The Machine: Stats Are Nice, But He Has Another Priority

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Updated: March 2, 2017

Even though the AngelsAlbert Pujols has not played in a Spring Training game yet, he has still participated in some BP on the side. At 37, he could easily be waiting until the health issues either someway, somehow go away, or at least until they become numb. Perhaps part of the reason he has occasionally been working on his swing still is due to a particular point The Machine himself addresses in a recent piece compiled by SI baseball writer Tom Verducci.

“‘I remember since I was a little boy, that’s one thing that I hated: striking out,’” Pujols says.

Pujols’ constant strive for excellence in the batter’s box is amazing because even if the stats in recent memory do not always reflect it, he is not constantly trying to hit behemothic moonshots like so many modern hitters are. Every at-bat he takes is a bit of an oxymoron. It is one of silent, but somehow deadly authority. His hands are just so quick reaction wise. Certainly, he remains so dang strong physique wise. Thus, the overall numbers speak for themselves even if he is not quite the same slugger he was in the National League. He is that close to 600/3000, which represent some of baseball’s most mystical figures. While Albert understands that his ethic links to his success, he is not the only one he links his abilities to.

“‘I mean, I’m not going to say I’m going to ignore it, because it’s not fair to say,’ Pujols says. ‘It’s a blessing and a lot of hard work. At the same time, I try not to think about it. God has given me a special career so far and I’m still playing and I want to finish strong in the five years that I have.’”

Stemming from what Verducci elaborates on in his story, the aforementioned silence of number 5’s accomplishments have unfortunately been overshadowed at times due to the 10-year pact. Needless to say, a decade commitment to anyone, even a figure as tantalizing as the first baseman/DH, is a rather risky move to execute. A lot of it (let alone the goals connected with winning) was done to drive business. Going into it, it was difficult to conceive of an Albert Pujols that could produce exactly the way he used to. To do so, in all honesty, is a bit unfair. One of the only (if not, the only) reason some fans grow impatient is on account of the investment. It is what it is.

He is still a maestro at his craft. The word maestro may not even cut it. Only four others according to Verducci have replicated Pujols’ HR/RBI totals from the prior three campaign: Edwin Encarnacion, Josh Donaldson, Nolan Arenado, and the recently retired David Ortiz. Not too shabby.

Granted he is not in his prime, the Angels’ star is still the type of guy you want at the plate. He has never had a single season where he has accumulated a three digit amount of K’s. Not even one. Stemming from what the SI piece reveals, Pujols’ low K rate is up there with some all-time legends. He has “whiffed in 9.98% of his plate appearances: Ted Williams (7.24%), Mel Ott (7.90%) and Aaron (9.92%).” That is incredible.

The ball player is also one of the best still with respect to two strike counts. These situations are oftentimes sticky situations for less experienced hitters. Heck, they are not always friendly to even some of the greater hitters. But, for Albert, it is a different tale.

“‘I just feel real comfortable with two strikes. I feel no pressure. Actually I feel like I’m a better hitter with two strikes if you break down my career with two strikes. I mean, I feel really, really comfortable with two strikes. I feel like the pressure is still on the pitcher and if he makes a mistake I’m ready to go.’”

This exemplifies how mentally tough Albert is to this day. He may not once again be precisely the same guy we all recollect from earlier in the century. He cannot necessarily tear seams off baseballs nearly as frequently. In spite of that, he is still a force to be reckoned with. The sheer fact that he is not affected when two strikes are on him showcases his desire to try to help his team come out on top. The following is also important to ponder when it comes to how good he still is in cases when there are RISP:

PLAYER PA AVG. K
Carlos Correa 209 .288 37
Albert Pujols 208 .309 19
Jose Abreu 207 .294 39
Edwin Encarnacion 198 .250 45

 

No one denies that Albert is in the lower slopes of his career. It is challenging, too, to construct a reasonable argument that justifies the money portion of the spiel. Pujols is still a monster nevertheless. Even if some of the superpowers have whittled away to some extent, he is still a character that opposing pitchers have nightmares about.

When the freakish numbers are tossed aside for a split second, though, Pujols’ concentration exists far beyond trying to have companies waste more ink typing in his production on the back of baseball cards. Tom Verducci brushes on this near the tail end of his composition. Albert has one priority, and it has zero relation to record shattering or anything along those lines.

“‘Hopefully I get another shot at the World Series and bring a championship back to the city of Anaheim. That’s my main goal.’”

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