Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rise of The Machine: An Albert Pujols Update

One of my first posts of the baseball season was a look at Albert Pujols' home run drought. It took a grand total of like three days for Pujols to make me look foolish.

At the time, I used FanGraphs' player page to point out that Pujols was swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone -- from a career number of 21% up to 41%. Here's what I concluded:

Pujols just signed a $240 million contract, might be (understandably) feeling the pressure to earn that contract in a new city, and is pressing, going after pitches he normally would lay off, causing more strikeouts when he misses and a little weaker contact even when he connects.

Since that time, Pujols has seen 388 pitches out of the strike zone, and swung at 33% of them, right in line with last season's numbers. And wouldn't you know it: Pujols has hit 14 home runs in the last two months. That's a home run in 5.4% of those 261 plate appearances, closer to his career rate of 6%. It's also worth pointing out that Pujols' HR/FB rate over that time is 16.9%, a bit below his career rate of 19%. That means you should expect more home runs in the second half.

In my defense, I did also say the following:

But let's not bury Pujols just yet. After all, another Dominican slugger -- David Ortiz -- opened the 2009 season without a homer in his first 161 PAs, then went another 80 PAs before hitting his second on June 5. He finished the season with 28 home runs.

How does Pujols' season compare to that Ortiz season? Let's take a look, shall we?

Pretty similar. You're welcome, America, because clearly I was the only person who made that comparison.

In other update-type news, Derek Holland is back in the Rangers' rotation after about a month on the DL. His first game back was last Sunday against the Twins, and Holland delivered an average start (6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K). The infamous mustache? Still MIA. You're tempting fate there, Mr. Holland.

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