But, I’m talking about the race for the MVP and Cy Young Awards.
Pujols tried to amp up support for voting him the NL MVP a 2nd year in a row the last couple of games. Before Sunday’s game Pujols’ 39 homers was good enough to be tied for 3rd in the NL and his 109 ribbies also ranked him 3rd.
Then on Sunday, he went deep 3 times and came up just short of making it four. (Mark Whitten anyone??) That brought him up to 42 as well as 2nd place and within 6 of Big Ryan Howard who has been pounding the stuffing out of the ball all year long. Then, what happens? Howard also decides to go deep 3x. Unbelievable. It’s a crazy night in the majors when A-Rod going deep twice seems like small potatoes.
So, today after Miles spoiled the (apparently elusive) no-hitter of Ortiz, Pujols also decided to spoil the shutout (and as a result, the complete game) by going deep again. But, Howard is refusing to be gained upon. He matched Pujols once again and now is sitting at 53. Wow. He leads Pujols by 10 homers and 19 RBIs.
In my opinion, if Pujols finishes within striking distance of Howard in terms of the long ball and RBI total, he’s definitely got the MVP wrapped up. I still think he’s likely to get it anyway because Howard has two things going against him. One, his team might not make the playoffs and there is a definite bias against guys whose teams don’t end up in October. And, two, he is nowhere near the well-rounded player that Pujols is. Pujols is a candidate for his first ever gold glove and has played great defense this year. Plus, he’s a great base runner and just an all around excellent baseball player.
Plus, some people casting their ballot may be of the school of though that says, "Experience is worth consideration." Some people don’t look at just 2006, but of the career of a player. And Pujols has proved to be the man year in and year out. Something I think is definitely worth pointing out is that Howard, while leading in home runs, is also 2nd in the NL in strikeouts. Well, all great sluggers strike out a lot, right? Wrong. Howard has 154 Ks. You know how many Pujols has? 40. That’s right. 40. Howard has a strikeout for nearly every game played this year. And Albert strikes out every four games or so.
Some are talking about the Carlos’ (Beltran or Delgado) as potential threats to win the MVP. While they’re putting up good numbers, I just don’t think they’re quite good enough. Pujols leads them in every category that matters. He’s first in the NL in average, on base percentage and slugging. Howard comes in 2nd in all those categories, with Beltran and Delgado bringing up the rear. Have I mentioned that Pujols has done all this with less at-bats? He missed a couple weeks early in the season and has 12 less at-bats than Delgado, 16 less than Beltran and a ******** 63 less at-bats than Howard. You have to figure with Pujols averaging a homer for every 10 at-bats, he’d have around 6 more putting him quite close to Howard’s numbers.
So I think it comes down to Pujols and Howard. If you’re voting on power alone, right now Howard’s your guy and some people will vote based on the two categories of homers and RBI total alone. So I figure he will garner some first place votes. But, I think more people will vote on the complete package, which is what the MVP represents. So, for my money, Pujols is the winner.
Of course, any one of these guys could go on a complete tear in September and shake things up a little bit.
Of course, you might think I’m a St. Louis fan and therefore, bias towards Pujols. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear your argument for who should be MVP. Howard? Beltran? Someone else? I’m totally open to a well reasoned argument. Also, any suggestions for the AL Cy Young? I don’t follow the AL as closely so I’m interested in what AL fans think.
Well, I was going to touch on the prospective NL Cy Young Winner, but it’s late and I’m tired. So I will try to get around to that tomorrow night.
P.S. As I type this, the Giants just pulled ahead 5-4 in the 10th inning. Hopefully, they’ll win and the Reds will stay back 6 games and far away from the Redbirds.
I just finished watching the Cardinal game. Unbelievable! My heart is still pounding.
For anybody who needs a recap, I’d love to give you one.
His name is Gary Bennett. In over a decade of professional ball, he has played for 7 different clubs and is in his first year as a Cardinal. He’s the backup catcher to one of the best defensive catchers in the game, Yadier Molina. Before this year, he had a total of 15 home runs, the most being 4 in one year back in 2002, when he was with the Rockies. Big surprise there……Coors field.
This year he was homer-less until August 18th, when he belted a rather meaningless home run against Chicago Cub hurler Roberto Novoa in the Cardinal’s 11-3 rout of the Cubs. To me, it was just proof of how bad the Cubs were playing. You know, the "even Bennett hit one out" argument. Little did I (or probably the rest of Cardinal nation) know that this was the beginning of one very very hot streak. In the 10 days since that game, Molina has been sidelined with an injury and Bennet has now caught 5 games in that timespan.
In those five games, he has hit .692 and is slugging 1.286. In those same five games, he has hit 3 more home runs and has been the walk-off hero twice. If that’s not a ‘hot streak,’ I don’t know what is.
I thought it couldn’t get any better than beating the Cubs on Saturday walk-off style in the 9th. And then there was Sunday. Bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, one out. Miles grounds into the fielder’s choice at home and just barely beats out catcher Michael Barrett’s attempt to turn two at first. So, now you have the bases loaded with 2 out. And, as hot as he’s been going, there is no Cardinal I’d rather see stride to the plate than Gary Bennett. But, still you think….he wouldn’t dare do it again, would he? And, then he did. His first ever big league grand slam. And the celebration happened all over again.
Bennett has the Cardinals 3 games up in the standings and riding high. If the team wanted to feel motivated, I can’t think of anything that would do it better than someone hitting a grand slam in the bottom of the 9th to beat the Cubs. And, someone other than Albert. Don’t get me wrong. I love Albert. We’d be nowhere this high in the standings without him. But, I think that had he led off the inning with a homer, it would be easy to think, "Well, that’s Albert. That’s what he does." Instead, it was a team effort: moving runners up, hustling out throws. When you have a true championship-caliber team, everyone pitches in. One game it’s your big 3-4-5 knocking the stuffing out of the ball and other games it’s someone winning it was a squeeze or a tremendous pitching peformance. And many many times, someone unexpected comes through when nobody else could.
One more thing and I’m done. Scott Rolen is my favorite player for a lot of reasons, but tonight he was exceptional. (And that’s saying a lot for the human vacumn cleaner over at 3rd.) One of the best plays of the game was his single into right in the first. Jaque Jones misplayed the ball and Rolen, hustling all the way, turned an already RBI single into a run that tied the game up. If that had been anybody else, they would have trotted to first, then seeing that the ball had gotten past PIerre gone to 2nd and MAYBE third. But, because Rolen hustles everything (even his home run trot), he scores on that play. Eckstein is the only other guy I see scoring in a similar situation.
In the 2nd, he made a great diving catch for the third out in the inning. He doesn’t make that play, it’s a fair ball that results in at least one run and maybe 2 and keeps the inning alive.
Rolen wasn’t the only one who played well. Belliard had a very nice play up the middle and other guys as well. But, Rolen really stands out because of his hustle and his drive. You don’t have him being that consistent and Bennett never gets the chance to play the hero.
What a game, what a series. A friend I played softball with back in school and I were talking today about what it’s like to be in that situation. Bottom 9 and your team has the chance to win a big game. The sick sinking feeling of every pitch as you watch it play out or even more gut wrenching, if you’re in the batter’s box. And then the absolute thrill of victory. And, I’m talking mere high school/college ball. I can’t imagine the feeling these guys must have on the MLB level, how Gary Bennett must be feeling right now.
He and his teammates have one day off to enjoy it before coming back, tackling the Marlins and hopefully adding something to their lead in the NL Central.
I don’t know about you guys, but it’s starting to feel like October.
Feeling the October magic,
Ok, I just posted this long message about Chris Duncan before the game, his home run frequency and then in the first inning he goes and hits another home run. That’s 3 games in a row.
So, I have to correct my numbers, but that’s okay with me. I’ll take a home run any day. So, his home run tonight has lowered his frequency to a homer every 11.86 at-bats. Still not at Albert Pujols level, but definitely impressive.
Of course, he is likely to get another 4 or 5 at-bats tonight and assuming he doesn’t get ahold of another one, that will be pushed back up over 12.
But, the Cardinals are already looking good tonight. The top of the first just ended and the Cardinals sent 8 men to plate and scored four runs on 2 homers. When you give Chris Carpenter at least four runs of support, he won’t waste it too often.
It’s good to be a Cardinal fan.
Yesterday was one of those roller coaster rides that does not end on a happy note.
I was gone last night at game time, so I watched last night’s game today. The Cardinals jumped out to a lead then the Cubs tied it up. Then, they went ahead and the Cardinals tied the game. And so it went. The lead went back and forth and the game got all tied up 3 separate times.
And when the Cardinals tied the game in the 8th on an Edmonds walk and a Ronnie Belliard belt out to center field and in the 9th on a Chris Duncan home run, it felt like somehow some way, we were going to win the game.
Especially when Albert Pujols stepped up with the bases loaded. With nowhere to put, the Cubs were forced to pitch to him and he drove the ball real deep. So deep that Pierre was literally shrouded in ivy as he leaped up against the wall. That was very upsetting. You get so used to Albert doing heroic things, it almost becomes automatic. But, this time it was not meant to be.
The Cubs would take the lead again for the last and final time in the 10th inning when Nevin hit a walk off single.
The only consolation I have is that tomorrow will be our last game this year at Wrigley. We’ve won exactly ONE game there this year (on Friday) and I couldn’t be happier to see the place go. The Cubs are nowhere even close for the division race or the wild card race for that matter and yet they continue to be the thorn in our side. Especially when we play them away.
The worst part is that the pesky Reds won last night against the Pirates. I still don’t see them overtaking us for the division, but I would feel a lot better if we just lost them completely. The earlier the Cardinals clinch their division the better. I don’t want to be in a race down to the last week of baseball.
In the series finale, we have Carpenter going tonight. And always, when Carp is on the mound, we have a pretty good chance of winning. Taking 2 of 3 isn’t perfect, but it’s sure a whole lot better than losing 2 of 3.
The Pirates and Reds are already playing. The Pirates threatened pretty well in the first inning, but were held off by Harang. He struck a couple of batters out and then everything was pretty quiet until the bottom of the 3rd. The Reds hit a couple of homers and now lead to 5-0. Ugh.
Last but not least, I would just like to say something about Chris Duncan. He is tearing up opposing pitching right now. It’s been quite a surprise. He was hitting decently when I left a month ago, but he is on fire now. He is patient at the plate and when he makes contact the ball is traveling a long distance.
And that make his home run frequency quite impressive, especially for such a young player. He’s got 13 home runs in just a mere 165 at-bats. That’s a frequency of at every 12.69 at-bats.
Want a comparison? He’s second on the team behind only (who else) Albert who hits one out every 10.72 at-bats. Not a bad guy to come in 2nd to.
The NL league leader in home runs is Ryan Howard and he hits a dinger every 10.39 at-bats. AL HR leader David Ortiz has hit one deep every 10.35 at-bats. So while Duncan’s not quite at this territory, he is much higher than a lot of his teammates.
Edmonds and Rolen are 2nd and 3rd on the Redbirds for home runs and their frequency is every 21.78 and 18.33 respectively. Obviously, the more at-bats you have, the harder it is to try to keep up that sort of pace. Which is why it makes seasons like McGwire had in ’98 (a homer every 7.27 at-bats) and Bonds in 2001 (every 6.52) even more unbelievable.
All that said Chris Duncan is turning into a very fine hitter. He’s been improving all season and this last month especially has performed quite well. He started hitting .200 in May, then .286 in June, up to .324 in July and is now hitting a crazy .421 in August. He also as an OBP of .477 and is slugging .842.
I admit, I was an early critic of Duncan due to his lack of plate discipline and not so impressive fielding. But, for now, I’m content letting him hit into the 2 spot and watch him continue to pound the ball. His fielding is still not AMAZING, but there’s time for that if he’s willing to try to improve.
Does anyone remember how bad Albert Pujols was in the outfield when he first started? They tried him in a few different places, but outfield was by far the worst. He looked awful chasing pop flies. He finally found a home at first and every season his fielding has improved. Almost every game, an announcer predicts he will win a gold glove and he’s made some impressive plays this year. Dunc can do the same.
For now, we really need a win tonight over Chicago. And Carpenter is just the guy I’d like to have on the mound to do it. Let’s see if he can repeat his last performance, a 4-hit complete game.
Ok, game time.
Temporary Pirates fan,
If you keep up with my blog, you will know that I am an American currently living in Madrid, Spain. You would also know that I have been out of the country (meaning Spain) for a little over a week. My job doesn’t require me to travel extensively, but once in awhile, it comes up where I need to.
I am in the communications/video field and we find we are able to film most of our stuff here. We’re pretty low-budget and traveling can get quite expensive. But, this trip was necessary so me and the rest of the crew drove with all of our equipment from Spain, through France, through Belgium and into Holland. I do a little bit of everything, but for the purposes of this trip, I mostly operated our new HD camera, which was a lot of fun. But, as I said, we’re small budget. So, I defintely do a lot of the grunt work too.
We had one day off, which I spent in nearby Germany, which as most of you probably know, is where the World Cup is being held. And, believe me, they are well aware of this fact. It’s all over the place. I bought a Coke at McDonalds in the shape of a soccer ball. They had one for six diferent countries. Holland’s main color is orange, so you saw that everywhere. I have some orange in my wardrobe because I’m an Illini basketball fan, so I wore that to support the country we were in. So, it was fun getting a little bit into the soccer spirit, even if I’m not a big fan.
On to the bad news.
While I was gone, I wasn’t able to watch any Cardinals baseball. But, I did check on the scores evey few days. And, the news just got worse and worse. Overall, while I was gone, the Cardinals went 2-6, including losing a series to Chicago. Not to mention the loss of Albert Pujols. Talk about devastating.
You can say the Cubs lost Derrek Lee or that the Yankees lost Matsui. But, this is ALBERT PUJOLS. Even with all the great players the Cardinals have, Albert is not only the best, but he’s the best in the league. He crushes home runs like they’re nothing, but is still a hard guy to strike out because he plays small ball. He’ll get a base hit or take a walk and let Rolen or Edmonds be the hero.
And, of course, being a baseball fan, as well as playing softball in high school and college, I’m extremely superstitous and I’m well aware that the 2-6 record and Albert’s injury is mostly my fault. 🙂
I’d like to think that the Cardinals have enough star power to get them through this (hopefully short) stretch of Albert’s absence. And, while I believe that to be the case, I’m not very optimistic. I’ve been saying all year that the rest of the team needs to pick it up and that it seems we only do great things when Pujols has started it off. And, I said quite recently that I felt the Cardinals were becoming too dependent on a Pujols home run.
Before, I left, I figured up our win ratio when Pujols goes deep. I didn’t have time to write the intended post then, so I’ll share it with you now.
Overall, the Cardinals are 18-4 in games that Pujols has hit a home run. And, they are 16-17 in games he has not. That is extremely significant. Not even playing .500 ball when the opposing team keeps Albert in the park to playing .818 when he goes deep? That’s a huge difference. These stats are through June 3, the last time Pujols played. And, of course, everyone has noticed that we are 1-3 since that time his last game.
We start a series against the Brewers tonight and there’s no time like the present to get this thing turned around before it becomes too out of control. They’re talking July as the "worst case scenario" for Albert’s return and there is absoutely no reason why we can’t still be in contention at that time or even in first place. Getting Albert back should simply be a tremendous bonus, not our sole salvation.
The Brew Crew has slipped considerably after being the talk of the NL Central at the beginning of the year and we should be able to hopefully handle them with no problem. The Reds, who just swept us, begin a series against the Chicago Cubs. I know this is practically blasphemy, considering how anti-Cub I am, but I almost don’t know who to root for. As a Cardinal fan, it’s a hard and fast rule that you NEVER root for the Cubs, under any circumstance. But, then again, the Reds edged their way to a half game lead over us. Chicago is so far buried they don’t have a chance, but the Reds getting swept now wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. So, I guess I will just have to abstain and not root for anybody for that series.
Two more things.
1) Roger Clemens signed with the Astros. Yes, I realize it’s old news, but I was gone, so I’m going to mention it now. I expected him to return and I’m happy he has. I think he’s a great pitcher. I’m sorry it’s with the Astros because they will only be better with him, but I am also sorry because I think the Astros will not be a major contender this year and it would be great for Clemens to play on a top notch team as he drifts towards full retirement.
2) Who do you think will grab the NL 1st base votes for the All-Star game? Lee has been out and with Pujols out, votes will drop considerably for him. Pujols has over a million votes so far and leads his next closer rival Carlos Delgado by a huge margin. But, Pujols will probably not be back by the break. So Delgado is in 2nd, with Lance Berkman not too far behind him. Nomar Garciappara and Ryan Howard round out the top 5. Any guesses who the All-Star 1B will be? My money is that Delgado will widen the gap between him and Berkman and win. Not only is he a good player, but I think the Mets have a big enough following to lift him easily ahead of Berkman.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on that or on the All-Star game in general. And I would love to hear your thoughts on Pujols as well. We survived without Rolen, but we didn’t make it to the World Series. What will happen without Pujols?
As I said earlier I’m not a soccer fan, but I think the World Cup is a lot more fun to follow than just regular games. Plus, I’m loyal to my country and of course, to my current home for the last year. So, go U.S.A. and go Spain. I hope they both do well in the Cup.
And, I really hope the Cardinals crush the Brewers tonight as they make their way back to the top of NL Central.
Badly needing a Cardinal win,
What happens with your Cy Young pitcher can’t make his scheduled start? Fill in with pitchers who can pitch AND hit.
Pitcher Jason Marquis hit a triple in a pinch hit at-bat in the 3rd inning.
Pitcher Adam Wainwright hit a home run in the 5th inning.
Pitcher Braden Looper hit a double in the 9th inning.
And, we currently have a 10-4 lead in the 9th and hopefully still adding to it. All is well.
Good-hitting pitchers are awesome,
I was just finishing up my post about yesterday’s game and I lost it. I hate that. Tonight’s game has already started because the Cards are playing early (yay!), so I will briefly sum up what I said in the post.
Basically, if you look at this game compared to Monday’s game that we dropped to the Giants, there was a huge difference. During Monday’s game we continually frustrated any positive attempts that had been made. Hitting into double plays, botching hit and runs, not taking advantage when we could.
Yesterday was the complete opposite. We stacked up on the hits and took major advantage with the help San Fran gave us in the way of walks and errors. When a team makes mistakes like that, it is key to make something happen. You never know when you might get another chance.
And, of course Pujols went deep. Number 23! And, Bonds…..well, he hit nada out of the park.
The only thing that bothers me in our wins lately is that it seems that we need Pujols to start the scoring. If he’s having an off night, we don’t win as often. I understand he’s a great player, but when he’s on, it seems the other guys are also. It would be nice if they were on when he has a bad night. Luckily for us, he’s Pujols and doesn’t have too many bad nights.
So, we’ve now hit 30 wins.
I turned the game on a little late, so I have no idea why Thompson is starting tonight instead of Carpetner. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and just the flu or something. But, I’m going to see if I can find out. (EDIT: I just found out that he has an inflamed something on his right side. Apparently, he thinks he will be ok, but until they can find out more, Thompson gets the start tonight. He definitely has big shoes to fill, but I think he’s up for it.)
And, because I decided I can’t be too mean to the Royals (I really do like them), I’m going to start playing Pujols vs. the Cubbies instead. So, tonight’s score:
Pujols – 23 Cubs – 18
Also, a BIG happy birthday to my niece who is 3 today. I miss her tons and wish I was there to help her celebrate.
Well, we’re losing so far tonight, so I better go start cheering harder.
Number 24 for Pujols,