After reading the article about Albert Pujols in the March 26 MLB season preview issue of Sports Illustrated (Albert’s Second Act), I have a greater appreciation for his remarkable abilities as a hitter. His approach to hitting, amazing physical prowess notwithstanding, is one that exemplifies something one of my baseball coaches always said: “Let’s play it one pitch at a time.” That may seem like an over-simplified baseball philosophy. But the reminders are necessary when great players like Pujols are successful a little more than 30 percent of the time at reaching base safely after attempting to put a ball in play.
Pujols’s swing is a technical wonder, a kinetic event that causes the most mayhem with the least effort. But if you had to reduce it to its most astonishing element, it would be this: He brings his hands to the baseball faster and more directly than perhaps any other man who has ever lived.
That description from SI writer Tom Verducci sounds like one that produces flawless perfection. But the career .328 batting average Pujols has garnered over 11 seasons in MLB is probably the closest thing to perfection this generation will see. And while no man will ever bat 1.000, Pujols himself strives for perfection by taking 50,000 practice swings each year.
Over the winter, Pujols found that swing again. “I feel awesome, I’m telling you,” he says. “It looks like the old me. When you take 50,000 swings a year, you know your swing.”
That is a statement from the best in the world at what he does. Watching Pujols play for the Angels will not be a lot of fun from the perspective of a Cardinals fan. But watching him play from the perspective of a baseball fan, I can’t help but to be captivated by the possibilities of what this and future seasons will produce.