To understand the magnitude of Albert Pujols's six-week slump to start the 2012 season (and I'm not going to lie, calling it a "slump" feels like a VERY lazy understatement), you have to remember the starting point from whence he came when he signed with the Los Angeles Angels this off-season.
That starting point came a couple short months after the end point of his career as a St. Louis Cardinal, which culminated with a second world championship last October. As if Astro fans needed a reminder of the specifics of the Albert Pujols Experience in St. Louis, consider the following:
-- In his 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols never finished outside of the top 10 for the National League MVP award and only finished outside the top 5 once (9th, 2007). His line on MVP finishes looks like this: 4, 2, 2, 3, 1, 2, 9, 1, 1, 2, 5. Wow.
-- Through the age of 31, according to baseball-reference.com, Pujols was statistically most similar to these ten hitters:
* Jimmie Foxx Ken Griffey * Frank Robinson * Hank Aaron * Lou Gehrig * Mickey Mantle * Mel Ott Juan Gonzalez * Willie Mays Manny Ramirez
If you're keeping track, that's seven Hall of Famers (denoted by *), one future Hall of Famer (Griffey), one who would have been a Hall of Fame lock save for performance enhancers (Manny) and another borderline case (Gonzalez). Sporty company.
-- Despite his utterly crappy start to the 2012 season, Pujols is still 6th in the history of baseball in OPS (On base plus slugging percentage), trailing only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig, Barry Bonds and Jimmie Foxx.
-- The literal bottom line on Pujols's Cardinal career looks like this:
.328 Batting avg. .420 On base pct. .617 Slugging pct. 1.037 OPS 40 HR, 121 RBI average per season
In the offseason, the Angels were able to outbid the hometown Cardinals and stave off the upstart Miami Marlins to sign Pujols to a ten-year, $240 million deal. When you consider how backloaded the contract is ($140 million over the final five seasons) and the fact that the contract takes Pujols to age 41 (a good six years AT LEAST after a hitter with his profile exits his prime), this would be considered a bad deal even if Pujols gave you a typical Pujols-with-Cards season for the first six or seven seasons of the contract.
And as we all know by now, thus far Pujols has not been Pujols, unless you consider how similar his numbers are to former Astros backup catcher Luis Pujols's, and then I guess that would mean he was at least being a Pujols.
Through 38 games, Pujols the Angel has put up the following anemic numbers (and this is after hitting a three-run bomb on Wednesday night): .213 Batting avg. .248 On base pct. .307 Slugging pct. .555 OPS 2 HR, 17 RBI
As if these numbers need a certain prism through which to view them to glean just how bad they are, consider the following additional doses of perspective:
1. At this pace, Pujols's final 2012 end-of-season numbers would look like this: .213/.248/.307, 8 HR, 67 RBI. As I mentioned before, through age 31 Pujols was most statistically similar to Jimmie Foxx. His numbers this season are barely statistically similar to Jamie Foxx.
2. The current leading slugger in Major League Baseball is Josh Hamilton (.838). He could go hitless in his next 231 at-bats and still be ahead of Pujols's current .307 slugging percentage.
3. Albert Pujols could hit home runs in 13 consecutive at-bats and, for the season, still be short of his career slugging percentage of .617.
4. The only regular players in the American League with a lower OPS are Justin Smoak, Kurt Suzuki, Alexei Ramirez and Erick Aybar. That's it.
5. Have I mentioned Pujols has NINE years (and $228 million) left on his deal?
Now, I'm sure no Astro fan is feeling sorry for Pujols, the Angels or anyone else affected by this monstrous albatross of a contract. But just in case you're feeling a bit soft, here's a little reminder of why, at this point, even Pujols with TWO home runs has two home runs too many:
Screw you, Albert.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.