A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
Some St. Louis Fans Have The Blues
ST. LOUIS – Even by his ridiculously high standards, Albert Pujols is having a ridiculously good season.
Pujols is batting .359, which essentially ties him with Atlanta’s Chipper Jones for the league lead. Pujols tops the NL charts for onbase percentage (.467) and slugging percentage (.639).
His batting average hasn’t been lower than .342 since May 7.
“Us mere mortals go through slumps,” Jones said. “Albert doesn’t.”
Pujols’ 2008 batting average is 27 points higher than his career average before this season. His onbase percentage is 47 points over his career number. And Albert’s slugging percentage is 19 points higher than his career norm.
So even going by the Pujols paradigm, he’s on fire.
In Sunday’s 6-3 victory over Atlanta, Pujols struck again. He hit a two-run homer in the first, then was handed free-pass coupons the rest of the afternoon in the form of three walks, two intentionally.
Future Hall of Fame Braves manager Bobby Cox declined to test the ludicrous theory that Pujols is no longer as dangerous with runners in scoring position.
And that’s probably the most ridiculous aspect of Pujols’ season. If you listen closely and pay attention, you’ll hear the unmistakable hum of dissent and dissing from the lunatic fringe among Cardinals fans who are excited to nitpick Pujols.
The carping critics’ weapon of choice this season: Pujols’ batting average with runners in scoring position is down, at least in comparison to his .344 average with runners in scoring position from 2001-2007.
After all, Pujols is hitting “only” .315 with runners in scoring position this year. And his batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs is shocking — only .273!
The whiners cling to that, as if it provides proof that there’s something wrong with Pujols.
I am sorry to be harsh, but to the people who are constantly searching for reasons to dog Pujols, isn’t this silly? It’s bad enough that Pujols has been robbed of at least one MVP award by national baseball writers. (And maybe two.) But when there’s griping about him locally, we’ve entered bizarro world.
First of all, Pujols has had only 33 at-bats with runners in scoring position and two outs. In the NL, 104 players have had more at-bats than Pujols in these situations — in part because he’s been walked 22 times, 16 intentionally with runners in scoring position and two out.
Overall with runners in scoring position, Pujols has only 89 at-bats; 64 NL players have had more opportunities. And yet he’s 20th in the league in RBIs with runners in scoring position.
Does that tell you anything? Pujols will finish with more than 100 walks this season for the first time in his career. No MLB player has been walked intentionally more times this season. And he’ll still end up with more than 30 homers and 100 RBIs and possible league titles in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging.
“When he comes to bat in with runners in scoring position, this is what he gets — pitches off the plate,” manager Tony La Russa said. “He could walk 150 times if he wanted to.
“We just don’t protect him enough. What if he was protected to where you couldn’t pitch around him? This guy doesn’t miss a pitch in the middle of the plate very often.”
Cox’s decision to pitch around Pujols worked on Sunday. The cleanup hitter, Ryan Ludwick, had a rough day. And Ludwick has been doing some real damage in the four hole this season. Ludwick is the best story of the Cardinals’ season, and a guy who deserves nothing but respect and accolades. But when I hear some Cardinals fans and members seriously tout the idea that Ludwick is the team’s MVP — well, it’s looney tunes. Please come back to earth.
According to the revised zone ratings at Hardball Times, Pujols is the league’s top-rated defensive first baseman this season (again). And he’s among the team’s leaders in advancing extra bases with his baserunning. Even with sore legs.
“There’s nobody in baseball that’s better than the guy who plays first base for us,” La Russa said. “And I mean, nobody. And the great majority of the people in uniform in this game, and the scouts, agree with that.”
Bulletin: Pujols isn’t perfect. No one is.
But is it fair to demand perfection from him?