Last week over at DraysBay I wrote about plate discipline and I used Ben Zobrist as my prime example for great plate discipline. There were a lot of players that I could have used as examples and one of them used to be future Hall-of-Famer Albert Pujols, but not anymore.
Prior to 2011 you could have written the name Albert Pujols as the answer to the question “who exemplifies plate discipline the best?” But last year, his last in St. Louis Cardinals red, we saw him post a career low walk rate as well as a career high swing rate and out-of-zone swing rate, or O-Swing%.
Pujols’ walk rate was his career worst but it was still a healthy 9.4%, well above the league average. Pujols’ 2011 O-Swing% of 31.8% was not just his worst career mark but it was below the league average of 30.6%. These trends have carried on to his 2012 season, his first in Los Angeles Angels red.
The league average O-Swing% so far this season is 29.0% and the overall swing rate is 45.1%. Albert Pujols currently owns a 41.0% out-of-zone swing rate which the 8th worst mark in the Majors and one that Yuniesky Betancourt called and said was bad. Pujols’ overall swing rate is at 49.0%. If those are not signs of a player pressing, especially one with excellent discipline throughout his career, then I don’t know what is.
It’s bad enough that Pujols is swinging at nearly half of the pitches he sees and swinging at more balls out of the zone than only seven players but he is not swinging at many pitches that are actually in the zone.
The 2012 league average rate at which players swing at pitches in the zone, or Z-Swing%, is currently at 64.0% and Pujols’ career Z-Swing% is 65.1% but his 2012 rate is a mere 59.2%. His walk rate is at a career worst 7.3% which is below the league average mark for the first time in his career. His strikeout rate is at its highest since his rookie season. Simply put, Pujols is swinging at balls and taking strikes, something he used to never do.
It is still very early in a very long season but most of, if not all of, the blame to Albert Pujols’ .224/.280/.316 line and poor start can be attributed to poor plate discipline. And once Pujols regains his composure and brings discipline back to his at-bats he should be just fine.
-Jonathan C. Mitchell can be found writing about the Tampa Bay Rays at DRaysBay and the Florida Marlins at ESPN’s SweetSpot site Marlins Daily. You can follow him on twitter at @FigureFilbert. Be sure to follow MLBdirt at @MLBdirt