Not only hasn’t Albert Pujols started producing like his usual self following a rough start to the season, he’s actually getting worse.
Pujols went 3-for-5 with three doubles on April 19, which was his first game with multiple extra-base hits and seemingly signaled that he was starting to come around. Instead he’s gone 5-for-50 (.100) since then, lowering his batting average from .296 to .202 and lowering his OPS from .759 to .524.
Within the 5-for-50 slump Pujols has drawn just two non-intentional walks while striking out eight times, which is very uncharacteristic for someone with significantly more walks (981) than strikeouts (718) for his entire career.
And of course he’s yet to homer for the Angels in 110 plate appearances.
There are 190 hitters with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title and 180 of them have a higher OPS than Pujols, including Chone Figgins, Clint Barmes, Jamey Carroll, Cliff Pennington, Scott Rolen, Dee Gordon, Alfonso Soriano, Ike Davis, Brandon Crawford, Drew Stubbs, Miguel Olivo, and Ian Stewart.
Oh, and the guy who replaced him in St. Louis too.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.