The no-walks thing shouldn't be a surprise. For all the world it looked as if Pujols decided in June or early July that the best way to get to .300 with 100 RBIs was to swing at everything.
I was browsing through a copy of ESPN magazine in a doctor's office today and they did a piece on which sluggers hit the most HRs in each part of the strike zone. Albert apparently led all RHBs in the majors last year in HRs on pitches out of the zone with 10. You gotta wonder if pitchers around the league are finally getting the memo that he's chasing all those pitches out of the zone.
The other theory is that his bat speed has been declining and he's basically guessing more often at the plate. I don't know how much of a middle ground lies between smashing pitches for XBHs and missing everything though. His contact rate is still in line with his career numbers.
As poor as his numbers are this year, it is hard to ignore the fact that he has a .253 BABIP despite a 24% LD rate.
The last two years, he's posted an average BABIP of .287 with a line drive percent around 17% -- a differential of 11.7% (typically you expect to see a BABIP around 12% higher than a LD rate).
With a line drive rate of 24% this year, you'd expect to see a BABIP significantly higher than what he's posted so far. Adding 11.7% to his BABIP gives us an adjusted-BABIP of .357.
Hypothetically, let's say some of those bullets hit right at fielders managed to fall for hits. Instead of 19 hits in 75 in-play at-bats, we're now looking at 27 hits in 75 in-play at-bats (.360 BABIP).
Suddenly, his slash line goes from...
.216 /.266 / .295 / .561, all the way up to...
.307 / .357 / .387 / .744
Not a very Pujolsian line, but certainly a hell of a lot better than his numbers currently indicate.
A few days ago, I was trying to figure out what his BABIP "should be" and stumbled across this THT piece about xBABIP
. Supposedly, their calculator gives a more accurate xBABIP than simply adding a constant to the LD%. I punched in Albert's numbers for his first 80 ABs and got an xBABIP around .305 which amounted to 3 more hits. Obviously, those hits may have been of the XBH variety but it doesn't seem like a more normalized BABIP (based on his groundouts/flyouts/popups data) bumps his slash line that much.