Brown starts by saying that Phat Albert is still not 100 percent recovered from his offseason knee surgery, even though he's not making excuses about that, and wouldn't let that keep him off the field anyway.
He knew this winter his knee would need seven to nine months to recover fully. He knew an achy knee would irritate any lingering foot issues. He knew this would be an important season.And, he's right. Pujols came back to spring training earlier than expected. That said, even though the Angels have been giving him 50-50 time at DH vs 1B so far this year, one wonders if he doesn't need a day off a bit more often than he's been getting. Maybe like a catcher, give him off a day game after a night game. And maybe, Albert needs to accept that he's hurting both team and himself for the longer-term if he doesn't take advantage of any such decisions/offers that Mike Scioscia might make.
"The only way I wouldn't play," he says, "is if you chopped my leg off."
That said, his April stats this year were better than last year's splits. So, he's not "pressing," and he has done a lot of adjusting to AL pitching. Now, it's just a question of how much he heats up, and when.
At the same time, I think he may be done on the 40HR per year club. It does seem Anaheim may be a touch more of a pitchers' park than Busch was/is in St. Louis. Add in aging, and nagging injuries. That said, if he could have something like last year's 30 HRs and 50 doubles, but with a batting average at .300 (let alone above) and do something like that for the next 2-3 years, then he has at least partially reclaimed the mantle of his old self.
In other words, if he could bat like his 2011 St. Louis lines, albeit with fewer HRs and more doubles, and do so through 2015, the Angels would take it. Even Prince Albert might grudgingly accept it.
I think that's still reasonable. More than that doesn't seem likely.
At the same time, only once before 2011, and that was in 2007, did Pujols exhibit a "slow start." Is this a new normal? Does it show he takes a bit longer to bounce back in offseasons?
On the other hand, as I update this nearly a month after posting it, Pujols is still below .250. As Jonah Keri notes, not just a slow start, but a definite decline, may indeed be the new normal.
And, of course to my original of course, two weeks later, or less, Pujols is now above .265 and has more than 40 RBIs. He's got a shot at 30 HRs and 40 doubles, and of 100 RBIs and finishing with a higher BA than last year's .285. He also seems to have cut down on strikeouts and started taking more walks. He could get back to 2011 levels this year in at least having more BBs than Ks.
So, no, don't quite give up on him yet.
In fact, let's say that he finishes June at .272 on the season, and while he's not quite as hot for the second half of the year as he's been for this month, he bats .312 from July on.
That puts him at .292 on the season. If he pushes it a bit more, he could hit the .299 of 2011. Get his slugging for the season up to .465 by the end of the month. Give him .535 for the second half and it's .500 for the season. With more walks, give him a year-end OBP of .370. And, we have an OPS of .905 in a place that's a bit more of a pitcher's park than Busch. His RBI and run totals should at least match last year's.
So, a 2011 Pujols, in spite of his injuries, could still emerge.
In fact, Prince Albert himself says he's emerging right now. Pujols says he made a mechanical adjustment a couple of weeks ago which has taken stress off his right knee, the one that saw offseason surgery. The CBS writer is skeptical, but, maybe he shouldn't be. As I noted, he's walking a bit more and he's cut down on strikeouts. Whether that's all due to this adjustment, or part of it involves other things, I don't know.