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Thread: Pujols ... ?

  1. #1
    Senior Member LisaS's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    We have the Dodgers here under new ownership and so the Albert Pujols story is not really talked about ( ) but, what's the heck is going on? Just not meshing? Change of leagues/pitchers? Doesn't that usually favor the hitter? Does it matter anymore with inter-league play?

    Thought this article was kind of humorous.

  2. #2

    Pujols ... ?

    I'd say it's all in his head, just like the downfall of Tiger Woods. By "all in his head" I don't mean it's a small thing -- it's very real and very tough to overcome. Difference is that I think Pujols will recover and eventually be a great player again. I think Tiger's done and won't win another major (although I'm the overwhelming minority opinion).

    Athletes each have their own mental/emotional/spiritual zone they get into for competition. This is based on personal preference and experience and eventually gets linked to all sorts of traditions that reinforce their ability to get into the zone.

    I'd bet Tiger's and Albert's zones were similar in their strictness to schedule/habit and their internal sense/personality (ultra-confident or even admittedly cocky, strong, killer instinct). I recognize it because my own on-the-field baseball persona was the same. I had a horribly egocentric swagger between the baselines. But it worked, and once I had convinced myself that I was the best player on the field, the performance usually followed suit.

    Tiger's persona was popped by his relationship crisis. People get it wrong when they say the affairs ruined his game -- I'd wager that the affairs fit right in with his persona and he played his best while living the clean married life at home and the dirty sex-starved life on the road. He felt above the law, on top of the world and it carried over onto the course. When those habits inevitably crashed and burned and left so much destruction in their wake, his game crashed as well (yes, there were also injuries involved in his decline).

    With Pujols, every single one of his habits and patterns he developed over a decade in St. Louis is gone and he is having to rewrite new ones. And he's not surrounded by personal (teammates, coaches, fans), visual (the familiar field, the community, his home) and other constant reminders of repeated success.

    He started out as a hungry and driven young player and was great right from the start. He can do that again with a new start, but it's a monumental mental shift after being king of his world for a decade.

  3. #3
    Senior Member LisaS's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    Isn't that true of almost any free agent who signs with another club? I'd say trade - but unlikely that a top-of-his-game player would be in a trade. Or is there a post-agency slump that is usual but just most visible here?

  4. #4
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    Michael, interesting points. I agree with you about Woods. My thoughts on Pujols are a bit more complicated.

    I've followed every game of his career, including his single year in the minors, in 2000.

    Every step of the way, he did things that were novelistic. If you didn't see them, you didn't believe anyone could come into the league and do them.

    In his final 3 years in St. Louis, his numbers steadily declined. The dropoff from 2009 to 2010 wasn't dramatic -- he still finished 2nd in the MVP voting -- and it coincided with a decline across baseball. But as a fan, it was noticeable. It seemed to me that he was starting to swing at pitches out of the strike zone in a way he hadn't before. Actually, it seemed to start in the 2009 playoffs, when the Cards got swept in 3 games by the Dodgers.

    Another thing about 2010: The Cards, on paper, looked like a playoff team, but they won just 86 games and finished well behind Cincinnati. There was a lot of talk in St. Louis about an extremely negative clubhouse atmosphere, with whispers that Pujols froze out younger players and avoided taking any kind of leadership role on the team.

    For 2011 the Cards set out to fix the clubhouse atmosphere, and it seemed to work. But Pujols got off to what was, by his standards, a horrible start. He finished the season with good numbers, and of course the team did all right in the end. But it was pretty clear to those of who'd watched him that he was a player in decline. I thought the Cards would be absolutely screwed for a generation if they resigned him to the kind of deal he wanted.

    When he signed with the Angels, there was an overwhelming feeling of relief among a lot of us who live and die with the Cards. The media tried to play it up like it was a LeBron situation, but I don't know any St. Louis fans who felt that way. There was a sense that a) his skills were in rapid decline, and b) he wasn't a guy his teammates would miss.

    The other impression that won't go away is the idea that Albert is several years older than his stated age. The more years he had at the top of his game, the less I paid attention. But now we're looking at one of the all-time great players whose skills have suddenly and precipitously declined at age 32. He doesn't seem to be any more injured than usual. It would make a lot more sense if this were happening at 34 or 35, rather than 32.

    As you know, I have family in K.C., where Albert's family moved when he was (allegedly?) 16. And in K.C., I've run into several people who knew Pujols in high school. It was considered an open secret that he was older than his stated age.

    I'm not saying I know, or even that I have a fixed opinion. But given the sudden decline in skills (slower bat speed, reduced distance on his fly balls, more swings at pitches out of the zone, fewer walks), it's starting to make more sense than the idea that he can't hit American League pitching or that he's uncomfortable in his environment. AL pitching never bothered him before, and I don't think he cares enough about other people to be thrown off by his new environment.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    Quote Originally Posted by "LisaS":3nf4hwcj
    Isn't that true of almost any free agent who signs with another club? I'd say trade - but unlikely that a top-of-his-game player would be in a trade. Or is there a post-agency slump that is usual but just most visible here?
    I think it depends on where the player is on his development curve. A-Rod was one of the first superstars, if not the first, to hit free agency when he may have been on the way up as a player. Most free agents are on their way down. The ones who sign after monster years are just about guaranteed to regress toward the mean.

    With Albert, as I bloviated in the previous reply, his skills were already in decline. He pretended it was an aberration, and that he'd back to his normal self with his new team. But what if this is his normal self?

    Of course I'm taking an extreme position here. I fully expect him to have a couple of big seasons in Anaheim. But I think the Angels were delusional if they thought they were going to get the Albert of 2001-2010. They'll be lucky if they get the Albert of 2011.

  6. #6

    Pujols ... ?

    Quote Originally Posted by "LisaS":25k0wixc
    Isn't that true of almost any free agent who signs with another club? I'd say trade - but unlikely that a top-of-his-game player would be in a trade. Or is there a post-agency slump that is usual but just most visible here?
    Most guys these days don't stay with a club as long as Pujols was with the Cards, so there's more inertia for him to overcome. And I think it'd be different for a utility player or journeyman than for the guy who was the hero for years like Pujols was. You just don't have a very big sample size of players like him.

    Lou's points are excellent on Pujols' predictable decline and the possible factor of age. Those would certainly indicate he may not continue at MVP pace. Yet even taking that into account his performance has been... lacking.

  7. #7
    BurgerBob
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    Pujols ... ?

    I still believe Pujols is due for a rebound. His numbers declined the last few seasons. Last season was mostly due to a broken bone in his hand and missing time. Last year was the first time as a Major Leaguer he didn't have at least 100 RBIs (and he had 99) and didn't bat at least .300 (and he batted .299). That being said, he still hit 37 homers, hit nearly .500 in the NLCS, and won a second World Series. I wouldn't clump in the same category as somebody like Soriano yet.

    I lot of the game of baseball is mental. That's actually the biggest difference in a guy that makes it and one that doesn't. Most guys that get to even AAA ball have all the athletic skills to be a major leaguer if even they aren't refined quite yet. The difference between a guy like Pujols and a guy like Corey Patterson comes in things like knowing counts, knowing what pitches to look for, knowing situations, knowing pitchers, etc., rather than just trying to muscle the ball out of the park every time.

    Right now, I'm just glad the Cubs stuck with Brian Lahair who is hitting .352 with 10 homers and getting paid around league minimum to do it than add another high priced disappointment.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    The difference between a guy like Pujols and a guy like Corey Patterson comes in things like knowing counts, knowing what pitches to look for, knowing situations, knowing pitchers, etc., rather than just trying to muscle the ball out of the park every time.
    But that's exactly what observers say Pujols is trying to do. He's trying to pull everything, including breaking balls 3-6 inches outside.

    There's data showing his fly balls aren't going as far as they used to. And every Cardinals fan can tell you about how many DPs he into it in 2011, mostly on pitches he used to take.

    Last season was mostly due to a broken bone in his hand and missing time.
    He actually hit much better when he came back from the injury. Besides, he was always injured.

    The Cardinals under La Russa very extremely secretive about the players' health status. At the end of the season we typically learned about serious injuries to key players. For whatever reason, La Russa never wanted his star players to go on the DL, even when they were hurting the team by staying on the field.

  9. #9
    BurgerBob
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    Pujols ... ?

    Pujols may be trying to pull the ball out of the park on every pitch this year. I haven't seen him play. I think he has enough baseball smarts to eventually get out of that habit. If he were a one or two year star that was struggling this mightly, I would say this maybe the end. I think nobody exemplifies the mental capacity involved in the game more than former Cardinal Rick Ankiel. He was a great young pitcher until mentally, he just couldn't make himself throw a strike. The same thing happened with Mark Wohlers of the Braves. I couldn't see somebody like Roy Halladay at this point in his career all of a sudden unable to even hit the strike zone.

    I just meant his numbers were off last season because he missed nearly a month. I'm sure in that time he could have picked up one more RBI and probably hit 40 homers. Unfortunately, I think this year he has the "trying to hard" syndrome.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    Sorry, I misunderstood your point.

    Albert played 147 games last season, so he missed the equivalent of 2 weeks. He's had 2 other season where he played fewer than 150: 2006, when he hit a career-high 49 home runs, and 2008, when he won the MVP.

    2011 wasn't just a decline in overall numbers. His rate stats were all way below not just career averages, but his worst individual seasons (which, granted, would all be career-best seasons for most major leaguers).

    I still expect to see him figure it out, like you said, and probably have a couple of pretty good years in Anaheim. But this is a really different ballplayer from what Angels management thought they were getting, and there's still, as I said, the possibility that they also got an older one.

  11. #11
    BurgerBob
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    Pujols ... ?

    I didn't realize he missed so little time. You know a player has set unreal expectations when hitting .299, 37HR, 99RBI is an off year. I think Pujols has finally given to baseball what Jordan gave to basketball in the late 80s and into the 90s. He's become one of those players that could put up huge numbers but would compared more against what he's done in the past versus what other players in the league did that year.

    I still think Anaheim was crazy to sign him to a 10 year deal when he'll be 42 in the final season. Even if he bounces back this year and hits 50 homers the next three years, what is going to have left at 40 and over? Jim Thome is one of the best power hitters ever in the game, and he's basically used as a platoon player at this point until Ryan Howard gets better.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Lou Schuler's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    Pujols is getting his stroke back. He's hitting .300 over his last 10 games (through May 26), with 5 HRs. A couple of his homers have gone out to center field, which suggests he's not trying to pull everything.

    Still, for the season he's hitting just .232, with a .276 on-base percentage (his career average is .417) and a .395 slugging percentage (vs. .610 for his career). I'll be surprised if he hits last year's career-low numbers: .299/.366/.541.

  13. #13

    Pujols ... ?

    Lou has a good point. Pujols has a legit shot at 25-30 homers this year. If we all knew he was actually, say, 36 years old, then we wouldn't be surprised.

    I will say, though, that his vastly increased percentage of "out of the strike zone" swings is a sign of something besides age. Topping the high expectations to start the season with the current desparation is a recipe for bad decision making. His batting average with balls in play is way down too, which can be a sign of slower bat speed, bad luck, or simply poor contact because he is swinging at balls out of the zone.

    I think if he can pull himself together he will be good for 30 homers a year for the next 3 years. Atfter all, age isn't everything. Hank Aaron hit 40 when he was 39, and Ted Williams hit 29 in just over 300 at bats when he was 42. The greats have been known to refocus and adjust.

  14. #14
    Senior Member LisaS's Avatar
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    Pujols ... ?

    Hey Ian - haven't seen you around for awhile.

  15. #15

    Pujols ... ?

    Quote Originally Posted by "LisaS":26d2q9ug
    Hey Ian - haven't seen you around for awhile.
    Hi Lisa. Yes, I've been "busy", I suppose! :tongue

    How have you been?

  16. #16

    Pujols ... ?

    Cressey thought I was you at The Summit this year. He couldn't figure out how you'd grown taller.

  17. #17

    Pujols ... ?

    Quote Originally Posted by "RedLefty":2cs4lr7w
    Cressey thought I was you at The Summit this year. He couldn't figure out how you'd grown taller.
    Ha! It's been a few years since I saw Eric. Glad I could send my doppleganger!

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