It’s easy to fall in love with an amazing baseball player, but what happens when the wheels begin falling off? I was a big Preston Wilson fan, a truly random player to follow and like, but when he blew up in both 2000 and 2003 for monster fantasy seasons, I was the one who had been on board the whole time. But what about the superstars? David Ortiz had a downfall, only to somewhat rebound to hit for lower averages with solid power and still very productive run producing. Looking back further, you can see where players totally fall apart.
That’s where Dale Murphy comes along and makes you wonder about Pujols terrible start. Murphy could have been considered the top player in baseball from 1982-1987. Then, 1988 came up, his age-32 season, and he was done. Sure, players were already taking steroids then, see Canseco/McGwire in Oakland, but this bad? From 1982-1987, Murphy averaged a .289 AVG, 29 2B, 36 HR, and 105 RBI. Then, from 1988 to 1993, Murphy was a shell of his former self, averaging a .234 AVG, 18 2B, 15 HR, and 56 RBI. He wasn’t close to his MVP-calibur seasons, but most importantly, he never came close to them again. Injuries and age caught up with him and he was limited to just 44 games in his last two seasons.
So, Albert Pujols and his .262/..329/.411 slash-line makes you wonder if this is the end. He is under a lot of pressure in a contract year, but this start isn’t helping his apparent need of a $300 million contract. Pujols’ typical season over his first ten year is a .320 AVG, 42 2B, 41 HR, and 123 RBI. His, well, poo-holes-like 2011 has him at just the .262 AVG, 5 2B, 9 HR, and 30RBI, which over a 162 game season, would be just a .262, 15 2B, 27 HR, and 88 RBI season. Dale Murphy’s dropoff season was a .226, 35 2B, 24 HR, and 77 RBI campaign.
These two players are not very alike in their approaches at the plate. Murphy had one season with an OBP over .400, while Pujols’ only season with a sub-.400 OBP was his 2nd season, 2002, at the age of 22, when he posted a .394 OBP (which would have been Murphy’s 2nd highest in his career if the numbers were switched). Don’t discount the falloff, but know that Pujols has the tools to overcome this start. When the ball starts flying in the summer heat of St. Louis, his numbers and free agent price tag will rise again.