Albert Pujols is in a slump. Not a ‘superstar isn’t playing up to his standards but still better than 90 percent of the league’ slump, either. As of Saturday morning, he’s hitting .225 with four RBI and is homer-less through 20 games with the Angels.
But you knew that already.
Baseball is a long season and players go through peaks and valleys and the cream eventually rises to the top and all of that is true. But what’s alarming for Angels fans and probably amusing for citizens of St. Louis is that Pujols has been declining for awhile.
His 11-year rise to atop the baseball world earned him a quarter of a billion dollars, a decade of job security and an Orange County zip code, but it couldn’t mask that decline. Fortunately for Pujols and his bank account, his dip in production the last three or four seasons still resulted in All-Star caliber numbers. Unfortunately for anyone associated with the Angels, Pujols’ molasses of a start isn’t silencing the critics who claim he’s beginning to lose his battle with Father Time.
This is his RBI production the last three seasons:
His batting averaging has trended downward as well:
Then there’s Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. It’s a new school stat that tells you how many more wins a player is worth than a AAA type of player. Baseball Reference says that a WAR of eight for a season is MVP-quality, five is an All-Star level and two is just your average starter. In Pujols’ MVP season of 2003, he posted a WAR of 10.9, the best of his career and tops in Major League Baseball. He’s led the majors in that category four times in his 11-year career, but not once since 2008. Here’s what he’s looked like since then:
Power hitters declining in their early 30’s is nothing new. Power hitters declining in their early 30’s then signing 10-year contracts is new, however. The 32-year-old will have a decade to prove critics wrong or make Angels owner Arte Moreno the punchline of jokes around Major League Baseball, when he’ll be paying a 42-year-old Pujols 30 million dollars in 2021.