ANAHEIM -- Chalk this up as one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 baseball season: the Angels have by far the worst OPS in the Majors from the No. 3 spot (.501) entering Tuesday's game, which they essentially committed $240 million to shore up in December.
That can be almost entirely attributed to the early struggles of Albert Pujols, who came into Tuesday's game against the Athletics with a .197/.235/.275 slash line, one home run, 12 RBIs, one walk since April 26 and one multi-hit game since April 20. Only 22 percent of the season is complete -- and Pujols still has a chance to finish the year with good numbers, even by his standards -- but so far, the Angels have received little-to-no production from a lineup's most important spot.
Still, manager Mike Scioscia isn't giving much thought to temporarily hitting Pujols lower in the lineup while he tries to figure it out, saying: "He's much better served staying where he is right now and just grinding through it."
"You'd only consider that if it was going to be a means to a better end," Scioscia added. "We don't see that as anything that's going to get us there right now. ... You look at some different lineup considerations, we definitely feel better to grind it out with where Albert is now."
There have been some slight positives from Pujols lately. He's driven in seven runs over the last eight games -- after totaling just five in the first 27 -- and hit three balls hard to the left side while going 1-for-4 in Monday's 5-0 loss. But he's still swinging at an uncharacteristically high number of pitches outside the strike zone (38.7 percent, after being below 30 percent from 2002-10), and isn't hitting the ball the other way like he normally does.
But the Angels are confident he'll figure it out, and they seem determined to stick with him in the No. 3 spot until he does.
Part of the reason is there aren't many other options anyway.
"You look up and see him hit .190 or something and you're just like, 'Gosh, this guy is at times hitting the ball much harder than that,'" Scioscia said. "I don't think right now it's going to serve any purpose to push him down, unless you had a reconfiguration that really just made sense. I don't think we're at that point right now."