrophe, I believe Mr. Moreno got exactly what he deserved for exercising his ego (how else could it be explained) instead or good judgment—

  10. soundsofsuccess7 - May 20, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Meh.. All hitters suck when they play on the Angels..

    Something about Scoscia or that stadium or something, who knows. He joins a list of many good hitters who have gone there and died. Wells, Matthews Jr, Hamilton are a few others.

    • rohlo - May 20, 2013 at 1:48 PM

      mo williams

      • rohlo - May 20, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        typo not mo williams…. MO VAUGHN !

    • jarathen - May 20, 2013 at 2:00 PM

      GMJ had one great season and came back to earth. Vernon Wells has been in decline for some time. Josh Hamilton’s approach has been garbage for a full year, nearly.

      There’s the marine layer, but beyond that, the Angels are buying high and getting burned.

  11. corvaninerfan - May 20, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    The Cards should be thanking the stars they didn’t re-sign him…obviously they’re doing just fine without him. Albert is a big man and the physical stress of 12 previous seasons is catching up with him. He suffers from plantar fasciitis, which is painful. IMHO, he needs to drop @ 15 lbs, which just might help him quicken up his swing and take some of the stress off his body. The Angels are right in there w/the Yanks and Dodgers trying to buy a championship. There’s one thing money can’t buy…and that’s heart and chemistry. Albert’s a cornerstone of the huge investment Arte Moreno has laid out there…and I think he was a misguided acquisition.

  12. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 20, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Oooh lord, tough crowd in here. Pujols is getting roasted because there are maybe 10 better hitters in the world than him? Sure, he was the top dog for a long time, but it is not like he vanished. And he has an injury at the moment to explain some of his issues. If his foot heals (not a guarantee mind you but a possibility) he should improve considerably. I am not quite ready to stick a fork in the guy just yet.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 20, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      And he has an injury at the moment to explain some of his issues

      Except he’s been declining for some time now, not just last year. Since his 2010 year in STL, the last year he could make a claim as one of the best, we have [peripherals]

      BB% – 14.7, 9.4, 7.8, 9.8 (this is 6.4% if you take out IBB)
      K% – 10.9, 8.9, 11.3, 12.9
      ISO – .284, .242, .231, .176

      So he’s walking less, striking out more and hitting with less power. It sucks, but this isn’t a one year thing.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 20, 2013 at 3:23 PM

        No argument here. My point is that, even with his decline, he is still arguably a top 10 hitter in baseball. At least he was last year. We have not seen it yet this year, but I wouldn’t bet against him. People talk about the guy like he started hitting like Brendan Ryan for the past few seasons.

        It is not like we are talking about tennis, where only the top 4 or 5 guys matter. The 100th best player in baseball is a ridiculously good baseball player and is relevant to anyone interested in the sport. Pujols might just be even more fascinating as he declines, as we get to see he evolution as someone trying to make the adjustments required by age and nature.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - May 20, 2013 at 4:08 PM

        Unfortunately he’s not. Last year he was 35th in wOBA and 24th in wRC+. He’s below average in both of them, granted the SSS, so far this year. Nick Swisher had a higher wOBA than Pujols last year and no one is referring to him as a top 10 hitter.

    • fanofevilempire - May 20, 2013 at 5:17 PM

      roasted, tough crowd, imagine if he was in the Bronx, he would had some splainin to do.

      • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - May 20, 2013 at 7:40 PM

        He is Dominican after all. Check with Shaunessy in Boston and you will find that all Dominicans are juicers.

      • nbjays - May 20, 2013 at 8:32 PM

        If he was in the Bronx right now, he’d likely be hitting .400 and leading the Majors in HR. (See Wells, Vernon.)

  13. buffalomafia - May 20, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    Whats wrong with those numbers?

  14. jrobitaille23 - May 20, 2013 at 3:11 PM

    Are people really surprised many of these sluggers are struggling post steroid/HGH era? Do any of you remember the eighties with the anemic offenses? That is what we are going back to. Granted, the smaller stadiums won’t allow it back to quite those levels, but still. Pitching, speed, defense. That is what wins in times like these. Any wonder the SF Giants have won recently? Pujols, to me always looked older than he was and I would bet anything he was on something, probably HGH. What many people don’t realize is that these PED are as much about avoiding and getting over injuries as they are building muscle.

    • anxovies - May 21, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      True about baseball returning to more balance between pitching and hitting. I personally think it makes for a more interesting game. For me its more fun to watch somebody running the bases or executing a bunt with people flying everywhere than it is watching Conseco lumber around the bases after a HR.

      • louhudson23 - May 21, 2013 at 1:50 PM

        Pitching,defense,baserunning,timely hitting,strategy…baseball…..nice to have it back…..

  15. tycobbfromfangraphs - May 20, 2013 at 3:31 PM

    Ya, I’m not suggesting Albert is not still a great player, the guy still produces, it’s more of a commentary on the contract length and size the Angels foolishly offered.

    But of course this is the same team that sent Jean Segura to the Brewers for a rental.
    And gave Hambone a crazy contract
    And still employs Mike scioscia

  16. moogro - May 20, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    That added chair spin on the cut to camera 2 that Kay does is pretty silly. ADD necessary for one minute clips? Lose it. Looks like a bad local newscast .

  17. fearthehoody - May 20, 2013 at 4:50 PM

    HGH is a Helluva drug

  18. vegagreenleaf - May 20, 2013 at 4:54 PM

    The headline is false. If only the very best player matters, why do teams have 25 man rosters? Truth is, all matter. Some are simply more relevant than others. Believe me, Pujols matters, he justly not be the best in the game at present.

  19. harp63640 - May 20, 2013 at 5:35 PM

    When the Cardnials first reported that Albert Pujols was not staying the fans blamed the Cardnials for not getting him to stay..Pujols said he wanted to retire a St.Louis Cardnial and the money din’t matter to him.. The fans loved him,but then he came out saying him self that he left the Carnials because the Angels offered him more money so he left for the money..The fans realy got mad because they said Pujols lied to everyone he let his fans down he let the Cardnials down but most of all he LIED..He said the money din’t matter but yet he left because of the money and the fans burned,blew up and destroyed in every way his shirts baseball cards and anything else that had anything to do with Pujols..People even video taped how they got rid of there Pujols stuff and it was all over Facebook in the news and OMG to this day the fans still hate him..You can’t give his stuff away around here he is hated so much,and all because he lied about the money…

    • danwilliamsmlb - May 20, 2013 at 10:50 PM

      I’m 45 years old, I’ve been a Cardinals fan my entire life and I certainly do not hate Albert; I recognize what he contributed to the team for many years. In fact, he is still contributing to a certain extent, because there are several players – Molina, Freese, Craig, among others – who were influenced by him and are doing quite well – at least partially – as a result of that influence.

    • stlouis1baseball - May 21, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      I am 41 years old…have been a life long Cardinals fan (brainwashed at the age of 10 by my Father thank God)…and I do NOT hate Albert Pujols. As Dan mentions…he influence is still very much felt in the organization. At the time…I thought he was a lying sell out. Still disappointed in him for leaving. But I don’t hate him. To the contrary…I am sincerely grateful for everything he did. Dude played balls out baseball his entire time with the organization. The team won two titles with him while not breaking the bank. I am grateful. It was his decision to leave. And chose to do so. Sure…that’s on him. But when he goes in to the Hall wearing that Cardinals hat I am going to be one proud Cardinals fan.

    • anxovies - May 21, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      Players say that money doesn’t matter because they will get crucified by the fans if they don’t, but its always about the money. It’s a job, not a religious calling. If somebody offers me a couple of million extra for doing the same job you can bet I will take it no matter how much I like my present employer.

      • louhudson23 - May 21, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        The point is the money he had already made should allow him to pick the team and city he chooses,and not be forced to live and work somewhere just for the sake of money….if he wanted to be a Cardinal,he should have stayed there……or gone wherever the hell he wanted….I assure you that if I had already made tens of millions,I write my own ticket and nobody decides for me….money’s value is the independence it brings,not the things it buys….so now he is unloved(relatively) and away from the home he and his family made for themselves…greed is not good.

  20. slystone111 - May 20, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    Jesus Christ. Can’t Posnanski just shut the fuck up with his stupid “analysis”? And hasn’t he been with NBC for like, two months now? Isn’t it time for him to move on to a new job again?

    • stlouis1baseball - May 21, 2013 at 9:57 AM

      Damn Sylvester. Some pent up “RAGE” huh?

  21. jeffa43 - May 20, 2013 at 10:42 PM

    To Lie… Must be what Arte liked about Albert.

    Sorry Torri Hunter, I don’t have the money to sign you…. But I got 5x the amount to give to your polar opposite Hamilton.

    Ya, should have gave Matt Harvey the couple million he wanted when you drafted him.

  22. scoocha - May 21, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    If we does truly fall off like it appears he is, this is probably the best indication that he wasn’t cheating. We were spoiled for years of 37 year old players hitting 40+ HRs. Anyway, the real reason for any decline can be attributed to the fact that he’s now playing in the AL instead of feasting on AAAA pitching.
    Personally, I think Posn is going a little too far but if Pujols stops playing today, his career is still HOF worthy.

  23. blingslade - May 21, 2013 at 2:51 PM

    It’s funny how stricter steroids testing brings these once super sluggers back down to earth.

  24. redsoxfan4life - May 22, 2013 at 3:46 PM

    Poo-holes Contract might just end up being worse than A-Roids. And Josh HeadcaseHamilton’s will be worse than both of them.

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