— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 17, 2021
He hasn’t been a productive hitter for years, but if there is an organization that can get something out of him, it’s the Dodgers.
Here are three realistic goals for him for the rest of the season.
1. Earn Playing Time on a Winning Team
Pujols, having played on a team without playoff aspirations for so long, probably hasn’t felt like an important piece in a project for quite some time.
The Angels haven’t advanced to the playoffs since 2014: that’s a long time.
Pujols, after a brilliant career with the St. Louis Cardinals, started a steep decline in Los Angeles.
Judging by weighted Runs Created Plus, or wRC+, Pujols has been a well-below average hitter since 2017.
After years of routinely finishing with a wRC+ higher than 100 (the ‘average’ number), he hasn’t eclipsed 100 since 2017.
Over the same timeframe, he hasn’t finished with a .250 average or even 25 home runs, if you are more of a traditional stats person.
For Pujols, a new organization with a winning structure and a top player development department, it is important to show that he is still a major league hitter.
The moment for Pujols to show that he has something left in the tank is now.
He can potentially be an impact bench bat for the reigning champions if he can re-work some things.
Pujols has to prove he can still be an important contributor to a winning team, even if he probably won’t be a regular.
But earning more playing time because of his performance isn’t out of the question.
2. Have a Positive WAR for the First Time in Five Years
The baseball community established Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, as the best way to assess a player’s contribution to his team.
It combines batting, defense, and baserunning, which are the three areas in which a position player can impact a game.
For years, Pujols was the gold standard of the first base position, most notably when he was with the Cardinals.
When he signed with the Angels, he experienced a decline in performance, but remained an above-replacement player for five years.
From 2017 on, he has been a below-replacement player, meaning that he has had a negative WAR for five straight seasons (including 2021).
Albert Pujols, career WAR
— Devan Fink (@DevanFink) May 17, 2021
As of Tuesday afternoon, the veteran slugger is batting .200/.250/.367 with a -0.3 WAR, so a reasonable goal for him is to stop the five-year trend and actually contribute something positive on the field.
His leadership and baseball knowledge is top-notch, but if he can have positive WAR, it would be a nice story and a not-so-little personal victory.
3. Win his Third Title
Pujols knows what it’s like to win on the biggest of stages.
With the Cardinals, he won two World Series and was one of the main factors behind both victories.
His last Fall Classic victory came in 2011, his last season with the Cards.
It’s been a long time since Pujols, now 41 years old, has celebrated the biggest of achievements in a baseball field.
Now, he is joining the Dodgers, perhaps the best team in baseball, and has a golden opportunity to lift the trophy again.
It could be a nice redemption story, for sure.