Dan McCarthy wrote a small article on ESPN.com with the title, “Perhaps things are looking up for Albert Pujols.” Here is the thing, though: Things are not looking up for Pujols, and likely never will again.
Albert Pujols has never had a great season for the Los Angeles Angels. He has not once had a batting average over .300 or an on-base percentage over .400 while on the Angels. He only once hit under .300 on the St. Louis Cardinals (.299 in 2011) and only twice had an OBP under .400 (.394 in 2002 and .366 in 2011). After averaging 7.9 WAR per year in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, Pujols has averaged just 3.3 WAR with the Angels. His .306 OBP so far this year is right in line with last year’s .307.
Pujols will never be good again. In his four full seasons with the Angels, he has had one good season — maybe two, if you count his 2014 slash line of .272/.324/.466 as good (which I don’t). He hasn’t shown any reason this season to think that he will improve in any way.
Why has this happened? Pujols is currently at least 36 years old, which is not young by baseball standards. Some well-respected journalists (including Dan LeBatard and Jon Heyman) have cast doubt on Pujols’ age, suggesting that he is even older than he claims. Pujols would not be the first player from the Dominican Republic to have lied about his age — Fausto Carmona/Roberto Hernandez, Rafael Furcal, and Miguel Tejada all come to mind — so it is not unreasonable to wonder.
Regardless of Pujols’ actual age, he is currently listed at 36. He is no spring chicken. He is clearly past his prime. With a WAR right around 0.0 this season, he may even be past his days as an everyday replacement-level player. We have seen the decline of an all-time great in swift and remarkable fashion. His case should serve as a warning to teams looking to dole out nine-figure contracts to players over the age of 30.