April 19, 2012
Albert Pujols, the $240 million-plus off-season free agent acquisition by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, has now gone 13 games and 54 at bats without a home run to open the 2012 season.
Pujols kept the ball in the park but went 3-for-5 Thursday in the last-place Angels' home loss to the Oakland A’s in a battle of American League West rivals. In his 11 seasons as a St. Louis Cardinal, Pujols had never gone more than five games without hitting his first homer of the year. His hits in a losing cause to the A’s, however, briefly boosted his average to over .300 for the first time this season when he was 3-for-4 in the game. In his last at bat of the night, Pujols reached on an error, dropping his season batting average to .296.
Pujols is the only player in Major League history to open his first 11 seasons with 30 or more home runs. His career high was 49 in 2006, and his lowest season total was 32 in 2007. His 2011 campaign with the Cardinals marked the first time he did not drive in at least 100 runs or bat at least .300. He drove in 99 runs and batted .299 last year for the Redbirds.
Before the start of a 162-game season, a player must hit at least one home run every 5.4 games to reach 30 homers for the year. With 13 games gone from 2012 and no home runs to his credit, Pujols must now average a home run every 5.03 games. Pujols has averaged 574 at-bats over his first 11 seasons, so if he remains homerless after his next game, that means he will have gone roughly 10 percent of his at bats for the season without a home run. He’s certainly capable of turning things around, but his early-season home run slump could make reaching the milestone in the first year of his quarter-of-a-billion dollar mega-deal a lot more difficult.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals are doing much better without Pujols than the Angels are doing with him. The Reds managed to top the Cardinals and starting pitcher(0-3) in St. Louis on Thursday, but the Redbrids hold a three-game lead in the N.L. Central and have won every series they’ve played in this year, two games to one. They opened the season with a one-game visit to the Marlins’ new stadium, spoiling the Florida fun with big win on the arm of Kyle Loshe (2-0).
One of Pujols’ replacement at first base, 26-year-old Matt Carpenter, has been setting the woods on fire in St. Louis. Carpenter, platooning with the injured, is hitting .375 with 1 home run and a whopping 11 RBIs, picking up five in a single game against the Chicago Cubs.
Pujols will try to get his bat back on track this weekend during a home series against the resurgent Baltimore Orioles., meanwhile, begin a six-game road trip with a Friday night game in Pittsburgh before visiting Wrigley Field for the first time this year early next week.
The Punditty Project will be checking in on the Cardinals, Angels and Pujols’ production throughout the 2012 season, so check back occasionally to see if No. 5 is proving to be worth the hundreds of millions of dollars the Angels paid for him.
SOURCES & RESOURCES:
Albert Pujols contract complete, ESPN, Jan. 5, 2012