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    Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    Is Albert Pujols on His Way to a Bounce Back Year?

    Much has been made of the Angels’ struggles, particularly Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. The major signings of the last two off seasons, the pair or them has disappointed. Josh Hamilton’s struggles appear to have started last year, and stem mainly from his declining ability to control the strike zone.

    Similar claims were made last season about Pujols after his early struggles. For the fourth straight season, his walk rate and his isolated slugging declined, while his percentage of swings on pitches outside the strike zone increased.

    For his struggles then, it appears he may be on to something now. All of those trends have reversed. Pujols has swung at fewer pitches outside of the zone, and his walk rate (10.9%) is greater than either of the past two seasons (7.8%, 9.4%), although not quite as high as it was back in 2010 or 2009 (14.7%, 16.4%). Still, it’s encouraging to see. Combine that with a .228 batting average on balls in play and you can see why his .237/.319/.407 line might improve, even if his isolated slugging is at an all-time low for him.

    Except has Pujols really regained his patience? It’s interesting to note that his strike out percentage (11.6%) is second only to his rookie season as his career high. That seems to go against the earlier statement. Until you break down his numbers further, that is.

    Pujols batted in front of Hamilton for most of the season to date, and amassed 6 intentional walks in that time. That seems right for his peak, but the past two seasons, he’s only been intentionally walked 15 and 16 times over a whole season. Pitchers definitely seemed to be pitching around him to face the weakened Hamilton.

    Taking out his six intentional walks drops him down to 9 walks on the year total, which, through 132 plate appearances (again, removing those six), puts him at 6.8% walk rate, below even last year’s low. That would also drop his in-base percentage down from .319 to .287. Even halving his intentional walks (to put it more in line with the last two years) leaves him with marks of 8.9% (better than last year, but still below two years ago) and .303.

    Overall, it looks like he hasn’t worsened from last year too much, but he’s still not on pace to return to being the Pujols of old.

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