In a disappointing season that is quickly coming to a disappointing end, the Cardinals reached down deep and pummel the Pittsburgh Pirates today, in honor of my birthday. The Redbirds knocked out 9 runs on 15 hits including, including a rousing 7 for 11 from today’s 3-4-5.
Maybe it’s the youngsters energizing the clubhouse. Maybe it’s sending the Lopez away that’s lit a fire under the Cardinals. Maybe it’s just because we’re playing the Pirates and we’ll again get swept by Chicago.
However, you slice it, it was fun watching the Cardinals do their thing.
Don’t hand that MVP to Votto just yet. Pujols let voters know he’s not backing down by going 3 for 4 today with 2 home runs, 3 RBIs and 3 runs scored. Pujols leads the league in homers, RBIs and runs scored. The only category he’s lower in his average and today he raised it .03 points to become 5th best in the league.
He is also only one of two players with over 25 home runs and less than 80 strikeouts. (Any guesses on the other guy? Don’t look it up….that’s cheating!) Votto has 116 Ks. Gonzalez? 126. Pujols once again shows power and precision.
I’m not saying it’s 100% his yet, but I am saying it’s up for grabs. Let’s see where the numbers fall after 162 games.
Loved my birthday present from the Cardinals,
Since the chance of October for our Redbirds is slowly disappearing before our eyes, I have turned my attention to rooting for the individual awards. The Cardinals have a very legitimate chance of bring home the 3 biggest pieces of individual hardware this year. The Cardinals competing for these awards are:
- Albert Pujols for MVP
- Adam Wainwright for Cy Young
- Jaime Garcia for Rookie of the Year
Two things to note before I talk about each of these guys. One, I would give up each of these awards for another World Series ring. And by their comments, I know each of them feel the same way. Two, even though I would like to see the Cardinals win, I try not to be biased. So that’s why I’m going to compare the number and look at who I think, legitimately, should be the winner in each of these categories. But, of course, as always, you can feel free to agree, disagree or tell me I’m crazy. On to the awards!
Albert is a candidate every year for this award. The awesome thing about Pujols is that even when everyone says he’s having a “down year,” his numbers are still through the charts. Most players would kill to put up half the numbers he does in a season. The same thing happens whenever people say he’s “slumping.” Or most recently, they said he wouldn’t be able to hit as well because of his left elbow. Then, he promptly went out and hit 2 home runs in the same game. That is Albert Pujols in a nutshell.
The last time I argued for Pujols as MVP (here, if you’d like to read it), I felt his only major competition was Joey Votto. Since that time, however, Carlos Gonzaelez, has definitely wiggled his way into the conversation. And this late in September, I feel very confident asserting that the MVP will go to one of those 3. So, if the season ended today, who gets it the award? Let’s break it down.
Triple crown categories
Pujols .308 .AVG (6th), 39 HR (1st), 104 RBI (1st)
Votto .321 .AVG (3rd), 34 HR (2nd), 103 RBI (2nd)
Gonzalez .337 .AVG (1st), 32 HR (4th), 101 RBI (3rd)
Pujols 85 walks (2nd), 69 Ks, .401 OBP (3rd), .595 .SLG (2nd)
Votto 83 walks (3rd), 112 Ks, .423 OBP (1st), .594 .SLG (3rd)
Gonzalez 77 walks (4th), 103 Ks, .374 OBP (14th), .610 .SLG (1st)
Pujols RISP .341/.508/.651, RISP & 2 outs .348/.595/.652, Bases loaded .125/.200/.250
Votto RISP .381/.503/.678, RISP & 2 outs .326/.475/.674, Bases loaded . 300/.364/.600
Gonz. RISP .317/.359/.561, RISP & 2 outs .263/.344/.456, Bases loaded .250/.286/.500
Even though the numbers should be based on 2010 alone, some voters will not be able to help but look at Pujols’ body of work. He’s been consistently great for 10 seasons. They might see this as a lucky year for Votto. However, that could work for Votto. Some voters will be tired of seeing the same guys get it year after year and want to go with someone new like Votto or Gonzalez. There is also the factor of getting your team to the postseason. It shouldn’t be a factor, but it is for some. If the Cardinals are out, but the Reds and Rockies make it, that could make a difference.
Still too close to call. One day it looks like Pujols is the winner and the next day Votto will put up good numbers and take the lead. So this is a race that I think will not be able to be determined until the last day of the season. After all 162 games have been played, the winner will be determined and even then there will likely be disagreement. It’s not a “shoo-in” year for anybody.
So that’s my analysis of the MVP award this year. I will be excited to properly debate it once the season is over and we have the final numbers to look at.
I will look at the Cy Young and the Rookie of the Year in a future post. Wainwright’s performance (or lack thereof, so far) tonight will change his numbers and how he stacks up in that competition.
Bring home the hardware,
Well, Kyle Loshe obliged my request. He did not blow the lead. And I gotta give him credit. He was good. Not great. But he was good. Granted, he was pitching against the Pirates, a team who is well on their way to a 100 loss season. Nevertheless, he was good. Do I trust him in the postseason with the NLCS on the line? Not by a long shot. But maybe he can spot start against poorer teams on occasion until we get there. Because in a short series in October, Carpenter, Wainwright and Garcia is about as good as it gets. (Ain’t that right Cincy?) And by then hopefully Suppan will be back from the DL. I think Soup having the postseason experience and pitching again in St. Louis, he would do well as a number 4.
So Loshe ended up the winner by throwing 5 1/3 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, walking 2 and striking out 4. Luckily, it was more than enough, thanks to another rousing day by the Cardinal offense. The Redbirds got it started early in the 1st inning. A couple singles, a double, a couple walks and an Albert Pujols long ball later and the Cards had batted through their lineup. As good as it was, they really could (and should) have gotten more than 4 that first inning. But, hey, I’ll take it. Especially because, before the game was over, the Cardinals would tack on another 6 insurance runs. But that first inning of offense was more than enough to beat Pittsburgh who only managed two runs in the 6th inning on a Garrett Jones homer.
The bullpen picked up where Loshe left off and pitched a scoreless 3 2/3 innings to make this the second game in a row that we have won pretty easily. (And by easily, I mean that the bullpen isn’t walking the bases loaded while I’m breathing in a paper bag.)
The best part of these last two games is that all of these runs are being scored without Colby Rasmus, who figures to be a big part of the postseason push. But as long time Cardinal fans know, you can’t only depend on your 3-4-5 guys for the runs. True playoff contenders get production up and down the lineup, as well as those unlikely guys who step off the bench into history. Remember Scott Spiezio’s torrid hitting in late 2006?
The end result of this game is not only our third win in the row, but it’s a win that puts the pressure on the Reds whose game started moments ago. We know we can’t drop in the standings and have a shot to gain a game on Cincinnati. We also gained one game on Philly thanks to a Houston win, although I’d certainly rather take the Central than the Wild Card.
Side notes: Albert upped his MVP candidacy by going 3-5 and belting his 33rd home run of the season. He leads in home runs, RBI and is now batting .319, good enough for 2nd place, depending on what Prado and Gonzalez do. That’s serious contention right there for the Triple Crown. Votto’s putting up killer numbers, but how can you not give the MVP to a guy who’s seriously competing for the Crown? Also, his home run brought him within one home run of the milestone #400. Good money says it happens this series. Albert loves hitting against the Pirates. He’s now .425 with 10 home runs against Pittsburgh over the last 3 years
Lovin’ watching the Redbirds roll,
This game was frustrating in so many ways. To name a few:
- Kyle Loshe, proclaimed healthy from surgery. was his same unproductive self.
- The Cardinals’ rally was too little, too late because they let the game get away early.
- We let the Cubs have their first series win since the last time they played us. Why can a team 17 games back only beat us?
- Coupled with a Reds loss, this means we’re back in 2nd place.
And on and on and on it goes.
We all know how awful this game was, so no point in rehashing every last detail. Instead, let’s talk about the couple meager good things about this game. Both things are home runs from two different players at two very, very different points in their career.
The first was a surprise home run by recent call-up, Steven Hill. This guy’s life sure has
changed in the last week. He’s probably the only guy in the free world who appreciates Johnny Cueto’s Bruce Lee impersonation. As a result of Jason LaRue going on the DL from Cueto’s antics, the Cardinals needed a back-up catcher. For only logistical reasons (the Memphis Redbirds were too far away), the call-up went to AA catcher Stephen Hill, as opposed to AAA catcher, Matt Pagnozzi. There was talk of sending Hill down and bringing up Pagnozzi (yes, he is the nephew of famed Cardinal catcher, Tom Pagnozzi), but when the game initially got out of control today, LaRussa decided to give Yadier Molina a rest. Yadi has caught more innings than any other NL catcher this season. In his second major league at-bat ever, Hill got his first major league hit via the long ball. Barely over the fence and barely fair, but a home run is a home run. This sparked the only Cardinal rally of the day.
The second was certainly nowhere as unexpected as Steven Hill’s. This home run was by Albert Pujols, a man who has done that very thing 395 times before. Still this was a very significant home run, as it gave Pujols his 30th home run of the year, meaning he has done that in his first 10 years of playing. No other play IN THE HISTORY OF THE GAME has even done that their first 7 years of playing.
Albert has been really heating up in August as I mentioned here. This should surprise no one as, historically, August has been his best month hitting-wise. But until recently, many people had pretty much written his season off as merely “good” as opposed to “ridiculously awesome” as it’s previously been. But those of us who have had the privilege of watching Albert game after game for the past 10 seasons can tell you that any “slump” he has does not last for long and he will continually to be an MVP threat every year. I’ve read a few articles not really even giving Albert a chance. I think that once you have been so good for so long, people tend to take what you are doing for granted and not realize that we literally are watching history in the making every time he takes a swing. In a separate article, a writer stated that there were three guys that had a possibility of making a run at the Triple Crown this year: Miguel Cabrera, Josh Hamilton and Joey Votto. All great players for sure, but how do you not put Pujols on the list? Sure, his average was low at the time (and by “low” I mean around .300), but one hot streak and he’s right there.
Recently, I looked at Wainwright’s bid to be the 2010 Cy Young winner and tonight, I would like to look at Albert’s numbers to see if he could possibly be the NL MVP for the 3rd straight year. We’ll also look at his competitors and break it down similar to how I did the Cy Young award.
Obviously, the place to start, what do the numbers say about Pujols and the guy that many think is the possible MVP / Triple Crown threat.
G AB .AVG .SLG HR RBI BB SO
Pujols 115 435 .315 .586 30 86 71 54
Votto 110 404 .322 .594 28 79 67 90
Pujols is 2nd in home runs, 1st in RBI, 4th in .AVG, 2nd in .SLG, 2nd in .OBP
Votto is 3rd in home runs, 3rd in RBI, 1st in .AVG, 1st in .SLG, 1st in .OBP
Basically, Pujols leads in 2 of the three triple crown categories, but Votto has him on average, slugging and on-base. The question will be how long Albert continues on this tear. In the matter of a couple weeks he has managed to raise his average from slightly below .300 to a fantastic .315 only .07 points of the lead. One more home run will tie Adam Dunn for the lead there and he maintains a safe distance as the leader in RBI. If Albert manages to raise his average, he will definitely be a favorite to repeat as the MVP.
Pujols also leads Votto in walks (2nd in NL), while striking out a whole lot less. He has also hit more doubles and stolen more bases, but Votto has scored more runs.
Not a year goes by without the debate of what “valuable” really means. Is Albert Pujols more valuable because of his monster numbers, despite having a slugger like Matt Holiday on the team? Or is Votto more valuable because no one expected the Reds to be in 1st place this far into the season? Is Albert more valuable because his ability to do this year after year or is Votto more valuable because you look at 2010 and 2010 alone. No matter how you answer these questions, other factors will always figure in the MVP voting that you can’t always know. A big one is getting your team into the postseason and remains to be seen which of these guys (or if maybe both) will do that.
This is a two horse race between these two guys at this point. Other guys have good numbers, but not GREAT numbers like Votto and Pujols have put up so far. The other power hitters don’t have the average and the high average guys have low power numbers. But these two are examples of the perfect combo. The remaining 1 1/2 months of the season will reveal who has in him to complete the 162 game grind still producing for his team.
But for now? It’s too close to call.
According to my stats, a lot of you are reading but not very many are commenting, so let’s change that. I’d love to hear what you have to say. You can start now by weighing in on this discussion.
sp; Who’s your call between these two?
– Do you think I should have shown love to guys like Dunn or Gonzalez as MVP candidates?
– Will Albert ever win the Triple Crown? Will anybody???
– Do you think Stephen Hill slept with his home run ball tonight?
Or anything else that tickles your fancy…..
Glad to be done playing the Cubs,