The plight of Albert Pujols has been well documented this season. After signing a 10-year $240 million contract in free agency, the expectations for Pujols and the Angels offense immediately went through the roof. He was supposed to anchor the Halos lineup and propel it to the elite offenses of baseball. Funny thing, though…he didn’t.
Instead, Pujols came out slumping. He went 110 at-bats before hitting his first home run on May 6, the longest drought to start a season in his entire career. He suffered a 14-game RBI drought in April that was pretty indicative of the RBI drought the entire team was suffering. His batting average sunk below .200 from May 4 to May 14, bottoming out at .190 on May 8. He’s walked just ten times on the season. In short, this is not The Machine that the Angels ordered.
Throughout the frustrating rough patch, the team has been preaching patience with Pujols. He’s still the same guy who was dominant for over a decade in St. Louis, it would just be a matter of time before things began clicking for him. New city, new team, new league…things would just take a little while to learn is all. But as soft grounder to third after soft grounder to third came off the bat of this Pujols-impostor, fans started to lose patience and faith started getting harder and harder to come by and attendance started to dip. Was this what Halos fans were doomed to watch for the next decade? Prepare the ledges, cause fans were ready to jump.
But not so fast, cause things may be getting that “clicking” phase that the Angels kept telling us to wait around for. This month, Pujols has knocked in 16 RBI to now lead the team with 20 on the year. He’s hit three home runs in the last week and brought his average back onto the good side of .200. His slash line (.213/.254/.333) still isn’t anything to write home about and his OPS is better than only 12 Major League qualifiers, but things are going in the right direction. And as Pujols says, once it clicks, it gets easy:
"“When your swing is right, you don’t think. That’s the beautiful thing.”“Hitting is hard, but you have to keep it simple,” Pujols added. “As much as you know it’s hard, you have to really keep it simple and go out there and swing. Sometimes, you’re going to feel good. Most of the time, you don’t. The times that you don’t feel good is when you have to survive and get that streak going.”"
Part of the problem for Pujols has been a lack of patience at the plate. Heading into last night’s game, Pujols had been behind in the count in 64 of his 180 plate appearances, and he was hitting just .156 in those situations. He was hitting an unusually high number of balls to the left side, which prompted teams to install a shift against him, and hasn’t been able to draw walks with the regularity he’s come to expect.
Albert admits that part that has come from his tendency to expand the strike zone more than usual, but he feels like he’s moved past it. He feels more patient, more at ease, and ready to get back to producing at the consistent level that we’ve all gotten accustomed to. The Angels, and their fans, certainly hope so. They’ve definitely been waiting long enough.