According to our Fantasy Baseball Player Rater, Albert Pujols is our #3 first baseman (#17 overall) – prior to Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto, in that order, with others dispersed in between. I’m selling Pujols for any one of these guys, for sure, but I’d also accept Justin Morneau, Brandon Belt, Edwin Encarnacion, perhaps Matt Adams and maybeeee Prince Fielder, contingent on who else can be had.
Here is exactly what you can say to your league-mate(s): “Bro/Brethren, Pujols is back. Plus, look at the .240 BABIP – that is going to shoot up!”
But this post is what I really think. Feel free to comment below with the offers you see for him or request for him, and I’ll offer my feedback, which will often be “do it”, and here is why:
First, let’s look at his discipline/contact related statistics:
|Total||- – -||8669||9.70%||85.70%||5.90%|
Let’s get this straight– His actual K-rate is back to pre-2011 levels, but his peripheral contact and swinging strike rates are continuing to drop-off… Expect his K-rate to be much closer or worse than his career 9.7%.
And here are his zone/contact related stats:
|Total||- – -||8669||52.20%||47.50%||23.70%||65.00%||43.30%||69.80%||92.00%|
Pitchers are getting more aggressive with Pujols throwing more early strikes and more pitches inside of the zone. Pujols is simply connecting with them – swinging more and making more contact with them. I’m not sure why they’re being so aggressive, but I would assume they will catch-on and instead pitch to Raul Ibanez or Josh Hamilton when he returns. I would expect regression here as well.
I’ve said that his bad balls in play-related trends started in 2011. Look where he is now:
|Total||- – -||8669||12.90%||317||18.80%||1.02||41.00%||40.10%||18.90%||0.31|
His BABIP might seem low, but he’s also at a gross 50% ground ball rate with an uber-low line drive rate and a pop-up problem (15.80% which is the 24th worse rate in baseball right now, for those that qualify). The unsustainable HR/FB ratio is what is inflating his value. This ratio is the 7th best in baseball right now (again, for those that qualify). Of these 7, only Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Abreu have a lower fly ball%, but they both have superior line drive and pop-up rates.
Now let’s look at Albert Pujols’ homerun and flyball average distance this year: 86th overall at 283.22 ft. Last year, Pujols was 93rd overall with a 287.37 ft average. In 2012, he was just inside the top 150 at 281.09 ft. For reference, here are the top 7 HR/FB ratios with their average distance and rank:
|Rk||Name||HR/FB||Avg. Dist (ft.)||Av Di (Rnk)|
Clearly, he’s not on the same level as the top-6 from a distance perspective. Here is how he stacks up to them otherwise:
He’s superior in contact, but the contact just isn’t as quality enough. In fact, there’s another (shift-related) issue. According to Jeff Zimmerman, Pujols is the right-handed hitter that has hit into the most shifts, yet somehow keeps finding holes. There’s a good chance Pujols drops to Brian McCann levels: similar BABIP but batting .225 because of the infield shifts.
It’s for all of these reasons that I proactively reach out to teams for a replacement 1B along with supplemental pieces. If you’re trying to win-now, offer him up for something like Kyle Lohse/Tim Hudson/Garrett Richards/Jesse Chavez + Brian Dozier/Justin Morneau + Francisco Rodriguez or some other closer in 5×5 leagues. You don’t think someone would say yes to this? You don’t think you would win on this deal? They would. You would.
While this post is purely rational, Dano will scold every other first baseman in some way until the fantasy baseball world jumps on the Freddie Freeman bandwagon even though he’s a disgruntled Mets fan. You can follow him on Twitter @Rotobanter.