This is really belated, but it’s the offseason and we’re in dire need of something new and interesting, which this is.
Albert Pujols, still my favorite player even after his team-assisted exit of St. Louis, went through a well-publicized slump at the beginning of the 2012 season with the Angels. The slump unfairly defined Pujols’ season, and he was essentially forgotten by the national media one month into his Anaheim campaign.
The reasons given were legion. The pressure of a titanic new paycheck, a new ballpark, a new environment and maybe even lingering injuries were all cited as reasons, with the basic consensus settling on his switching leagues.
Some of these might have contributed. It’s understandable that a guy like Albert wants to make good when a team is so invested in him, and maybe the injuries he’s played with for years messed him up a little bit. But this is still Albert Pujols. He can take any pitcher deep in any park; and if most guys don’t have trouble transitioning leagues (why would they?), he certainly wouldn’t.
While hearing Nate Silver agree with the league transition hypothesis, I was reminded of an earlier theory I had had but hadn’t really researched.
When discussing Pujols’ slump with Strauss, Tony LaRussa brought up the fact that Pujols–well known as a family man–was “bothered deeply by the time spent away from family, which is in St. Louis until school is out for the summer.”
Ah-ha! I don’t know what school(s) his kids go to, but St. Louis public schools got out on May 24 last year. Lo and behold:
PUJOLS, APR 6–MAY 23
PUJOLS, May 24–OCT 3
Albert’s season hit it’s lowest low on May 20 and he never really came out of it until–guess when–May 24, when he went three-for-four with a homer.
I usually ignore those media-contrived speculative BS off-field explanations because it’s garbage almost every single time. But I’m not above thinking that that’s the case when faced with such evidence, specially given the close ties to family that our subject has.
Maybe it’s just a coincidence. But it makes more sense than saying the best hitter this side of Ted Williams suddenly lost his ability to hit because he changed leagues; especially when A) there is no distinction between the leagues’ pitching anymore and B) he blew up plenty of pitchers he’d never seen before when he finally went back to normal.