Pujols brings upgrade to Angels lineup

AP Photo/Jeff Lewis

Albert Pujols represents a significant upgrade for the Angels at the No. 3 spot in the order.

Albert Pujols makes his Los Angeles Angels debut tonight against the Kansas City Royals (ESPN2, 10 ET). Pujols signed a 10-year, $254 million free agent deal with the Angels in the offseason after spending 11 seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.

Pujols is one of six players to hit 400 career home runs and bat at least .325. The others are Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Pujols’ 445 home runs through his first 11 seasons are the most all-time through a player’s initial 11 years in the majors.

Albert Pujols vs Angels Batting 3rd
Last Season

Pujols represents a significant upgrade for the Angels at the No. 3 spot in the order. His .906 OPS last season was a career low, but stands as a huge improvement over the Angels’ .745 OPS out of the three hole last year.

Starting Pitchers

Bruce Chen – who will turn 35 in June - is making his first career opening day start. According to Elias, only one major-league pitcher in the last 10 years was older than Chen when he was making his first opening day start. That was Jose Contreras, who was 35 when he started the first game of the 2007 season for the Chicago White Sox.

Bruce Chen

ChenQuick Hits on Chen

• Chen threw 2,518 pitches last season. Only nine of those reached 90 mph

• Last season, his fastball averaged 85.7 mph. In the AL, the only starters with a slower fastball were Mark Buehrle, Jeff Francis and Tim Wakefield.

• Held opposing No. 3 hitters to .224 BA and .674 OPS

Jered Weaver makes his fourth opening day start (and third straight) for the Angels. Weaver is 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA in three career opening day starts. Last year, Weaver became the first pitcher in MLB history with six wins by April 25, and just the sixth with six wins by the end of April.

Jered Weaver

WeaverQuick Hits on Weaver

• No starting pitcher had a higher fly ball percentage in 2011 (50 percent)

• In his seven no decisions last season, he allowed a total of seven earned runs

• Opposing 3-6 hitters combined for a .196 BA and .570 OPS

• There are three active pitchers who had double-digit wins in each of their first six seasons: Weaver, CC Sabathia and Tim Hudson. Roy Oswalt and Andy Pettitte would also qualify if active.

Stat of the Game

Pujols is a .379 lifetime hitter against the Royals, giving him the highest batting average against the Royals for any player – past or present – with at least 150 at-bats against them, according to our friends from the Elias Sports Bureau.

Opening Day Note

This is the first time in 37 years that the Angels and Royals have met on Opening Day. According to Elias, it last happened in 1975, as California’s Nolan Ryan threw a three-hitter and won, 3-2. Besides Ryan, two other Hall-of-Famers played in that game: George Brett and Harmon Killebrew of the Royals.