With word that Albert Pujols will have season-ending arthroscopic knee surgery, you might have had a split-second thought of, "Oh, he might be done forever, not just 2018," until you remember that he's still under contract for $28 million in 2019, $29 million in 2020 and $30 million in 2021.
His season ends with a batting line of .245/.289/.411 with 19 home runs and 64 RBIs in 117 games and 498 plate appearances, somewhat respectable power numbers that help cover up that he's providing the Los Angeles Angels little value these days -- as has been the case for three seasons now. His combined WAR since 2016 is 0.0. Pujols turns 39 in January, he has had numerous surgeries on his lower extremities and he's unlikely to get any better.
What do you do if you're the Angels?
Here's how rough it has been for Pujols the past two seasons. There have been 177 players with at least 800 plate appearances and Pujols ranks 162nd in wRC+, the park-adjusted metric found at FanGraphs. He's wedged alongside such luminaries as Tim Anderson, Gerardo Parra and Jason Kipnis. He ranks 172nd out of the 177 players in on-base percentage and has grounded into the third-most double plays along the way.
It's obviously sad to see the current incarnation of Pujols, hobbling down the baseline or simply hoping to yank something down the line. His contact rates are still excellent, but he rarely walks and the hitter who once owned the entire field has hit just one opposite-field home run and three to center field. Back in 2010, the last year he hit .300, he hit 16 home runs to center or the opposite field.
Last year, when he drove in 103 runs, the Angels used the excuse that at least he's driving in runs to publicly state their belief in Pujols (to be fair, he did hit well with runners on base). That's less of a justifiable argument this year, as he has hit .285 with runners in scoring position, but with just three home runs in 130 at-bats. In other breakdowns, he has been far less effective, including a .697 OPS in "late and close" situations and a .624 OPS in high-leverage situations.
With Shohei Ohtani eating up some of the DH at-bats, Pujols has played 70 games at first base and the metrics say he has been at least OK there. Angels first basemen are 29th in the majors in wOBA, barely ahead of the Orioles. If you ignore the name on the back of the jersey, you'd argue the Angels need to upgrade at first base for 2019.
If you're Billy Eppler, what do you do?
You have to pay the money no matter what you do with the roster.
Player of the day: Have a game, Christian Yelich. The Brewers beat the Reds 13-12 in 10 innings -- Jesus Aguilar provided the go-ahead run with a long home run to center field, his first since Aug. 12 -- but Yelich had a day to remember. He went 6-for-6, hit for the cycle, and threw out the potential go-ahead run at the plate in the seventh inning:
Yelich is just the 78th player since 1900 to go 6-for-6 in a game and just the fourth to do it while also hitting for the cycle, joining Ian Kinsler, Rondell White and Bobby Veach (thanks to ESPN Stats & Information for that research).
Yelich is now hitting .319/.380/.563 and I'd argue he has played himself into the wide-open National League MVP race. He leads the NL in batting average, ranks second to Charlie Blackmon in runs, is third behind Matt Carpenter and Nolan Arenado in OPS and is fourth in slugging percentage. He has played all three outfield positions and provides positive value on the bases. The trade that brought Yelich to the Brewers looks like a huge win for David Stearns, given Lewis Brinson's struggles with the Marlins and the so-so seasons in Double-A for Isan Diaz and Monte Harrison, the other prospects in the deal.
🗣️🗣️🗣️ LET'S GOOOOO pic.twitter.com/DxJh9AsD8f— Houston Astros (@astros) August 29, 2018
The Astros took two of three in the series to increase their lead over the A's in the American League West to 2½ games. The two teams, however, are now done with head-to-head play. The Astros won the season series 12-7.
Red Sox feast on Marlins: What do 11 runs in one inning look like? Like this:
So you can re-live tonight with us. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/kx4ENp1KSc— Boston Red Sox (@RedSox) August 30, 2018
After scoring 11 in the seventh, the Red Sox beat the Marlins 14-6. David Price left early after getting hit in the wrist, but X-rays were negative, so keep an eye out to see if he makes his next start.
Meanwhile, the White Sox beat the Yankees 4-1, so Boston's lead is back up to 7½ games, meaning the Red Sox can still be conservative with Chris Sale's return (and with Price, if need be). The bottom of the Yankees' lineup is looking pretty feeble these days: Neil Walker (.307 OBP, .352 SLG), Gleyber Torres (.718 OPS in 32 games since returning from the DL), Greg Bird (.122 in August), Austin Romine (better than Andrew at least!) and Ronald Torreyes (.301 average, but .316 OBP). The Yankees still have averaged 5.04 runs in August (tied for sixth best in the majors), but they've hit just .237/.316/.426 in the month.
Yes, they'll get Aaron Judge back and Gary Sanchez is rehabbing in the minors, but there's no guarantee Judge won't be affected by the wrist injury, and who knows if Sanchez will get going. I could see them taking a chance on Josh Donaldson or Andrew McCutchen before the Friday trade deadline, but FanGraphs now gives the Yankees just a 5 percent chance of winning the division. Is the front office just waiting on Judge, Sanchez and Didi Gregorius, or will they add a bench guy?
When Yasiel Puig does Yasiel Puig things: Here he is trying to steal home:
Puigs can't fly. pic.twitter.com/VqzSk3p43k— MLB (@MLB) August 30, 2018
Nobody said he wasn't exciting.