The Albert Pujols on display last night -- the one swatting a line-drive home run into the rocks at Angel Stadium and drawing a pair of walks -- that's the guy L.A. signed for a quarter-billion bucks. Pujols' Angels career got off to a wretched start (.217/.265/.304 in April). But he followed that up with a passable May (.263/.309/.491) and a downright Pujolsian June (.311/.395/.574 thus far). A better plate approach has gone a long way toward returning Pujols to All-Star level production.
In April, Pujols hacked at 37 percent of pitches thrown outside of the strike zone. That was way above the 28 percent league average. Eye-high, ankle-high, in on the knuckles...it didn't matter. El Hombre came out swinging:
In May, Pujols still swung at a lot of high and inside pitches, but he stopped trying to go all Vlad Guerrero by swinging at stuff thrown at the shoe tops. His chase rate declined to 31 percent:
While raking in June, Pujols has cut his chase rate down to 27.5 percent. He still likes 'em high, but he's no longer going after pitches thrown well inside:
Pujols' hack-happy ways early on in 2012 elicited some panic. Were the 32-year-old's eyes going foggy? Was he trying to cheat on pitches that peak-career Pujols would have been able to wait on? No and no, apparently. Pujols' ultra-slow start means his final tallies won't be as impressive as usual, but Dan Szymborski's ZiPS projects him to bat .291/.373/.537 from here on out. There's still plenty of reason to worry about whether he'll justify his mega-contract in his mid-to-late thirties and early forties. But at the present, a more patient Pujols is back to raking.