Date on which Albert Pujols hit 8th HR of season
2004: May 3
2005: May 9
2006: April 16
2007: May 25
2008: May 13
2009: April 30
2010: May 14
2011: May 23
2012: May 29
2013: May 23
2014: April 22
He's hitting HR again, but his average hasn't rebounded yet (.274 vs. .321 career). It doesn't seem outlandish, though, that he could hit around .300 this year. It seems unlikely that he's going to hit .330, but not that he might hit 40 HR again. He also could finish with relatively low walk and strikeout totals for a power hitter. Are there are historical precedents for this? Yes, several great hitters from the past had similar seasons in their mid-30's.
Of these 3, Aaron is the only one that continued to be productive for years afterward. Mays did win the MVP in 1965, but began to decline almost immediately afterward. After 1966, he never again hit over.300 or 30 HR again. Greenberg retired after another productive season in 1947. Aaron continued having excellent seasons until he was nearly 40.
Historical comparisons are imperfect because times have changed. None of those players was able to take advantage of being a DH, which Pujols almost certainly will for plenty of years. Being a DH has helped David Ortiz continue to hit well into his 30's, in addition to players like Paul Molitor and Edgar Martinez.
Pujols has maintained that he is "too young" to become a DH full-time. I'm sure people in the Angels organization are wondering if he would be hitting better if he were a full-time DH. If he sustains an injury playing the field this year, the talk about him becoming a DH will only intensify.
They would probably be happy at this point with an average around .300 if he would hit 40 HR, although that would be below what I'm sure they were expecting when they signed him to that monster contract. If he's healthy, he's young enough to have a bounce back, although it will probably never get back to where it was from 2001-2009.
# of teams in top 3 (including teams tied for 3rd) in W-L% on April 18 to make playoffs
2008: 3/5 (Cubs, Brewers, White Sox)
2009: 1/3 (Dodgers)
2010: 3/3 (Yankees, Rays, Twins)
2011: 1/3 (Rangers)
2012: 4/5 (Rangers, Nationals, Tigers, Cardinals)
2013: 3/4 (Braves, A's, Red Sox)
Over the past 6 seasons, 15/23 teams made the playoffs, including 7 out of 9 in the last two years. That's probably a trend that will continue because of the additional wild card teams added in 2012. In 2012, two of the four teams were wild card teams, and the Cardinals (who nearly made the World Series) were the 2nd WC team with 88 wins.
The top 3 teams today are the Brewers, A's and Braves. The Brewers are the only surprise, and are actually the only real surprise in the top 10 (4-10: Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Tigers, Rangers). The team with the #1 record on April 18 has made the playoffs each of the last 2 years (Braves, Rangers) and 3 of the last 4 (Rays, Yankees tied for 1st in 2010).
A team's record on April 18th seems to be a good predictor of whether they'll make the playoffs, especially with an extra wild card slot in each league. I don't think the Brewers will end up with the best record or even in the top 3, but I think they will at least be competitive for a wild card spot.
# of teams with 10+ K/9, 7th Inning and later
# of teams with 1.10 WHIP or lower, 7th Inning and later
K/9, 7th Inning and later
WHIP, 7th Inning and later
The strikeouts keep going up, but the WHIP has stayed very consistent despite a growing number of teams with extremely low WHIP totals. This can be explained because there are more teams with terrible numbers at the end of the game. In 2013, the only team at 1.50 or above was Houston.
In 2014, there are 7 teams at 1.50 or above (Tigers, Royals, D-backs, Cubs, White Sox, Mets, Astros). It's very early in the season, so a couple of bad games can drag down a team's numbers. If the bad teams can get their numbers, the league numbers should improve substantially over previous years.
One of the biggest reasons why the Pirates were able to make the playoffs last year was that their pitching staff gave up very few home runs (#1 in fewest allowed with 101). Even in the 2nd half when they became hittable (falling from 1st in batting average against to 17th), they still managed to lead the league in fewest home runs allowed.
In 2014, they're pitching very well so far, with the 7th best ERA in the ML (2.66). It's early, but they are allowed more home runs than at the end of last year, ranking only 19th in fewest HR allowed.
It might be nothing to worry about even if it persists because they didn't become really stingy until after April last year.