Chinks in Prince Albert's Plate Mail


Pujols is a mortal lock for the HOF.  That's point A.  In 2006-09, he showed us all what Lou Gehrig must have looked like.  2006-09 was one of baseball's all-time great offensive detonations.


But Dr. D had Pujols on his roster during the 2011 season.  On a day-to-day basis, Dr. D watched carefully as the post-30 Pujols showed him something rather less than Lou Gehrig.

Here are Albert's SLG numbers as he has aged from 32 to 34 ... er, 29 to 31:

29 .658 SLG
30 .596 SLG
31 .548 SLG

And his OPS+, once a reliable 180-190, is now 150.

When we last saw Albert, in August and September, he was slugging .560.  That's over his last 53 games, the last 1/3 of a season.  The numbers 560, and 660, are two different numbers.

If Albert Pujols were to SLG 660 for the LA Angels, I'd be emotionally very nervous too.  If he is only going to slug 560 in his 30's, well, that just doesn't mean the end of the division for me.  Fans think of Albert as the 660 SLG hitter.   Fans think, wow, the Angels just landed the 2008-09 Pujols.  But have they?

Albert Pujols, slugging 660, has been a force of nature.  It is not clear that the Angels are getting that player.


=== Not Just Sour Grapes ===

Though the grapes are, admittedly, pretty sour on this announcement.  :- )   It's Dr. D's job to info-tain with an emphasis toward (not a bias toward) the good news.  So, here is some more good news.

The American League transition can't be waved off easily.  The interleague results have the AL winning, what about 90 games for every 72 that they lose?  Pujols is, in fact, moving up half a league.  He never did slug .660 in the American League.  Nobody does!

Pujols' awesome 2006-09 performances, by such impressive margins over the rest of the league, would have been different in the AL.  Sure, he still would have slugged .600 rather than .660.  But if he'd done that, he wouldn't have quite the mystique that he's had in the NL.  

Raised in the AL, Pujols might not have risen to heights greater than (say) one of the best three or four hitters in the league.  He might have simply been another Manny, or ARod, or Cabrera, or maybe even simply been a Josh Hamilton.

Here are Pujols' interleague results since his last Gehrig season, that being 2009:

2010 15 games, 64 PA .275 / .422 / .431
2011 6 games, 26 PA .348 / .438 / .565 (not 665)

So, post-Gehrig, Albert has hit about .300 / .425 / .475 in a month's worth of interleague play.


=== I'd Take Fielder ===

Assuming I could get him, obviously.  At $200M you don't want to be rolling dice, and I believe that Pujols is more of a dice roll than Fielder is.

There have been a number of pundits who have, quietly, remarked that they would prefer Prince Fielder to Albert Pujols -- Fielder being 28, and Albert being 34.  Er, 32.

Fielder would be coming to the AL, also, but if he came to Safeco he would be moving to a park hugely biased towards him.


Albert Pujols is Albert Pujols.  :- )   He's still a great hitter.  His PX's, his EYE, his everything are still real strong.  He's #11 on's vote on all-time hitters (though 28th in WAR).

We're not saying that he's Raul Ibanez.

My question -- my concern, not my prediction -- is merely whether he's going to drop off to a 150 OPS+.  ... very honestly, if he were coming to Seattle I would have a bit of a queasy feeling as to just how much of his 2009 NL game he was bringing with him.  I bet you would too.

The Angels' 10-year deal is something of a reach.  I think they realize that they may be getting a .550 slugger.  But!, hey, WAR contracts are not linear.  Stars are worth disproportionately more.  

Even if the Angels are getting a .320 / .380 / .550 hitter, they're still getting a whale of a lot of production -- and they are keeping 24 other roster spots clear while they do it.

The Angels might not be getting Lou Gehrig, but they're getting a legit Star, an MVP candidate, for $25M per.  In today's game, that's about par for the course.


Dr D





they're just looking at the Mariners to see if THEY are.
There is no denying that the landscape of the competition has changed underneath Jack's feet. The Mariners wring their hands, squirm, and look back over their shoulder at a few ill-advised but hardly mammoth contracts, all the while debating over whether they should go the extra mile to improve MLB's worst offense while one of the teams they are chasing just trumped them AFTER swallowing Well's large, unproductive contract the previous year. While the M's squirmed, the Angels upped the ante.
The angst being felt is not any sign of quit in the fans (here, at least), it's a sign of concern that the Mariners front office has been exposed as pipsqueaks in a land of giants. Or to change the metaphor, the Mariners have had us wandering through the wilderness for eight years preparing to enter the promised land, and just as we appear to be on the cusp of reaching it the spies come back and tell us the Anakim dominate the land. And us fans wonder, are Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong courageous Moses and Joshua, or are they fearful, hoarding Achans at Ai?


CJ Wilson is a good pitcher.
Do I think Wilson is a better pitcher than, say, Michael Pineda or Danny Hultzen?
I don't, no.
Do I think Pujols age 32-ish to 40 is better than Fielder age 28-36?  I don't.
Aging Pujols is residing where Prime Fielder lives.
The Angels haven't blown us out of the water yet...but they ARE pushing more chips into the pot to call Texas's bluff and find out if we want to fold out of the hand.
If we run out for 2012 with adding a 95 OPS+ pitcher and a 110 OPS+ hitter and calling our jobs done, I'll be, as Mr. Zorg says, VERY disappointed.
It's time.  I know Sandy and some others don't think so, but it's time.
Push in those chips, Jack, and smile like a shark.   We have 3 of the top 15 pitchers in the minors coming up to reinforce the rotation, and at least 2 young future All-Stars in the lineup.
Drop off a thousand pound gorilla on the doorstep so we can wade into this fight fully armed.


At times we turn 20 degrees left and address the blog-o-sphere.  ;- )
The think-tankers here have demonstrated their hearty attitudes and well-balanced senses of proportion.  A "take heart, lads" call from the bow isn't meant to imply that anybody had pitched his cutlass overboard.
There's some passion in these three posts, ignited mostly by the Big Blog call for us to tip over our King.


What would we do withoutcha G.  Coming from you it tends to gold-seal the point of view.


The primary post-Pujols post that went up over There chapped my hide too. The "sun'll come out TOMORROW...or the year after that, or the year after that...or..."


Is that this derails The Committee's plan to play it safe and aim for the 2nd wildcard with an undermanned lineup while counting on injuries on other teams to pave the way to sneaking in the back door to "success."
I hope Jack gets to walk up to them, knock on the conference room door and say, "I told you so.  Now can I get the checkbook please so that I can do what needs to be done?"
And that The Committee gulps, hands him the book with hands a-tremblin' and he gets the freedom to put this thing together as a contender instead of an also-ran.

Taro's picture

Another thing to consider along with age: MLB starts HGH blood testing this spring.
A few years back Pujols' personal trainer was caught referring amphetamines, anabolic steroids and human growth hormone to players.
I'd be really scared of a sudden collapse.


Don't get me wrong.....I'm not advocating  that we drop the Fielder chase, but there is more than one way to skin a cat.
From '69-'73, the Mets had 5 straight winning seasons, went to two World Series, and won one of those.
In a 12 team league, they finished 9th, 9th, 8th, 9th and 11th in runs scores. The first and last of those were WS years.  They also finished 2nd, 1st, 1st, 5th, and 2nd in runs allowed.
Maybe a poor example, maybe not.  But not acquiring Fielder does not mean the M's can't compete and win, nor does it mean they have chucked in the towel.
There are other players that could be acquired that would help skin this cat.    Perhaps the acquisitions would take some creativity, but they exist out there.
What would Ethier in CF and Smith in LF vs. RHP do for this team?  It would mean that you would field a lineup potentially better than the Angels. 
Given the predictably productive nature of the M's staff, might that not be a winning/challenging/play-off team. 
Stuff like that exists.  Fielder is much more pretty, but let's not hang our head if we don't get the shiney bauble that we want.
Even though I quite like the young guys we have, if we completely stand pat now, that would be a waving of the white flag.  Then feel free to do all the "woe is me" that you want.
Interesting times.


I'd love to have Pujols -- great, great hitter -- but he'd be an awfully nervous 10-year deal.  
Nowhere near as risk-free as AGone, Cabrera, or ARod IMHO.

Taro's picture

Actually would be more nervous about those guys than Fielder. ARod is a known roider. Cabrera and AGone are sketchy. Fielder seems to have to most natural build of the four (although who knows).
AGone had very favorable BABIP last year and extremely high IBBs the couple years preceeding. I feel hes a bit overrated and signed to several decline years.
If Cabrera, AGone, and ARod were FAs this season I'd personally avoid all three. Too much to risk on a gamble that they aren't cycling on HGH/steroids.
In that sense, Fielder is probably about as safe of a gamble for a top slugger that I can think of off the top of my head.


 But not acquiring Fielder does not mean the M's can't compete and win, nor does it mean they have chucked in the towel.

True, the M's don't need specifically Fielder. But if he signs with another team, and the M's answer is to go for someone like Carlos Pena then call it an offseason..... well, then they have most certainly "chucked in the towel."
This team, as it stands today, is not close to a contender for even the Wild Card. We need a major offensive upgrade to get on an even playing field talent-wise, and perhaps more importantly to send a message to the players, fans, and the rest of the league that there's still a season to be played. If the M's open the season with Mike Carp as their big power bat, the #1 draft pick hunt will be more relevant than division rankings.
Very reasonable to expect the players to bear down and overachieve, and contention is still a possibility. But first the front office needs to give them a fighting chance.


Also, going waaaaay back - Pujols spent his 2000 season hitting a respectable, but unextraordinary, .324/.389/.565 at Low-A. He was pushed up to Hi-A for the final month, and was somewhat overmatched, hitting .284/.341/.481.
The very next season, he skips straight to the majors and hits .329/.403/.610.
Either...(a) The newest Angel made a deal with the devil(b) Pujols discovered Babe Ruth's secret serum(c) Something's rotten in Denmark


It doesn't so much matter whether he juiced or not in the past... The important thing going forward is that he will not be able to juice. No career extending, injury nullifying fountain of youth will be available. Unless he has superhuman genes w/r/t aging *in addition to* his superhuman strength and hand eye coordination he's definitely going to feel the effects of aging.


The front office can give the M's a fighting chance w/o shelling out $160M (or there-abouts) for Fielder.
But business is business, guys.  If the M's see $160M invested in Fielder as bringing no significant return, then why would you expect them to do it?  Because they owe it to us?
There are lots of teams out there who aren't playoff teams next year and they aren't bidding on Fielder and it doesn't mean the front office has no desire to win next year or any time soon.  It just means that Fielder's cost is too steep for their budget/plan/vision.
Evidently the Angels had a ton of cash to toss around.  More power too them.  It might be boatloads of cash well spent, it might not help them win a pennant or a World Series at all. 
I think that if we get too critical of the M's because they refuse to put 160 (or whatever) million eggs in one basket then we're forgetting the risk that such a move entails, as well.
I hope we sign Fielder, but if we don't there are still ways we can win.  Refusing to spend all that cash for one player is less concerning to me than paying a lot of stupid cash to Figgins or Silva. 
Thumbs up for signing him, if he fits the M's cash plan.....or if it can be stretched to fit him. 

Taro's picture

Look no further than Brett Boone and Barry Bonds.. If Pujols is being sincere and is really 32.. That deal starts looking pretty good for the Angels.
Another scary thought is that the Angels now have the #2 payroll in the game and in a few years their TV revenue is going to more than double.
Texas isn't going anyway soon either and I have a feeling they're going to make a very strong play for Darvish. Their TV deal that starts in 2015 will pay them $80mil annually. Currently they make $17-20mil a year in TV revenue. Its going to do more than quadruple.
The Mariners are going to pretty much go all in  (I'm talking a $140-150mil payroll within the next two years) or they have to prepare to be buried for the next decade. Patience and responsibility is simply not going to cut it in this division anymore.


That actually demonstrates the point.  Bonds was a human experimental juicing lab and Boone was probably juicing as well.  Take away the pharmacology and what happens to their ability to play every day?  To their longevity?


In 2011, Tampa slashed its payroll by $30 million ... dropping from $71 to $41 million.  They would dump:
Carlos Pena - $10 million
Carl Crawford - $10
Pat Burrell - $9
Rafael Soriano - $7.25
Jason Bartlett - $4
Dan Wheeler - $3.5
Matt Garza - $3.35
Not only was that a bunch of payroll ... that was IN ORDER, their 7 highest paid players from the playoff team of 2010.  The Rays were accused of bagging the season by many. 
They picked up a cheap Manny (briefly).  But, their "big" move was Johnny Damon at $5.25 million.  Followed by Kelly Shoppach at $3.
Z was castigated for Kotchman at 1B.  But Kotchman is the 1B who carried Tampa into the playoffs ahead of Boston and AGON.  How?  Because Tampa developed guys like Zobrist and Longoria and Upton and Joyce and Fuld.
You *CAN* rebuild without spending huge.
*BECAUSE* Tampa opted to slash payroll of their 'pricey' aging players, not only did they make the playoffs in 2011 ... they positioned themselves much better for potentially hanging onto those cheap home grown guys (Longoria, Zobrist, et al), that got them there.
It doesn't require lots of money to "get" good.  It requires lots of money to "stay" good.

Taro's picture

Sure, but Tampa had something like 9 straight #1 picks. Thats one method the Ms could do if they tank until 2020, but it would kill the fanbase.
The biggest problem is the vast difference in revenue streams between the Ms and the division that is going to significantly widen once these TV deals start coming in. The Angels are becoming a second Yankees.
I wouldn't be suprised to see even more inflation in the future with the type of money in the game now. Anaheim took a risk, but a very calculated risk. Once everyone has their new TV deals, the FA market is going to look silly.
Basically, IMO the Ms can strike in the next couple years or choose to accumulate draft picks for the next decade.


I guess to me recommending that someone “do it the way the Rays have done it” is about as easy as “do it the way the Yankees do it.”  The Yankees outspend everyone, the Rays out-prospect everyone.
Which they can do because they kept trading their good talent for more picks, only recently ponying up the cash to keep some of it.
Between 1998 and 2007 they never finished with more than 70 wins and 5 times had 99 or more losses.  That’s a solid decade to rack up some draftpicks, especially since they traded any of them when they got expensive.  Trading Crawford and Kazmir…if we want to trade Pineda and Ackley in a few years  then we, too, can recoup a ton of assets.
They changed the rules on compensation picks partly because the Rays were building an army of prospects (smartly) that way.
But the Royals and the Pirates have been trying to do it “the Rays way” for many years now, to terrible effect.  If the young arms of the Rays had all blown out the way the young arms of the Pirates did, we wouldn’t be talking about a Rays Way to do things.  There’s as much luck involved in relying on the farm as there is in paying for free agents.  The good thing about the farm is that if a farmhand fails its very cheap to replace them.
The bad thing is that there’s a finite number of great prospects in a system at any one time, and you may not reach critical mass with the ones you’ve got before you start losing them prior to the next wave being ready to contribute at a high level.
On the one hand, you’ve scoffed at those who believe a farmhand needs to come up and contribute immediately or he’s a failure.  OTOH, forcing the farm to produce all your WAR means that you can’t afford to wait around forever for them to have breakthroughs, because most of those breakthroughs need to happen at the same time to achieve critical mass.
Sure, maybe Vinne Catricala is the next Jose Bautista – but it took Bautista 6 years to become a monster.  We don’t have 6 years.  I don’t think it’s a crime to want to compete now, and if Ackley has more than a little Edgar in him then getting him some help BEFORE we “almost” do something would be nice.
“Hey, now that we’ve won 90 we can start spending” also means “hey, now that we’ve flushed one shot at 95 wins and a world series…”
Gotta figure out how close your roster is to some sort of success and how big a window you’re planning on.  Fielder is not just here for 2012, he's here for 2012-2019.  Maybe you don't want him here in 2019, but I sure do want him here before that to help lengthen and broaden that window.
Like you said, though, opinions vary.

Taro's picture

I don't disagree with Sandy's logic. A few weeks ago I agreed we should stay away from Fielder.
Then Angels just made us realize that this is a different game now. The money in this game is rising.
You simply can't compete with the Yankees/Angels/Red Sox/(Rangers soon) payrolls and on-field product unless you have a crazy string of great talent and luck coming through the pipe (Rays) or start playing the same game.
Our young talent is not so superior to that of the Angels and Rangers. Our MLB team is vastly inferior. Our revenue streams are vastly inferior and the gap will get signficantly worse for the rest of the decade unless we start winning ASAP.


We are left with the choice, retreat in fear, or fight for the future with courage and daring. And right now, the fight is not fair. The problem is, it does the M's no good to complain about the situation. And after all, it is them who created it. In the aftermath of 2001 they thought they had the time to count beans. It turns out they did not have as much time as they thought. The competition has now seized them by the throat and threatened them with irrelevance. History is full of the carcasses of those who made a similar miscalculation.


They looked at the game and said the game has changed into one of finding young, cheap talent, undervalued talent. And they were right. So they obtained and deployed the services of a top-notch evaluator and assembler of young, cheap talent. Howard and Chuck turn over the reins to Jack and said, "Build us a franchise." And then stepped back and resumed counting beans.
Meanwhile, the Angels, had an entirely different gig going. Arte Moreno isn't interested in winning efficiency games. He wants to change the game. So instead of hiring an efficiency and talent expert, stepping aside, and figuring his part of the job is done, he rolls up his sleeves and gets involved in altering the assumptions of the equation.
History has turned on the M's. Their gambit is designed for what has suddenly become a bygone era. They'd better do some MAJOR redesigning. And they'd better do it fast. And they'd better do it right.
The young, cheap talent on the farm will help make starting this process possible, but going forward all of a sudden this asset it is no longer enough to ensure competitiveness.
I'm not sure we've yet absorbed the paradigm shift that the Angels' bombshell has introduced. Maybe I'm wrong on this, but that's my sense of things.
The M's haven't been out-GM'd. They've been out-ownered.

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