Let’s face it. The last time Albert Pujols looked like the Pujols we all used to know was in 2010, when the future Hall-of-Famer hit .312 with 42 home run and 118 RBIs.
Maybe it’s time to turn back the clock.
The former Cardinals three-time MVP, and current Angels slugger, has been tearing it up this month with a .338 average to go along with nine home runs and a .779 slugging percentage.
That’s the Pujols we knew.
Overall this year, he’s hitting .270 (after hitting just .208 in April) with an AL-best 20 home runs and 47 RBIs. While the average is below his former par, it’s on the upswing. And his home run pace would project to 47 over the course of the season—his most since 2009, which is when he won the last of his MVPs.
It’s been a bit of a surprising decline for a guy who surprised everyone after being chosen in the 13th round in 1999. He needed just one year in the minors (2000) before bursting onto the scene in 2001, winning Rookie of the Year and finishing fourth in the MVP voting.
Over his first 11 seasons, Pujols averaged 40 home runs, 121 RBIs, and a .328 average while never finishing worse than ninth in the MVP race.
But since signing a 10-year, $240 million contract in 2012 to come to the Angels, the future Hall-of-Famer has yet to crack the 40-homer or .300 batting average barriers.
It’s not the only time a major star changed teams mid-career only to see his production decline.
Back in 2000, Ken Griffey, Jr. was traded (at his request) to the Cincinnati Reds after 10 years as a Mariner and the results were less than great.
The former MVP, who had averaged 52 home runs a season the last four years in Seattle, managed to hit 40 in his first year with the Reds, but his .271 average was his worst in a full season since his rookie year. He also failed to win a Gold Glove or garner any MVP votes for the first time in a decade. The disappointing season would end up being his best over his eight and a half injury-plagued seasons in Cincinnati.
From 2001 to 2008 Griffey played an average of just 105 games per season, due to numerous injuries, that derailed his once shining career.
But Pujols, who played in 159 games last year and 154 in 2012, hasn’t had the extensive injury problems that plagued Griffey in Cincinnati.
Although he missed more than 60 games in 2013 with a foot injury, it marks the only time he failed to play in at least 143 games in his 14-year career, leaving open the possibility that he finds the consistent swing that he rode to MVPs in 2005, 2008, and 2009.