Batting .246 with no home runs so far in 2012, Albert Pujols is off to a rough start with his new team. It is early and Pujols will no doubt eventually make the appropriate adjustments necessary to bust out of this funk. However, scouts have noticed that Albert has been expanding the strike zone, swinging at pitches he normally avoids.
First here's a look at his slugging percentage heat map from the previous four years compared to this season:
Now take a look at his swing rate comparison:
Pujols has so far swung at a higher percentage of pitches out of the strike zone, particularly down and away, up and away, and way up out of the zone. Between 2008 and 2011, Pujols chased 25.7% of pitches thrown to him that were out of the PitchFX strike zone. This year he's swinging at 34.9%.
All those extra swings have resulted in an increase in his strike out rate; 8.9% in 2011 to 12.9% so far in 2012, while his walk rate is down 2.3%.
Pujols is not likely to remain in this slump for long. More than likely, he will start to become more selective and cut down on chasing pitches. When that happens, opposing pitchers will have to start throwing to the strike zone more; and the walks, hits and home runs will follow.