Based on everything I read on blogs and saw on television last night, I was starting to form the impression that Albert Pujols was missing in action until his recent home run spree. I couldn’t disagree more. The big fella has been there all along.
At approximately the 1/3 mark of the season, Pujols was on track to reach 93 runs scored, 162 hits, 24 hr, and 84 rbi. Of course, all that assumes that he wouldn’t hit a hot streak of any kind in the latter 2/3 of the season. At that point, he was just one good week away from pushing those projections closer to 100 runs scored, 180 hits, 30 hr, and 100 rbi. Maybe that was conservative. He just needed a 6-game homestand.
Ignore the home runs for a moment, though. When Albert is really in a groove, the home runs are an unintended consequence of well-struck line drives. While most other players hit the ball into the gap, he hits the ball to the base of the wall for a double. When other players might get jammed, he fights off the pitch over an infielders head for his 2nd hit of the game. Sure, he’ll hit his share of home runs, but that’s not a great way to evaluate how well he’s hitting. Watch his body language on the field. When the ball is barely out of the pitcher’s hand, and Albert has already shrugged his shoulders, you know that he’s seeing the ball well. When he’s disappointed with “just” a single, then you know he’s in that zone. At that point that he’s patient enough to take the walk instead of swinging at pitches off the plate, then he’s really dialed in.
Over the past 10+ years, the 421 hr have made people stand up and take notice of Albert. What I appreciate is the patience he has to accept the 940 walks. He’s only drawn 26 to this point in 2011, but I expect that number to increase dramatically as pitchers look to avoid Pujols more and more. Of course, then opponents just have to deal with the .300+ hitters surrounding Pujols, so I’m all for seeing him on base with greater frequency.
TIDBIT: Albert is 34 hits shy of 2000 for his career which places him 19th among active players.
MORE BITS OF TID: Why didn’t Carlos Zambrano go after Aramis Ramirez after Sunday’s game? If Aramis makes the play on Theriot’s ball in the 7th inning, then the chances that Theriot comes to the plate in the 9th inning decrease.
Follow gr33nazn on Twitter for the countdown to Albert’s 2000th hit!