Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals is still the best player in the game of baseball. After a slow start, Pujols took over the National League home lead when he hit his 29th home run in the first inning of Sunday's game against the Colorado Rockies.
He is batting .288/.352/.541, which is well below what he has done in his career, but with six weeks left in the regular season, those numbers will improve.
Pujols knows why he has had to battle back from a slow start.
Speaking to the media, Pujols explained that he has been less disciplined at the plate, which has resulted in giving opposing pitchers an expanded strike zone.
"I feel good. The numbers just haven't been there," he said. "If I had 30 or 40 more walks I could be hitting .330 and probably leading the league in batting average. But I haven't."
Pujols is the only player in the game's history to have had at least a .300 average, hit at least 30 home runs and drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first 10 seasons. Don't bet that he won't make it 11 seasons.
Some scouts believe that Pujols' bat is not quite as fast as in the past, Pujols disagrees.
"My talent is there. It's a matter of getting a couple more breaks and I'm back to where I want to be."
A fascinating factor is that Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman have been slightly more productive per-at-bat than Pujols, which has decreased the tendency of the opposition to pitch around Pujols. The result has been a decrease in Pujols' walks.
Two more factors that might have resulted in Pujols having his worst offensive season are his age and free agency.
Ever since Pujols' great rookie season when he hit .329/.403/.610 with 37 home runs and 130 RBIs, some have wondered if he really were only 21 years-old at the time. He joined the St. Louis Cardinals after only 490 minor league at-bats.
When he became a citizen of the United States in 2007, all doubts with respect to age were removed.
It has become popular to blame Pujols' lack of patience on his impending free agency, which is ridiculous. There is little pressure from that area that he cannot handle considering the pressures he has faced throughout his career.
A lack of consistency with respect to mechanics is the cause of his problems.
"...being consistent with my mechanics and how I feel at the plate has been a challenge. I can't wake up tomorrow and say I'm going to come in, take (batting practice) and feel the same way I did today. That's been my struggle this year. I've been there in the past, but not at this point in the season."
Pujols' first 10 seasons have been almost beyond belief.
Jose Bautista of the Toronto Blue Jays leads the majors with 34 home runs. He is on a pace to finish with approximately 46 or 47 home runs.
Pujols has averaged 42 home runs over a 162 game season.
Adrian Gonzalez leads the majors with a .352 average.
Pujols' career average is .328.
Bautista is the slugging leader with a .632 mark.
Pujols' has slugged .619 in his career.
At the age of 31, Albert Pujols is having a great season. It just won't quite measure up to his first 10 seasons. However, considering his terrible start, he has lost very little since going back to being the Albert Pujols that the Cardinals love, and opponents fear.
Strauss, Joe. "Pujols Says Walks are Key to Hitting." St. Louis Post-DIspatch. 14 Aug. 2011. p. C4.