Recent history suggests it’s not a good idea, but Albert Pujols wants to play first base every day next year.
Over the last few years, as could be expected as he goes through his mid and late 30’s, Albert Pujols has primarily become a designated hitter for the Angels. That shifted this year, with Shohei Ohtani arriving and taking a lot of DH time on days he didn’t pitch. So the future Hall of Famer played 70 of his 117 games at first base.
Pujols’ 2018 campaign is over, after surgery on his left knee in late August and a surgery on his right elbow is coming this week. Foot issues plagued him prior to this year too, which made the shift to primary being a DH necessary.
Ohtani is facing the prospect of Tommy John surgery, and he won’t be able to pitch next year if he does go under the knife. That means he’ll be a full-time DH, leaving Pujols to almost exclusively play first base.
At 39 years old by the time Opening Day comes, Pujols is ready to embrace the challenge of playing first base every day.
I mean, nobody was expecting me to play 70-plus games (at first base) this year and I did it,” “I could’ve played more. If I’m healthy, I’m expecting myself to play 162 games. That’s who I am. I love to be on the field, I want to be on the field. I’m a Gold Glove first baseman. I showed that, that I still could do it out there. And I love that.
Pujols played at least 143 games in every year but one in his career prior to this one, and he is a two-time Gold Glove first baseman. But ample time not playing the field in 2016 and 2017 helped him play more games, and his last Gold Glove was in 2010 with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Pujols wasn’t dead weight defensively this year, with slightly positive value in Defensive Runs Saved and UZR and a Defensive WAR that was nearly neutral too (-0.5). But he played first base in nearly 60 percent of his games this year. With advancing age and his season shortened by a knee injury, that feels like a high-water mark going forward.