What’s wrong with Albert Pujols?
That seems to be what every Cardinals fan, baseball fan or fantasy owner who drafted him first overall (myself included) has been wondering this year.
Here’s what I think: Pujols’ hamstring injury is bothering him way, way more than people realize.
Pujols came down with some “mild tightness” in his left hamstring on April 24. His pre- and post-hamstring injury numbers are telling.
Through April 24: .250/.306/.500, 7 HR in 98 PAs
Since April 24: .286/.372/.327, 0 HR, 113 PAs
See the difference? Yeah, the batting average is a little higher lately, but the power has disappeared. I wouldn’t freak out over a 100-PA sample, but these results are just the secondary evidence that confirm what I’m seeing (and what I’m sure a lot of people are seeing) from him at the plate.
Pujols strides with his left leg (duh). Normally, Pujols plants and stiffens his front leg, which is what allows the hips to rotate with force and generate power. Since his hamstring injury, he doesn’t seem to be firming his front leg any more. When a hitter swings with a bent front leg, it means his body doesn’t have a base from which to rotate forcefully, which means slower hip rotation and less power. The outcome is usually weak contact out front, which is what Pujols has been doing a heck of a lot lately from what I’ve seen and from what the numbers are showing.
Try it right now in your living room and you’ll see the difference. Land with your front leg bent, then land with it stiff. When you’re bent, you should feel your weight and your balance shift to your front foot. When you’re firm, you should be able to feel your weight staying back.
I watched every Pujols 2011 highlight video at MLB.com. Go there and you’ll see the difference yourself. Here’s Pujols hitting a home run on April 21, shortly before the hamstring injury, including the X-Mo replay. Then compare that to him driving in a run with a fly ball to center field on May 6 or hitting a two-run single in a 2-0 count on May 11. I’m not cherry-picking these clips; there aren’t any post-April 24 home runs to choose from, and you’ll see the difference in any of the videos. Watch his left leg and watch how much faster his hips fire in any of his pre-injury swings. You can’t miss it.
A Google News search for “Pujols hamstring” didn’t return much beyond the initial news of his injury, and a Twitter search for “Pujols hamstring” returned nothing, so unless I’m missing something (quite possible), it doesn’t seem like people are talking about this much.
I’m not around the team every day, but the bottom line is I think there’s a decent amount of evidence that suggests Pujols is more injured that he’s letting on, which is affecting his mechanics and taken away much of his power.
It’s at least worth talking about.