March 06, 2014

I'm still bullish on Pujols

I still think Albert Pujols can be a productive part of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Encino and other places. "Productive" meaning, while he will be second banana to Mike Trout in terms of value, he will be well ahead of Josh Hamilton and second banana to nobody else.

I expect him to be fully healed at the start of this season, and see his early exit from last year as a blessing in disguise. Add in his willingness to take a semi-rest on a few days by DH-ing, and I would not be totally surprised if the Angels get, if not the 2011 Pujols of last year with the Cardinals and World Series bopping fame, at least a Pujols halfway between that year and 2012, his first year with the Angels.

And, I'm not alone on that. Per this profile piece by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, it's clear that Haloes manager Mike Scioscia feels good about Prince Albert this year too.

I'm sure the Angels would like even better than this. But, let's start at the low end, and ask what a 2011/12 hybrid Pujols would look like. That's 95 runs, 105 RBIs, 40 doubles, 33 HRs, about a .292 BA, .355 OBP, .535 SLG, .890 OPS and 144 OPS+. On the basic advanced stat, that's 4.3 oWAR and 5.2 WAR.

That's minimally realistic.

Turning to Fangraphs on him, Steamer projects him a bit lower and Oliver a lot lower. I'm not buying it.

The main thing that Albert needs to learn is to unlearn. He started chasing more balls with the Angels, whether through "pressing" in 2012, bat speed decline worries, some combination, perhaps a combo of that with the plantar fasciitis woes, or yet other things.

If he will walk at at least something halfway between his 2011 and 2012 rates, that will make a difference indeed. If his walks are at least even with his K's, which I think possible indeed, then he can hit his 2011 numbers.

In fact, I'll give 50-50 odds on him hitting or passing .910 OPS and 150 OPS+. If he does that, he's going to have 5.5 total WAR and at least 4.5 oWAR. And, I'll give a 25 percent chance that he is at 6 WAR overall and 5 oWAR.

Some of this depends on where he's at in the order, and on how much fellow ex-Cardinal David Freese rebounds and on what a Kole Calhoun does in a full year at the plate. A bit of a rebound from Erick Aybar would help, too.

Plus, as Crasnick also notes, 30 taters from Pujols puts him in the top 20 all time, and past such first basemen as Lou Gehrig, Fred McGriff, Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, and Eddie Murray. That would leave him at No. 18. A 43-HR season, which I don't think is likely, shoots him past Jimmie Foxx, and 45 puts him past Mickey Mantle.

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