The Machine, as Albert Pujols is affectionately known, has been on a tear since the season began for the Los Angeles Angels. The great start culminated with Pujols hitting career home run 499 and 500 Tuesday night against the Nationals in Washington. Pujols is the 26th member of the 500 Home Run Club and the first player ever to hit 499 and 500 in the same game.
Pujols now has 8 homers on the season in 20 games. Historically, Pujols has had success in the first month of the season. The Angels star has 89 homers, 266 RBI, and a .985 OPS in March/April in his career. Granted with a career like Pujols has had, there haven’t been many bad months historically for him and in fact the summer months generally see him heating up.
In clutch situations Pujols has had his ups and downs so far in 2014. He’s hitting .310 with two outs, but only .167 with runners in scoring positions. As the season progresses, however, Pujols will likely start to perform better in these situations and if he can do that that makes the Angels even more dangerous in the American League West.
Pujols is currently in the third year of a $240 million contract and the first two seasons were disappointments for both the 34-year old slugger and for the Angels’ front office. Last season was a complete failure, as Pujols only played in 99 games and knocked in 64 runs. The past two seasons, as a whole, were a failure for the Halos. In 2012 and 2013, they won 89 and 78 games respectively and missed the playoffs in each season.
One thing that should concern the Angels is the continual health of Pujols. Pujols has a lot of games under his belt and the chances of him staying healthy for the entire season have grown slimmer. So far Pujols has played the majority of the games at first, but as the season goes on and potential fatigue and aches and pains set in, the Angels will have the flexibility to use Pujols as their DH. The Angels will rely on Pujols heavily to provide leadership and big offensive numbers, especially since outfielder Josh Hamilton is still out for a couple weeks and whom historically struggles to stay healthy.
The Phillies had a similar situation entering the season with their veteran first baseman Ryan Howard. Howard has struggled since ending he 2011 season with an achilles injury and had yet to perform like he used to. This season, like Pujols, however, the Big Piece has been solid. He has recorded 5 homers so far and is hitting a respectful .271. Like the Halos, the Phillies will rely heavily on Howard’s health and performance and so far so good for both players.
The Angels and Phillies have identical records at this point (9-10), but each team has hope as long as their highly paid sluggers continue to produce.