Did you know Albert Pujols went all of April without hitting a single home run? I'm sure you do know, because someone in the baseball media mentions it every five seconds. I only bring it up now partly because it was my turn in the rotation but also because everyone and their mother (including mine, she thinks Albert isn't praying hard enough, so there's that) thinks they know the reason behind is stunning lack of power so far this season. Some of these reasons make sense, some of them don't. Actually, check that, pretty much none of them make sense. Allow me to explain:
- The pressure is getting to him - This is the most popular theory behind his struggles since nobody on earth could blame a guy for feeling a little extra pressure to perform for his new team after being handed a contract woth a quarter of a billion dollars. And if there is one thing we know about Albert Pujols, it is that he cracks under pressure. I mean, that pitiful .913 SLG he hit for in the 2011 NLCS? And his career .330/.439/.607 slashline in the post-season, laughably bad, right? Clearly the guy just folds like a cheap tent when the stakes are high.
- The marine layer - Angel players and fans alike no full well the power of the fabled "marine layer" that settles in over Angel Stadium for most games. Teammate Torii Hunter even publicly speculated that he thought the marine layer could be the culprit behind Pujols' power outage. To think, all this time Pujols could've been stopped from being the best hitter alive had some enterprising team just engaged in some meteorological warfare. I think this means that weather machines might be the new market inefficiency.
- Mickey Hatcher is the worst hitting coach ever - As an Angel fan, I can raise no objection to this line of logic... moving on.
- He misses his family - Albert's family is still in St. Louis, waiting to make the move out to California, so this theory is that the devoted family man has lost his power stroke because he misses his loved ones so much. Awww, how sweet. As a father myself, I can attest to how being apart from your family can make life rough, because kids are the best. Of course, being apart from your kids also means you get to actually relax and get good sleep, because kids are also the worst. Complicating matters further for Albert, it was recently revealed that his wife is pregnant again. Wow, that's only going to make sad Albert even sadder! You guys, Albert Pujols might never ever hit a homer again. Seriously, you guys.
- Switching leagues is really hard - Coming from the National League to the American League is a difficult transition, especially since it has led to Albert facing pitcher after pitcher that he has never played against before. I guess that makes sense, after all his career OPS in interleague games with the Cardinals was "only" 1.071. Plus, we all know how impossible it is to hit Brian Matusz if you've never seen his unique brand of awfulness before. Albert must've been all like "What? That guy is in the majors? I'm to embarrassed for him to swing!"
- His number is cursed - The Angel that previously donned the #5 for the franchise was the infamous Jeff Mathis, he of the career .566 OPS. But now Mathis has escaped Anaheim and amazingly started hitting like Albert Pujols, mashing his way to a Pujols-like 1.202 OPS for the Blue Jays. Meanwhile, Albert has assumed the #5 mantle for the Angels and has mysteriously seen his OPS drop down to a Mathisian .570. Eery, no?
- He has no protection in the Angel lineup - While Pujols is soaking up all the negative attention for his awful start, it has largely gone unreported that most of the rest of the Angel lineup is performing just as poorly. Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar, who were both hitting in front of Pujols most of the season, both have OBPs well under .300. De facto four-hole hitter Kendrys Morales is slugging .388 and the team leader in OPS, Mark Trumbo at .916, has been yanked in and out of the lineup while Vernon Wells has been in the lineup almost everyday, despite the fact that he is Vernon Wells. This has all added up to a situation in which pitchers have felt more freedom than ever to go after Pujols aggressively since there is seldom anyone on base in front of him and the batters hitting behind inspire fear in exactly no one. Umm... wait, I'm supposed to debunk this one, aren't I? Oh, that's right, lineup protection is a myth, people on the internet who are good at math told me so.
- He is swinging at way too many bad pitches - This is the best reason out of the bunch because it is backed by statistical evidence, except that it isn't actually a reason. It's a symptom. A symptom of what, we don't know. Probably one of the seven real reasons listed above, but those reasons have all been debunked. Ladies and gentlemen, we have ourselves a paradox.
Photo courtesy of Daylife.com
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Good stuff Garrett!
It's just crazy what is going on with Pujols. Here's Joe Poz weighing in: http://joeposnanski.blogspot.com/2012/05/machine-pujols-edition.html
I have to believe he'll turn it around, but who knows. Also, what do you think about rumors that he could be as old as 34 or even (gasp) 36?!?