As the baseball season approached its last couple weeks and it became obvious that the Tigers weren’t going to make the playoffs, I turned my attention to some individual statistics around the league. The player who I was most interested in tracking was Albert Pujols. With nobody in his lineup to protect him for a significant part of the year, his production numbers were down a bit. Pujols turned it on late but his streak of 30+ home runs, 100+ runs and 100+ RBIs was in danger of ending. It’s not as if Pujols needed those numbers to have a good season. He finished with a .327 batting average and a .997 OPS. Those numbers aren’t just good, they are great.
However, in a baseball world obsessed with “round” numbers (see; Curtis Granderson), Pujols has gotten a lot of “pub” for starting his career with six-straight seasons of at least 30 HRs, 100 RBIs, and 100 runs. Pujols needed one run in the last game of the season to extend that streak to seven. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen and now his career stats are scarred forever (mostly kidding). It’s a shame too because a presence of even an average hitter behind him in the Cardinals lineup would have resulted in a total over 100 runs. In another rotten twist for Pujols, he finished the season with 99 walks—one shy of the first 100-walk season of his career. I’m sure the Cardinals will gladly take his career BB:K ratio (an amazing 1.3:1)) over a 100-walk season any year. Of course, this talk is purely of the cosmetic variety. Pujols was easily one of the five most valuable players in the NL this year. All anyone needs to do is look at who he had in his lineup to see that. The fact that he put up a .997 OPS when only one other player on the team (min. of 350 at-bats) had an OPS higher than .740 is truly remarkable. Unfortunately—as my brother pointed out—that “99” in the runs column just looks bad. I can’t disagree.
On another note, Michael Young barely squeaked out another 200-hit season (201) to extend his streak to five-straight seasons. Nobody has ever had five consecutive 200-hit seasons and not made the Hall of Fame. I feel a quandary on our hands circa 2020.