How will Pujols fit in the AL?
TEMPE, Ariz. - You'd be hard pressed to find anyone in baseball who ever doubted that Albert Pujols would be the same King Albert for the Angels that he was for the Cardinals for all those years. But, even for the star of stars, could a new team and a new league make for a difficult transition? We take an in-depth look at Pujols and his swing to find out.
"It doesn't matter how good you are when you're changing leagues," one AL scout told us. "Albert isn't going to have any problems, but you do have to get a feel for a whole new crop of pitchers. He has the tools like no other player to adapt to the change though."
While spending time amongst the scouts who inhabit the seats behind home plate during spring training, this type of reaction is a common one. No one truly believes Pujols will hit any speed bumps when it comes to adapting to his new surroundings. And there are certain characteristics that make him such an adaptable hitter, the same characteristics that have made him the premier hitter of the last decade.
"His base and his balance make him who he is," said another scout watching the Angels' new first baseman in action. "The way he hits requires a ton of strength, but there's not a hitter in baseball that hits from such a strong base."
Scouts often rave about Pujols and the "base" he hits from. By that, they are referring to his lower half. He sets up extremely wide and he almost never loses his balance at the plate. Because he can maintain that balance, he produces tremendous torque from his legs, which allows his hands to follow quickly.
Hitters that have such outstanding lower half balance tend to also be hitters with fast hands and plus bat speed. Their explosive lower half torque allows their hands to be released like a coiled spring. And Albert Pujols is the poster boy for this type of swing.
Of course, all these points are obvious. Albert Pujols is a special offensive force and that isn't news. But all of this is relevant in that his style of hitting lends itself to making adjustments and being very adaptable. There are plenty of baseball's best hitters that, while immensely talented, have styles that would make a transition to a new league a little more difficult.
"This guy comes prepared and knows pitchers, but I think he could hit just by reacting to pitchers," a third scout pointed out.
Yes, part of why Pujols is a great hitter is his preparation. But his swing mechanics do allow him to read and react to a pitcher. As a result of his balance and hand speed, he can wait far longer on a pitch than most hitters. This gives him a longer look at the spin on the ball and the location of the pitch.
In theory, with this said, Pujols could go up against a pitcher with no scouting report and still do pretty well for himself. Couple this mechanical and physical advantage with his famed preparation and you have a highly dangerous force in any league.
"(Pujols) isn't a guy you need to worry about," added one of the scouts. "It will take more than a league change to slow him down."
In all likelihood, no one ever has been worried about Pujols. But Angels' fans should be thrilled to know just how machine-like the man known as "The Machine" is viewed within the scouting community.