This is the type of production the Los Angeles Angels were looking for from Albert Pujols when they signed him to a 10-year, $254 million contract in December of 2011.
Pujols is swinging the bat the way they were hoping he would in a Angels’ uniform, as he blasted a pair of home runs that included his 500th career home run in the Halos’ 7-2 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night that brought them back to a .500 record at 10-10 on the season. The 34 year old has been everything and more for the Halos, as he leads the league with eight home runs, tied for second in the American League with 19 RBIs, and has the highest slugging percentage (.619) in the entire MLB through 20 games played.
His high level of production this early on in the season has been an encouraging sign, given that Pujols had missed the last two months of last year due to a torn plantar fascia in his left foot. He had initially struggled at the plate to start the year, as he was batting .167 (2-for-12) through the first three games played. He has since picked up the slack offensively, as he has collected hits in 16 out of the last 18 games that include a 10 and five-game hitting streak with all eight of his home runs and 18 of his RBIs coming in that span.
This brings up the question, how is Pujols playing at a MVP-type level?
It is because he is finally comfortable and most importantly healthy. Over the past few seasons, Pujols had been dealing with bothersome plantar fascia in both of his feet, and it all came to a head last season when he suffered the injury. This forced him to take a break off his feet and let his body rest. He now appears to be feeling healthy, as evident by not only his bat, but also by his leather. His strong start to the season is indicative to his great bill of health, and if he can remain, for the most part, injury-free throughout the season, there is no question that he can continue to play as such as high level.
The Angels will need Pujols to continue to swing the bat the way he has over the past couple of weeks in order for the Halos to remain competitive in the AL West division, which also features the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers. The former three-time NL MVP’s production has shielded the lack of consistent hitting from offseason acquisition David Freese (.136 BA and 19 strikeouts in 16 games) and the absence of Josh Hamilton in the lineup.
Pujols is hitting on all cylinders right now, but there will come a time where he may get into an offensive funk, and that will be when the other guys outside of Mike Trout, who will step up when needed, as he has proven in the past, must start swinging the bat with consistency. Baseball is not an individual sport, as one player can only do so much to help his team win.
Ultimately, Pujols must lead the charge, but he will need his teammates to produce. Otherwise, the Halos’ hopes of making the playoffs this season will stay a dream rather than become a reality.