2013 Fantasy BaseballFantasy BaseballFront Office

Albert Pujols is not a Top Five First Baseman

Albert Pujols has been absolutely abysmal thus far in 2013. His current triple slash sits at .243/.311/.420. Many fantasy owners are wondering whether their first round pick investment will pan out, but unfortunately I believe Pujols will finish outside the top five amongst first baseman.

Here’s why:
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Pujols is entering his mid thirty’s decline phase of his career at this point. His strikeout rate is in a four year free-fall. This is largely due to a steep increase in swinging strike percentage over the last three seasons. All of Pujols’s indicators are on a three-year train ride to yikesville. Let’s take a look:

Year K% Sw Str% O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact % Z-Contact %
2011 8.9% 5.7% 29.5% 61.4% 74.5% 92.8%
2012 11.3% 7.0% 33.2% 62.1% 71.2% 91.9%
2013 12.8% 8.2% 32.2% 64.8% 67.7% 89.8%

Pujols is swinging more often and missing more often which is a deathly combination on batting average. We can’t expect his .242 batting average on balls in play to simply return back to his career norm. His BABIP in 2011 was .277 and .282 in 2012, so sure it will probably rebound (as he rebounds skill wise) to at least .260, but owners should not have faith that his actual batting average will be anywhere above .270.

In addition to the unnerving stats listed above, it appears pitchers are just not afraid of the former best hitter in baseball anymore. According to this chart from Baseball Prospectus they are throwing him fastballs right down the middle and he hasn’t done anything with them.

Pujols’s bat speed has also been disappearing; his whiff rates on the fastballs in the zone have gone up exponentially over the years.

Year Fastball Chase % (whiff rate out of the zone) Fastball Whiff Rate Percentage (in the zone)
2008 6.3% 2.7%
2009 9.5% 5.5%
2010 13.1% 11.7%
2011 10.74% 5.8%
2012 15.0% 10.9%
2013 19.2% 13.7%

The data we have on Pujols’s swing and miss rates on fastballs and his overall plate discipline data ring much louder than “he’ll be fine once his BABIP normalizes” type statements.

My final projected line for Pujols: .270 BA, 85 runs, 90 RBI, 25 HR. 1 SB. Those aren’t the stats of a top five fantasy first baseman. I expect Joey Votto, Prince Fielder, Chris Davis, Paul Goldschmidt, Edwin Encarnacion, Adrian Gonzalez, and Freddie Freeman will all finish the season higher than Albert Pujols in the first base rankings.

Sell now; he’s a bust.

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6 Comments

  1. keith
    June 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm — Reply

    big Al has aged a lot as a cards fan glad he and kyle left. Kyle is good but neither is worth the money they make and alberts long contract would have severely limited us

    • June 10, 2013 at 11:50 pm — Reply

      Yeah. The Cardinals have a long history of making great and timely moves. They waited an extra year with Shelby Miller (worked out great so far), signed Matt Holliday when people were concerned about whether he was a Coors Field product (and aging a bit as well with large injury history), they signed Carlos Beltran to a team friendly deal… The Cardinals are just a very well run organization and they seem to do everything at the perfect time. The only problem i see now with them is Mike Matheny is a horrible tactical manager.

  2. SickOfObama
    June 11, 2013 at 7:01 am — Reply

    It is amazing we are wining with Matheny. Albert will enter the HOF as a Cardinal.

  3. Jeffrey North
    June 16, 2013 at 4:09 am — Reply

    My question would Albert have been a better hitter the past 2 years in St Louis? I say yes significantly better. The Cardinal coaching, clubhouse, ownership and fans create an outstanding environment conducive to player success. A long list of players that resurrected their careers in STL and most players with long tenure in MLB that played for Cards their best years were in STL…….remember Will Clark, Larry Walker, Ekstein….even a csse could be made for Beltran. Who truly believed he would be this good the past 2 seasons?

  4. Jeffrey North
    June 16, 2013 at 4:20 am — Reply

    Additionally Cards ownership/coaching knew they were stacked with pitching talent. They had to let one go and Lohse was the odd man out. I was absolutely certain Rosenthal was going to be a stud after watching him pitch last year in the playoffs. Actually the only bright spot from last years playoffs. If you don’t remember take a look at last years footage of Rosenthal against the Giants. I felt the same after watching Danny Haren which I will add the last horrible trade I remember from management, Haran for Moulder.

    • June 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm — Reply

      Great point. i agree. look across the Angels organization.. good walk rates are nearly non existent.. Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, Peter Bourjos, Mark Trumbo.. all are great examples of guys that don’t walk nearly enough. I think the Angels approach of see ball hit ball works better with younger players.

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