Entering his third season with the Los Angeles Angels, first baseman Albert Pujols has a lot on his plate in terms of things to prove.
First, there is the fact that Pujols by most standards has yet to produce at the consistently high level that earned him the lucrative 10-year, $254 million contract that he signed with the Halos prior to the 2012 season. The standards for that type of money may be ridiculously high, but if anybody could achieve it it was thought to be the former three-time NL MVP.
Secondly, Pujols is coming off a year ended abruptly last July due to a torn plantar fascia in his left foot that forced him to miss the last two months of the season. This also marked the first time in his 13-year career that he hit less than 30 home runs and just the second time that he had less than 100 RBIs.
All of this combined with the fact he did not get off on the right foot to start to the 2014 season — batting .167 (2-of-12) with no home runs, one RBI, one run scored and three strikeouts — gave the impression that he was heading further into decline. However, since the less than promising start Pujols has begun to produce with some consistency as he currently has a 10-game hitting streak that includes him hitting .285 (11-42) with four home runs, eight RBIs and seven runs scored over that span.
What has been most encouraging about his uptick in production at the plate has been the reemergence of his power. The 34-year-old has hit four home runs in the last six games that now has him on pace to hit 50 this season. Yes, that number may be a bit high to expect, especially at his age, but it is nonetheless a positive sign to see Pujols beginning to drive balls with his legs rather than his arms.
This was evident in Monday night’s game against the Oakland Athletics as the home run he hit was to left center field, which meant that Pujols used his lower body to drive the ball in that direction. As he continues to swing a hot bat, it will be more than welcomed with Josh Hamilton out for the next two months due to a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb. He will also need to make up for the lack of production from this past offseason’s acquisition in third baseman David Freese who is batting a meager .140 with one home run and three RBIs to go along with 11 strikeouts in 10 games played.
With a lack of consistent offensive support outside of Mike Trout and Raul Ibanez, Pujols must continue to produce as the Halos will need his presence in the lineup in order for the team to achieve any level of success this season.