It is no secret that Albert Pujols has been a shell of his former self since signing on with the Angels before the 2012 season. Ever since he started wearing his halo, all facets of his once legendary game have mostly deteriorated and begun trending in the wrong direction. It can be seen in his decreased walk rate, increased strikeout rate, inability to hit for over a .300 AVG, slowing down on the base paths, a decrease in power, and nagging injuries that affect his aging body.
However, Prince Albert is bucking one of those trends this season as he hit his 9th HR in the last 13 games to give him a total of 17 HR through 57 games played on the season. This surge of power is an extremely great sight to see as he continues to climb up the all-time HR leaders list, and it in fact ties his best 13 game stretch of HR in his whole career. Back in 2006, Pujols also had a 13 game stretch where he hit 9 HR, and in fact he made it 10 HR in the 14th game. And in that 2006 season he ended up hitting 49 HR, which is the most that he has ever hit in a single season. So the fact that Pujols is going head-to-head with his career best HR season is an incredible feat for him to do 9 years later as a 35-year old.
It is unlikely that he continues this pace and finishes the season nearing his single season best in HR, but at this point we aren’t looking for Pujols to perform like the Pujols that was so amazing in the first decade of the new millennium. Instead, we as baseball enthusiasts just want to see him be better than he has been since donning the Angel uniform, so that he can continue to set his name in stone as one of the greatest players ever in an era that has been so widely publicized and tainted as a PED era.
Pujols is also unlikely to hit for a .300 AVG even though he still remains one of the better hitters in the game at putting the ball in play. The reason for that is as he has gotten older, he has become much less adept at using the opposite field. From 2002-2008, Pujols finished each season hitting the ball to the opposite field anywhere from 20.7% of the time to 26.1%. But from 2009-2014, his single season rates ranged from 14.5% to 19.3%, and his opposite field this season currently sits at 16.7%. Not hitting the ball to the opposite field as much as he did in his prime years means that the opposing defenses are able to use defensive shifts on him a lot more, which takes away both the left side of the infield and up the middle. Couple that with his serious decline in foot speed, and we have a player that is going to continue to post below average BABIP’s to give his batting average a low ceiling.
But the good thing about Pujols is that even if he’s not performing up to his previous levels, his “below average” stats are still better than a lot of players around the league. So while we would love to see him still be the beast that he once was, this version isn’t so terrible. Is he worth the salary that the Angels are paying him and will be paying him for the next six seasons? Most certainly not. But in fantasy baseball, that is not really much of our concern. If he can stay in good health, then he will continue to find ways to be a productive player.
Now let’s check out the rest of Thursday’s action.
Wil Myers – 0 for 5, 1 R, 1 BB, 2 K. Myers was activated from the DL on Thursday but didn’t have much of an impact. He resumed his unconventional leadoff role and should provide the Padres offense with a boost that they seem to need after a hot start.
Andrew Cashner – 6.2 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 1 K. Cashner has really struggled with his control in the last two starts with 9 walks (and just 3 K) in 12.1 IP. Things were really looking up for him when I recommended him as a trade target, but things have surely gone awry for the Padres hurler. Control has not been an issue for Cashner over the last two seasons, and despite his last two ugly starts he still has a better than average walk rate of 2.70 BB/9. He’ll have to start locating better to get through this rough patch.
Freddie Freeman – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R. Freeman is enjoying a nice season hitting .304 with 11 HR, 37 RBI, and 39 R. Freeman is in the top 10 in the league in line drive rate and hard hit rate, so the .366 BABIP is very believable.
Julio Teheran – 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K. Teheran had another decent game and is showing very, very slow progress. The walks weren’t great though since that seems to be his primary issue this season. He pitches at Boston next.
Giovanny Urshela – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R, 1 K. Urshela launched his first Major League HR on Thursday, but like I said the other day, he’s not a super great hitting prospect and I project him to be league average at his position.
Shaun Marcum – 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K with the W. The veteran Marcum has been a decent pitcher for the Indians since joining the rotation, and this matchup on Thursday for him was a great one. The Mariners are already a poor offensive unit overall being the lowest scoring team in the American League, but take away Nelson Cruz from the lineup on a rountine day off and the likelihood of the Mariners getting shutout increases ten fold. Marcum improved to 3-1 with a 4.09 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and 30 K/10 BB in 33 IP. He is a decent streaming option in the right spots like this one, but he’s also been very susceptible to injury over the last few seasons.
Chi Chi Gonzalez – 7 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 4 K with the L. Gonzalez allowed his first run of the season on Thursday, but even though it was the only run, he still was handed a loss. He could continue to be a mystery to opposing offenses in his first tour around the league, but my outlook on him for this season and the future isn’t great. The strikeout to walk ratio of 10 K/8 BB in 21.2 IP is very uninspiring, and the chances of his ERA getting blown up in his next start are pretty high with a date against the Dodgers who absolutely destroy right-handed pitching.
Billy Burns – 2 for 3, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 BB. Burns is holding steady with a .313 AVG and 11 SB through 36 games played. If for some weird reason he’s still unowned in your league, then you really need to play in more of a competitive league. I loved him as a very deep sleeper this season as I drafted him in a startup dynasty league, so it’s great to see him developing before our eyes.
Josh Reddick – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB. Like his teammate Burns, Reddick is also producing strongly with a .312 AVG, 9 HR, 36 RBI, 27 R, and 3 SB. But most impressive is that he still is maintaining more walks than strikeouts, and the decrease in his strikeouts is the driving force to his high batting average. This low strikeout rate of 10.2% could guide Reddick to his first .300 AVG season of his career and I wouldn’t expect him to tail off too much in that department.
Scott Kazmir – 8 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K with the W. Kazmir left his start a two starts ago with a minor shoulder injury and then struggled in his next start with the injury still possibly lingering. But on Thursday, Kazmir showed no ill effects and was on top of his game to turn in his best start of the season. You can never be too certain with Kazmir when it comes to health, but he’s been a pretty reliable pitcher the last couple of years and should keep on producing well as long as he is not on the DL. Kazmir improved to 3-4 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 67 K/28 BB in 71 IP, and in the last year of a 2-year contract for a last place team, he could be pitching in new digs this summer.
David Ortiz – 1 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Big Papi is having a really disappointing year and he finally hit his first HR since May 19. Ortiz had performed surprisingly very well in his mid and late 30’s but now that he is on the brink of turning 40, it seems that he is finally losing a step and things could be coming to an end soon. At just a 32.9% hard hit rate, Ortiz is just not driving the ball with any authority — his career rate is 39.8% and he was at 45.0% the last two seasons. On the season, he is hitting .220 with 7 HR and 22 RBI, and though some improvement should come, a big time turnaround to revert to his levels of the last two seasons is not looking too likely.
Manny Machado – 2 for 4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R. The Macho Man continues his breakout season and is now hitting .274 with 10 HR, 26 RBI, 33 R, and 8 SB, and he is really performing nicely as the leadoff hitter for the Orioles. Snap into a Slim Jim, OOOOHHH YEAAAAH!!
Adam Jones – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB. Jones keeping pace with Machado in the HR category with his 10th HR as well. He’s been one of the most consistent performers over the last 4 seasons and that’s not going to change this year.
Adeiny Hechavarria – 3 for 5, 1 R. Hechavarria has been unexpectedly hitting over .300 for most of the season and things are still not quite adding up to support that with his soft hit rate being up and hard hit rate being down, and not a huge enough increase (1.5%) in his line drive rate to merit the big jump to a .351 BABIP. His AVG should come down toward the .280 vicinity eventually, and with very little power and speed he will soon no longer be that attractive of an option in fantasy.
Giancarlo Stanton – 2 for 5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R, 2 K. Mike drop. It was Stanton’s 9th HR in the last 12 games. Chris Rusin struck out Stanton 4 times in a row last week at Coors Field, so Stanton got some redemption here. He now has 22 HR.
David Phelps – 8 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K with the W. Phelps and Chris Rusin squared off against each other last week at Coors Field, but Phelps got completely rocked there and Rusin was the one who pitched the gem. It was a role reversal on Thursday with the Marlins playing host and Phelps pitching a brilliant game. However, Phelps is nothing more than a league average starting pitcher so not a whole lot should be expected of him.
Mike Trout – 3 for 5, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 R, 1 K. Mike kept up with his teammate Pujols by blasting his 17th ball that went Troutta here. The 36 HR that he hit last year seemed a little on the high side, but he’s definitely on pace to match or beat that this year.
Garrett Richards – 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K with the W. Richards bounced back from the obliteration he suffered last week in New York. He still can’t be expected to perform close to the level he was at last year as his velocity remains down and his control is currently lost.
Miguel Montero – 2 for 3, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 R, 1 BB, 1 K. Back to back games with 3-run bombs for the Cubs catcher.
Hector Rondon – 1 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 K with the SV. Rondon worked around a single to close out a 3-run lead for the save on Thursday. The closer situation for the Cubs has been a carousel over the last week, so we’ll have to take this game with a grain of salt. And once Rafael Soriano joins the Cubs after the All-Star break, things will get even cloudier.