It’s no secret that the savy manager can make or break his team with the buy low/sell high trade mantra. An extreme example is the trade I’ve just executed in my 12 team mixed keeper league. I was offered Joey Votto, Roy Halladay and a 3rd round pick in next years draft for Josh Hamilton and my 2nd rounder. This is an extreme example, and I think the planets alligned for it. The other owner loves Hamilton, and happens to not like Votto (I don’t know why) so the hot and cold starts of each player has worked to my favor.
The biggest name with the coldest start this season is Albert Pujols. Through 102 plate appearances this year he has 0 homers, 8 runs scored and 5 RBI. His .208/.255./.292 line is enough to make seasoned fantasy managers cringe and panic (at least on the inside… never let the other managers know you are afraid. You ALWAYS know more than them…even if you don’t, make them think you do). But this is where we come in with some sabermetric observations that may reveal a light at the end of the tunnel.
The first thing that jumps out at me is that Pujols has horrible plate discipline this year. He has a 0.43 BB/K ratio this year. His BB% is 5.9%, well off his 13% career mark. His K% is the highest it’s been since his rookie season. I think the root of this is just horrible plate discipline. Not only is he swinging at a career high percentage of pitches so far, he has never swung at more pitches outside the strike zone. His O-swing% is 41.4%, almost double his career mark while the Z-swing% is about 7 points off his career at only 58.1%. Despite all this, his Swinging Strike Rate is at his career mark (5.6%). So now we need to determine if the cause of this is just poor discipline or a product of what is being thrown at him.
Jonathan Scippa of Baseballanalytics.org ran some heat maps to illustrate Pujols’s struggles this season. Looking at them I take away that his slump is self induced. pitchers are throwing him the same way as in years past, he just appears to be pressing.
Once he can relax (easier said than done) he should return to be Pujols we know and love the rest of the season. ZiPS (R) thinks so too, pegging him for 28 HR’s over the rest of the way, albeit with a .291 AVG.