While some west coast MLB writers are asking "What's wrong with Albert Pujols?" because #5 doesn't have any HR yet this season (49 AB), I think a far more telling statistic is this: why isn't Albert Pujols walking anymore?
Last season Albert walked 61 times in 651 plate appearances, which is a rate of walking once every 10.67 times at bat.
His rate in years previous to 2011:
2010: walked every 6.8 times
2009: walked every 6 times
2008: every 6.16 times
2007: every 6.86
2006: every 6.89
2005: every 7.12
What's obvious is this: up until 2011, Albert Pujols was a phenomenally selective hitter. His lack of strikeouts and high walk rate suggest the obvious: a Hall of Fame-like ability to judge the strike zone and mash pitches within it.
A quick visit to FanGraphs reinforces this. They track how often a guy swings at pitches outside the strike zone. That's abbreviated as O-Swing%, but is frequently referred to as "chase rate"--the rate at which a guy chases pitches out of the zone.
For a sizable portion of his career, Albert Pujols had a ridiculously low chase rate below 20%. In fact, from 2002 through the 2009 season, Albert's average chase rate covering all those seasons was below 20%. That's phenomenal.
In 2007 his O-Swing was 18.3%. In 2008 it jumped to 21.6%. In 2009 it went up again to 22.9%. No biggie. Those are still ridiculously low chase rates.
But they show a trend.
In 2010 Albert's o-swing% really jumped: 27.5%. That's almost mortal.
In 2011: 31.8%. That's...well, that's about what a lot of other great ballplayers put up--guys who don't have 10-year, $250m contracts.
So far in 2012, and again the sample size is small: 44.7% chase rate.
And so I'll say it again: Albert's swing when he was a younger man with better eyes and faster reflexes was a miracle of hand-eye coordination unlike anything we've ever seen. Now though, I think that Albert has to "cheat" a little on his swing, and starts it earlier than he used to, and the result is that he swings at more pitches out of the zone than ever before. Albert is still Albert. Even swinging at pitches outside the zone, he's still going to make contact with far more of them than anyone else out there...but less often is that contact going to be him squaring up a pitch.
I think the guy will hit .300-ish for the Angels, and I think he'll untrack the power and sock 30-35 HR for them. But I also am not sure I expect him to be able to do that 3 or 4 years from now, much less 6 or 10.
Last edited by bombay; 04-20-2012 at 02:56 PM..