Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Albert Pujols has never been quite himself since coming over from the St. Louis Cardinals, with his stats in decline. Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports
I have probably read about five times in the last few weeks that Miguel Cabrera is the “best hitter on the planet.” I am not disagreeing, based on the Detroit Tiger sluggers’ 2012 Triple Crown season and his 2013 start. All bow down to Miguel because he has been awesome. However, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately aside, up until last year that phrase was routinely applied to Albert Pujols with little dispute.
Every day I read the box scores and shake my head as the Los Angeles Angels’ huge free-agent signee of last year struggles to top .250 in average. To me, the biggest surprise of the season so far is that Pujols doesn’t seem to be able to hit anymore. This is as swift and steady a decline over the last three seasons from superstar greatness to average hitter that I can remember in awhile. It would be great if he turns it on and turns it around, but we’ve been waiting months and months now to see that happen and Pujols continues to struggle.
The flip side surprise of Pujols’ hitting woes is Chris Davis. The Baltimore Orioles slugger has 37 home runs and 93 runs batted in as we enter the All-Star break. Who saw that coming? Not even Chris Davis. Can he keep it up? Will he bash the ball with the same authority after the All-Star break? Stay tuned. Same for Boston’s David Ortiz. The 37-year-old designated hitter has been designated as being over-the-hill regularly over the last few seasons yet here he is again an All-Star, batting .317.
There are also a fair number of pitchers with fantastic records whom were either not counted on to be team aces before the season, or had never shown a hint that they could be. Tell me, for real, you were not figuring on the Tigers’ Max Scherzer being 13-1 at the moment, were you? How about Bartolo Colon rebounding from a drug suspension to be sitting on a 12-3 record? Although he has been slowed by injury, Boston Red Sox hurler Clay Buchholtz is 9-0 with a 1.71 earned run average. Nobody saw these things coming.
Of course, although we all feel obligated to make pre-season predictions about how teams will fare in the standings, the season never goes as expected. While it’s true the Houston Astros have lived up to their billing as being the worst club in the league, they are not historically bad and will not challenge the 1962 New York Mets as the worst-ever team.
In the American League East the Red Sox have been the main turn-around artists, moving from last to first with a team overhaul and a new manager in John Farrell. The Tampa Bay Rays and Orioles are playing about as well as could be expected and one of them will make the playoffs, if not both. The Toronto Blue Jays, the team that did the most to bulk up has fooled us by playing the worst and is residing in last place. Then we come to the Yankees. New York has overachieved at 51-44 because of its ridiculous plague of injuries. It’s hard to tell if the Yankees have it in them to rally and it depends a lot on which star player comes back from the injured list and performs.
The Tigers lead the AL Central, as they should. The Indians, who worked hard to upgrade, have been hanging in solidly in second. The Royals’ ballyhooed rebuilding program has not taken hold, and the Twins and White Sox have been as weak as expected. The White Sox are even worse than expected.
In the AL West, it’s pretty much a battle between the Oakland A’s and the Texas Rangers, just like last year. The Angels are in third and have been let down by Josh Hamilton, this year’s showcase free-agent signing. It’s Pujolos II on the Left Coast. If Pujols and Hamilton heat up the Angels could be playoff bound. If not, not. The Mariners are occasional spoilers and the Astros are the caboose.