Albert Pujols – 2010 Triple Crown
What can you say about Albert Pujols? The 8-time all-star and 3-time MVP has accumulated 6 silver slugger awards and has led the National League in virtually every major statistical category at least once through his first 10 seasons. If he were to retire today he would be a first ballot Hall of Famer, this according to the 4 major Hall of Fame tests; Black Ink (43, avg HOF 27), Gray Ink (211, avg HOF 144), Hall of Fame Monitor (234, avg HOF 100) and Hall of Fame Standards (48, avg HOF 50).
Albert Pujols this past season joins only Lou Gehrig as the only two players to have hit 40 doubles and 40 home runs in three different seasons. He also joined Albert Belle as the only two players to hit 45 doubles and 40 home runs in two different seasons. But the one feat he will accomplish this season has not happened in the National League since Joe Medwick did so 73 years ago, the Triple Crown.
Pujols has led the league in batting average twice, finished 2nd twice, and finished 3rd twice. He has led the league in home runs once, finished 2nd once and finished 3rd once. He has finished 2nd three times and 3rd twice in runs batted in. But what makes this season different? It is not new hitting coach Mark McGuire. It is not Dr. James Andrews who successfully removed 5 bone spurs from his right elbow this past off-season. The difference comes in the first legitimate cleanup hitter he has protecting him in Matt Holliday.
Over the past 4 full seasons Albert Pujols has averaged one walk per every 8.18 at-bats. With runners on base the number dips to one walk per every 3.76 at-bats. With runners in scoring position the average dips ever lower to one walk per every 2.55 at-bats.
It has been a lot easier for opposing pitchers to pitch around Albert Pujols in years past. But for the first time in his career the St Louis Cardinals have a legitimate cleanup hitter in Matt Holiday, who through the first 7 games of the season has hit .379 with 3 home runs, 2 doubles and 6 runs batted in.
Pujols is currently leading the National League in home runs (5) and runs batted in (14) both career highs to start a season. His .407 batting average is good for 7th in the league. Most important, his walk rate per at-bat has decreased substantially. With runners on base he has 3 walks in 13 at-bats (4.33). And with runners in scoring position Pujols has only 2 walks in 9 at-bats (4.50), or roughly 2.5 less walks per at bat over his 4 year average. What does this mean, more pitches, more home runs, more runs batted in, and the first triple crown in the National League in 73 years.