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A look into Albert Pujols’ terrible 2017

Pujols isn’t getting any younger and his hitting isn’t getting any better

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Okay sure - Albert Pujols will probably be a first ballot HOFer when he retires. This dude has been good. Real good. But since joining the Angels at age “32”, he’s been a different man and that is no more obvious than it is in his 6th season with the Angels.

Pujols brings a lot to the table - off the field. From talk around the league and among Angels players, his presence in the clubhouse is invaluable. But his presence on the field? Um yea...

It’s possible that Pujols won’t even rack up 100 RBIs this season. He’s been greatly aided in this number in the past by having Mike Trout on base in front of him, but Pujols was unable to even drive in Trout for a good chunk of the season. Pujols’ numbers across the board are terrible. They are the worst of his career and the worst among DH’s - despite him having the highest salary.

You can no longer say “it’s still early”. You can’t blame it on injury - or can you? If Pujols was hurt we’d probably not know until the season was over. The probable answer is that age is catching up with Pujols and it’s catching up fast.

Walks and Ks

Pujols’ walk rate is at a career low 6.4%. He spent his entire career aside from his last year in Saint Louis (2011) with a double digit walk rate then it got worse nearly each year after joining the Angels in 2012 while his K rate has gone up 4 years in a row.

Pujols K/BB Rate

Year BB% K%
Year BB% K%
2010 14.7 10.9
2011 9.7 8.9
2012 7.8 11.3
2013 9.0 12.4
2014 6.9 10.2
2015 7.6 10.9
2016 7.5 11.5
2017 6.4 15.7

Sometimes a higher K rate is okay if you are driving in more runs, but Pujols’ power is way down and his K rate is up 4.2% from just last year.


Albert Pujols is in the lineup for his power. He’s in it for the ability to work pitchers and (in Scioscia’s mind) to protect Mike Trout and make pitchers pitch to him. Does it work that way? Not really. Pujols has only 14 home runs which is 5 less than Mike Trout who missed 5 weeks. He’s 11th on the list of DH’s with the most home runs, ahead of only Carlos Beltran (40 years old), Victor Martinez (almost 39), and Robbie Grossman (Twins). His ISO is greater than only Grossman and Martinez and is 55 points lower than in 2016 and his SLG is higher than only Grossman. Pujols’ OBP for every year (except last) that he played for the Cardinals is HIGHER than his slugging in 2017.

Albert Pujols Power

2010 0.284 0.596
2011 0.242 0.541
2012 0.231 0.516
2013 0.179 0.437
2014 0.194 0.466
2015 0.236 0.480
2016 0.189 0.457
2017 0.144 0.383

2015 was a great rebound year for Pujols, but the trend over the last 3 years is rather alarming.

There are many other scary numbers to analyze like his 78 wRC+ which is also the worst of his career, or his -1.0 WAR and the probability that he will end the season with a negative WAR for the first time ever. In fact, since 2014, he’s lost around a full point each year from 2.8 to 1.9 to 0.9 to -1.0. Part of that comes from him moving to a more full time DH role and not having defensive numbers in his WAR total, but mostly it comes from declining offense.

Pressure needed?

Pujols is still good at some things - one of which is to be really good under pressure. Can we find a way to play him ONLY when it’s a high leverage situation? Why can he not hit when nothing is on the line??

Pujols leverage hitting

Leverage PA HR RBI AVG
Leverage PA HR RBI AVG
low 192 7 10 0.191
med 149 4 20 0.261
high 47 3 29 0.364

Those are some pretty starkly different numbers. Of course the high leverage numbers have a lower sample size - but still.

Also, did you know that the shift doesn’t really matter to Pujols? He is hitting .252 with the shift and .252 without. So go ahead and shift all you want opposing teams.

Pujols is also hitting the ball just as hard as ever (when he does hit it). The last 5 years he’s consistently had 35-36% his his balls as “hard” hits, about 50% as “medium” and 15% as “soft”. One of the biggest different in terms of hitting the balls comes with his out of zone contact which has gone down dramatically.

Pujols plate discipline & contact

Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% SwStr%
Year O-Swing% Z-Swing% Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% SwStr%
2012 35.6 62.6 47.0 76.9 90.7 7.0
2013 33.4 65.6 46.9 71.2 91.1 7.9
2014 32.4 66.6 47.9 71.7 93.7 6.9
2015 31.2 64.9 46.2 73.7 92.7 6.6
2016 32.1 63.9 46.2 75.2 92.3 6.6
2017 33.5 65.1 47.6 63.6 90.4 9.5

Pujols’ plate discipline has remained pretty constant, but his ability to make contact has not. His out of zone contract rate has gone down nearly 12% this year which is huge. His in-zone contract rate has gone down 2% and his swinging strike rate is at an all time high - up 3% from last year.

What does all this mean? Well, if Pujols is not just having an “off” year, the next few years (as many as 4) are going to be a very bumpy ride. 2015 is starting to look more and more like a fluke and the rest of his downward trend since joining the Angels is looking very, very real.

That 0 for 6 night by Pujols last night? Get used to it. There may be many more of those in store.