Yep, it is that time of month again. Time to talk about Albert Pujols, his offensive production and batted ball profile. Fortunately, we are re-re-re-visiting this topic because Albert Pujols is actually starting to produce again. It is still a puzzling situation, but at least now it is puzzling in a good way.
Let’s quickly run through all the key points from the earlier pieces in this completely unintended series of posts:
- Albert’s BABIP now sits at .254, which is still a far cry from what is normal for Albert, but it is better than it was a month ago. His June BABIP of .264 helped move the needle, but was still so low that it is really starting to make me wonder if the new “normal” for Pujols is much lower than we realize.
- Pujols finally is getting his line drive percentage back near his career average of 19.0%. It now sits at 18.2% after a 22.6% mark in June.
- Albert’s infield flyball percentage dropped down to 15.7% after a June in which only popped-up 11.1% of the time.
- His groundball rate in June of 48.4% was actually a spike for him at the expense of his flyball ratio, which only compounded his 7.4% HR/FB in June.
Excellent! Everything is coming up Milhouse for Albert it would seem. Almost, anyway. One thing that didn’t improve and should have for Albert was his actual offensive production by way of a .673 OPS in June. That translates to a .271/.308/.365 slash line which translates to me wanting to pull my hair out.
Why? Because it doesn’t make any damn sense.
In April, Albert had a terrible batted ball profile but had a .927 OPS, largely on the back of an absurd HR/FB ratio. Then in May, Albert saw his batted profile improve somewhat but also saw his production drop off, largely on the back of him falling well short of his xBABIP. Now in June Pujols has a much better, though still too groundball-heavy, batted ball profile and his offense just craters.
So what are we supposed to take away from that? Should we just keep the faith and trust that his production will catch up to his batted ball profile? Or should we just give up the ghost and accept that Albert just won’t be able to perform at a high level no matter what his batted ball profile is?
If you are in the first camp, then July is good news for you. In the very small and completely arbitrary sample size that is July, Pujols’ batted ball profile is pretty much in line with his career norms across the board. Unsurprisingly, Albert is raking with a .353./.389/.647 slash line. His batted ball profile has been trending in the right direction for two-plus months now, only in the last two weeks does his actual production finally seem to have realized it and tried to jump on the bandwagon.
If you are more skeptical, first off, how dare you. Secondly, you are probably right. If we focus less on the batted ball rates and more on the actual outcomes, it seems pretty clear that Albert is struggling to drive the ball consistently. We can talk all we want about how his elevated groundball rate and increased shifting against him is suppressing his BABIP, which we actually did talk all about last month, but I think that it is all serving to obscure Albert’s struggles to drive the ball. Even with his line drive rate climbing, his power just isn’t consistently manifesting itself. The only month in which it really did was a month where his HR/FB rate was 23.7%, which is so obviously unsustainable. Sure enough, he’s off to a hot start in July and doing so with a 23.1% HR/FB.
The real problem, or at least my theory on the problem, is that we all remember dominant Cardinals-version Albert Pujols and s very badly want to believe that Albert is capable of recapturing that form and somewhat justifying his moronic contract. Digging through batted ball profiles to prove that he still possesses that ability but is just being snakebit or something is an exercise in futility. He isn’t that guy anymore. He won’t be that guy ever again.
It is perfectly fine to hope that he can be better than he has been. He is clearly of capable of doing that for weeks at a time, but that is probably as good as we can hope for.