Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Albert Pujols

 This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

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An email exchange from last week:

Did Albert steal your girlfriend in middle school or something?

-- Robert E.


That would make him 49 or 50, so maybe you don’t want to open that can of worms. :-)

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Albert Pujols presents a problem for an analytical writer. He is, as should be obvious, no longer deserving of a roster spot on merit, and surely not deserving of one on a team with a chance to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014. These are just facts. Since the beginning of the 2017 season, Pujols is hitting .241/.291/.404 with passable defense at first base, good for a total of -1.7 bWAR. He is one of the slowest players in baseball, and he doesn’t even have a big platoon split that you can exploit: Pujols has a sub-.300 OBP against lefties since 2013.

This year, Pujols is hitting .231/.286/.308 with one extra-base hit in 42 at-bats. Injuries to Angels hitters have turned him into a regular again, with starts in five straight games at first base, and likely more to come until the team figures out when it will call up Brandon Marsh and/or Jo Adell. You can’t write around this story; Pujols, and the Angels’ insistence on playing him, are big barriers to Mike Trout returning to playoff baseball.

Still, we’re talking about one of the greatest players who has ever played the game, someone who at his peak wasn’t just a big bat, but an excellent defender and baserunner, a contact hitter for his era, someone who could execute a hit-and-run as well as any 5'8" second baseman. Someone who can still, in the right moment, do this.

The Angels fell behind 6-0 to the Rangers last night, a five-run sixth inning just about putting the game away. In the bottom of the seventh, they put together a rally, with Pujols’s RBI single part of the mix. The game was 6-2 with one out, Pujols on second and Jose Iglesias on first, when Pujols tapped into that big baseball brain.

Rangers righty Kyle Cody, who was finishing up first grade when Pujols made his MLB debut, had given up successive singles and was focused on not giving up a third to Kurt Suzuki. So focused, in fact, that he barely checked the old man leading off second. Pujols watched Cody throw strike one to Suzuki, then miss for a ball. As Cody came set for the third pitch, Pujols shuffled towards third, shuffled again, and as Cody lifted his left leg, never looking back, Pujols took off. He stole third standing up, stole it by so much that Rangers catcher Jose Trevino fielded Cody’s breaking ball and didn’t bother to throw.

Albert Pujols can’t hit and he can’t run and he can barely field, but he can still think. He traveled to third base on his legs, but he stole third base with his mind, for ten seconds playing baseball better than the 26-year-old on the mound did.

No, Robert, Pujols never stole my girl, never blew me off for an interview, never wrecked my fantasy team. I have an incredible amount of admiration for what he’s accomplished in his career, and I absolutely loved watching him with the Cardinals. When I write about the player he is now, I am doing my job: Pujols is hurting the Angels’ chances of winning the AL West, of making the playoffs, of ending the Trout Drought.

Still, late on a cool April night, I can be taken aback by something he does on the field, and acknowledge that little bit of greatness he still brings to the table.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, April 19, 2021 -- "Dodgers/Padres"

 This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"Tatis. Machado. Darvish. Kershaw. Betts. Bauer. Snell. This series served to remind us that the best players who have ever played baseball are playing right now, pitching and hitting and running and fielding at a level never seen before. That’s not meant to denigrate a long line of great baseball players, but to recognize that in 150 years since various stick-and-ball games morphed into “base ball,” the players are always getting better."

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, April 14, 2021 -- "Joe Musgrove"

 This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"Can all of that put Musgrove’s name alongside Johnny Vander Meer’s tonight, facing his old team in his old home ballpark? The Pirates are one of the worst teams in baseball, but maybe not as prone to being no-hit as you might think. They’re sixth in the NL with a .238 batting average -- roll that sentence around in your brain for a minute -- with the tenth-best strikeout rate. They’re sixth in BA against right-handers."

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, April 13, 2021 -- "Thinking Inside the Box"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

You can subscribe to the newsletter for one year for $59.95 using your PayPal account or major credit card.

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"This looks like a genuine improvement in approach that is allowing Myers to get to hitters’ counts and fastballs more often, and he’s taking advantage. If you just look at last night, Myers stayed off three marginal pitches in the first in advance of a 3-2 RBI single; he spit on a four-seamer off the plate in the sixth and homered on a fastball inside on the next pitch. An inning later, facing Luis Oviedo a second time, he held back on three sliders he well might have chased in 2019, setting up another RBI single, this time on 3-1."

Monday, April 12, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, April 12, 2021 -- "The New Baseball"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The change to the baseball has reduced the payoff for hitting the ball hard, which is...maybe not entirely fair? I’m not sure how you could look at baseball in the last few years and think, “Man, we should help the pitchers out,” but here we are. Batters now have to contend with the hardest-throwing, nastiest-spinning generation of pitchers ever, and if a hitter does get hold of one, it’s now an out more often than it was last year."

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Newsletter Excerpt, April 7, 2021 -- "The Disciplined Mets"

This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider. Joe Sheehan is a founding member of Baseball Prospectus and a contributor to Sports Illustrated and Baseball America. He has been writing about baseball for nearly 25 years.

Your subscription gets you the newsletter and various related features two to five days a week, more than 150 mailings (more than 200,000 words) a year full of smart, fun baseball writing that you can't find in the mainstream. Subscribers can also access the new Slack workspace, to talk baseball with me and hundreds of other Newsletter subscribers.

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"The Darryl Strawberry teams had the best offenses in Mets history, with only the peak of the Mike Piazza Mets, a team built heavily on outside acquisitions, challenging that group’s dominance. (Rickey Henderson had a .423 OBP, 37 steals, and 89 runs scored for that team at age 40. I miss Rickey.) The Conforto/Nimmo Mets are pushing to join that group, and I think come the end of 2021, the 2019-21 Mets will be right there with the 1986-1990 ones as far as the best lineups this team has ever had."