I typed up my most recent article, investigating the causes behind Albert Pujols' home run drought, with a growing sense of dread. Visions of Pujols homering in his first at bat Thursday night hung over my frantic analysis like some baseball bat of Damocles. I watched Thursday and Friday's games with bated breath.
Considering the power Pujols has displayed throughout his career, the fact that he made it until Sunday afternoon was as good as I could have hoped for. Plus, now I get to write an easy follow-up post whining about my miserable luck*.
After the home run, Keith Law tweeted that he couldn't wait for the whiplash-incuding speed with which the narrative on Pujols would change. As a free service to those busy producers of the talking head panel shows on ESPN, we here at The Feats of Strength wish to provide a general recipe for a ready-made Albert Pujols discussion.
POINT: Albert Pujols is back. Like I mentioned in the last paragraph of my original column, it took David Ortiz 161 at bats in 2009 before he hit his first home run**, and another 80 or so at bats before he hit his second. He then hit 26 home runs over the remainder of the season and has been fine ever since. For the more statistically minded, Pujols' fly ball and line drive rates are around their career norms, so he's still driving the ball with authority. This isn't some Crawfordian example of a player cracking under the pressure of a huge deal in a new city. He'll be fine.
COUNTERPOINT: Albert Pujols is not back. Home run or not, he's still walking less and striking out more. Like I showed last week, he's chasing more balls out of the strike zone. Over time, opposing pitchers (superior in general to those he faced in the NL) will realize this, giving him worse and worse pitches to hit (especially if Vernon Wells keeps making appearances around him in the batting order). The man is 32 -- with the usual caveats about Dominican birth certificates -- and a lot of great sluggers have hit a wall in their early 30s. It's obvious that, unlike the previous big contract he signed in St. Louis, his new contract is affecting his approach at the plate with disastrous results iin store.
Shake vigorously over ice, and serve at high volume. If desired, garnish with mild insults, cartoony sound effects, and tired jokes about Glenn Beck rallies.
*-Just a heads-up: I put small bets on the Rays to win more than 89.5 games and win the World Series (12-1 odds) on a trip to Vegas in March, and then drafted Evan Longoria in my fantasy baseball league. So far, Longoria and Kyle Farnsworth have gone down to significant injuries. Consider yourself warned, Rays fans.
**-The team Ortiz homered off of to break his drought? The Blue Jays.