Angels are not buying analytics report on Albert Pujols

The Angels are not averse to analytics. They have six full-time analytics staffers, up from zero two years ago.

But there are days when analytics make you shake your head, and Monday was one of those days for the Angels. According to Fangraphs, Albert Pujols entered play Monday as the least valuable position player in the American League, at least among the 87 qualifiers for the batting title.

“We don’t attach that statement to Albert Pujols,” general manager Billy Eppler said. “That is definitely not something we believe.”

Fangraphs rated Pujols at -1.0 WAR (wins above replacement), essentially arguing a generic minor league callup would be more valuable to the Angels.


“Than Albert?” manager Mike Scioscia said. “The guy is, what, fourth or fifth in our league in RBIs? Those guys don’t fall off of trees. This guy has done a good job for us.”

The Angels recognize that Pujols is no longer the player he was in St. Louis, where he won three National League most-valuable-player awards. His on-base-plus-slugging percentage has fallen from .906 in 2011, his last year in St. Louis, to .666 entering play Monday. His on-base percentage is below .300. Injuries have limited his ability to play first base and contribute on the bases.

But you can’t win without scoring runs, and Pujols entered play Monday fifth in the American League in runs batted in, even with Mike Trout on the disabled list for the last month.

Pujols is batting .286 with an .849 OPS with runners in scoring position, and he is batting .360 with a 1.061 OPS in high-leverage situations, according to Baseball Reference.

“It’s nice if the guy can drive in a couple runs in the third inning, but what does he do when the game is on the line? He’s different than most anybody I’ve seen,” said Angels coach Ron Roenicke, who coached for the Dodgers when they faced the New York Mets in the 2015 NL playoffs.

“There are certain guys that, when you need them to perform, they perform well,” Roenicke said. “I look at J.T. [Justin Turner]. That Met pitching staff was a good as any pitching staff I have ever seen. J.T.’s game picked up. He was turning on 98-mph fastballs. He was hitting nice curve balls to right-center for doubles. It was unbelievable.

“Certain guys have something in them that, when you need them and the game is on the line, they just come through more often than other guys do.”

The Angels admire Pujols for his willingness to play through pain, for his mentorship of Trout, and for his community service. But none of that, they say, is a substitute for his ability to contribute on the field.

To say that Pujols is no longer his MVP self is no slight. But to say, as Fangraphs does, that backup catchers Juan Graterol and Carlos Perez each has been more valuable to the Angels this season than Pujols, well, the Angels aren’t buying that.

“Our analysis, our viewpoint is that in Albert’s case, we’re seeing a guy that still has a lot of presence in the middle of the order,” Eppler said. “He impacts the baseball, and he has big at-bats.”

Short hops

The All-Star break is 13 days away, and the Angels won’t say if Trout can return before then. He is hitting off a tee, and Scioscia said Trout would have to graduate to soft toss, live batting practice and a minor league rehabilitation assignment before he could be activated. … With the Dodgers starting three left-handers in this series, the Angels added a right-handed bat by recalling infielder Jefry Marte and returning switch-hitting infielder Kaleb Cowart to triple-A Salt Lake.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin