|Pujols can still salvage his season. (US Presswire)|
Albert Pujols is hitting .160 in May. Obviously, that’s not the good news … well, part of it is the good. The “May” part. I have been fascinated -- probably to the point of obsession -- with Pujols’ early-season struggles, even while I have always tried to keep in mind that it is early. Very early. Very, very early.
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Very, very, very early.
How early? Well, here’s what I decided to do … I took Pujols’ numbers so far this year (.197/.235/.275 with 1 homer) and added it to every single season of Pujols’ career, post-May 15. So I added those numbers to the numbers he had May 15 and after last year, and two years and three years ago, all the way back to his 2001 rookie season.
The results, I must admit, surprised me a little bit. It’s one thing to say you’re aware that it’s early in the season. It’s quite another to look and see that if Pujols simply returns to something resembling previous form for the rest of the season, he’s going to have a good season. A great season is still not out of the question.
I’ve included all the numbers below, but here are a handful of takeaways:
• Add ANY YEAR of Pujols after May 15, and his slugging percentage finishes above .500 for the season. Any year. If he hits for the rest of the year like he did after May 15 in 2003, for instance, his final slugging percentage will be .584, which would have placed him third in the American League last year. Yes, 2003 was a different era for hitters (and for Pujols) but the point remains: He still has enough games left to lift his numbers into classic Pujols’ territory.
• Except for his rookie season and 2007, Pujols hit at least 29 homers after May 15 every year. That would mean 30 for the season, which I’m sure any Angels fan at this point would happily take.
• Using the after-May-15 system, Pujols’ average finishes as high as .328 (2003) and as low as .280 (last year). He scores 100 or more runs most years and drives in 100-plus runs most years.
• If you use last year’s post-May 15, Pujols .280/.341/.504 with 31 homers would be, by far, the worst season his career. And the Angels would have every right to be thoroughly panicked with nine years left on the contract. But considering this lousy start, I suspect that if he could get it into that general area, there would still be a lot of hope that the bad start was a mirage … at least for the next two or three seasons.
The point is, Pujols is exactly right when he says that his numbers could be there at the end of the season. He doesn’t have to go on an historic run of awesomeness to get his numbers up into a pretty decent stratosphere. He just has to go back to being Albert Pujols.
The larger question, of course is: CAN he go back to being Albert Pujols? He is older and showing pretty clear signs of decline. He is playing in a tougher hitting ballpark and in a new league. That question is not as easily answered. But the point is: There’s time. There’s still lots of time.
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What Pujols’ final numbers would have looked like had he started like 2012:
2011: .280/.341/.504 with 31 homers, 91 runs, 87 RBIs
2010: .284/.377/.524 with 35 homers, 104 runs, 101 RBIs
2009: .297/.402/561 with 35 homers, 101 runs, 110 RBIs
2008: .314/.394/.564 with 30 homers, 87 runs, 101 RBIs
2007: .316/.407/.532 with 27 homers, 94 runs, 96 RBIs
2006: .296/.364/.532 with 31 homers, 90 runs, 101 RBIs
2005: .299/.393/.535 with 33 homers, 114 runs, 100 RBIs
2004: .311/.379/.591 with 38 homers, 110 runs, 111 RBIs
2003: .328/.403/.584 with 35 homers, 118 runs, 110 RBIs
2002: .292/.355/.509 with 30 homers, 98 runs, 117 RBIs
2001: .288/.354/.503 with 25 homers, 94 runs, 100 RBIs