Latest Posts

How Albert Pujols regained his old form to reach 700 home runs, and what it means for Cardinals in October

- Advertisement -

Louis Cardinals legend Albert Pujols became the fourth member of the MLB 700-homer club on Friday night when he started Nos. 699 and 700 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pujol can now be listed alongside Barry Bonds, Henry Aaron and Babe Ruth as the top-scoring hitters in Major League Baseball history.

The chances of Pujols reaching that pinnacle seemed slim back in the spring, when he signed a one-year deal to end his career where it began. He was, after all, 42 years old, and the latest statistics of his service record indicated that he was best suited to work in a short platoon. Pujols also did not improve his chances in the first three months of the season. He hit a couple of home runs in April and May, but failed to score once in June. July with three homers got him back on track, but still left him with 14 home runs short of 700, and only two months left of his season and career.

- Advertisement -

They say life finds a way, and so does Pujols. Since August, he’s been acting like… well, like he was when he was young. In his last 43 games, he hit .306/.372/.694 with 14 home runs in 137 games. Pujols continued to do most of his left hand serve damage, but the introduction of an all-around designated hitter, combined with the Cardinals’ comfortable lead in the National League Central, provided him with a steady stream of chances.

- Advertisement -

To honor Pujols’ achievement and nod to his turnaround, let’s break down his game this season and what that means for the playoff Cardinals’ hopes.

How Pujols flourished

- Advertisement -

Again, this sounds like a sentence torn from a 2008 article, but Pujol’s success this year can be attributed to a combination of his contact punches and his strength.

Namely, Pujols entered Saturday with an 89 percent in-zone contact rate, 37th-best among 346 batters with at least 200 trips to the plate. Meanwhile, Pujols’ average exit speed of 91.2 mph was better than all but two batters ahead of him in zone contact speed: Yandy Diaz and Vinnie Pasquantino, with Pujols, for his part, hitting the ball in “sweet spot” of launch angle more often than any of them.

Monthelectric car

April

88.3 mph

May

90.9 mph

June

90.0 mph

July

90.7 mph

August

93.0 mph

September

92.3 mph

Pujols’ performance growth, as expected, coincided with an increase in exit rates. As you can see from the chart above, over the past two months it has gone from a steady average exit speed in the 90-91 mph range to picking up more power. This development may be partly due to a philosophical shift. Look below and notice how he has become more prone to hitting the ball in the air and to the left:

MonthPull %OUR

April

41.7%

20.3 degrees

May

51.2%

19.4 degrees

June

41.4%

1.7 degrees

July

52.3%

13.1 degrees

August

66.0%

18.0 degrees

September

59.6%

21.9 degrees

Enduring memory of Pujols will be as an all-field striker. This has not been the case lately. Rather, Pujol’s pull levels this season are within two percentage points of Joey Gallo, whose extreme pull tendencies have made him an example of someone who could benefit by going a different route to balance the shift.

Pujols has seen his fair share of overloads too, but they’re less common when the right-hander is batting. And they are less effective when he puts the ball on the seats.

What does this mean for the Cardinals in the playoffs?

We usually talk about resilience and the like and warn against betting on a 42-year-old who will keep up the MVP-level pace for a long time. The beauty of Pujols’ upcoming retirement is that it doesn’t matter. He has 10 games in the regular season and many more in the postseason. Almost anything and everything can happen on this small sample, regardless of the process.

If you’re the Cardinals, a Pujols resurgence should give them new hope on the grounds that he could have a positive impact on the postseason. It’s a welcome result as the Cardinals deal with a compromised roster and outfield, with Dylan Carlson just off the injured list and Tyler O’Neal on him with a hamstring strain. The Cardinals should be thrilled with the arrival of Lars Nutbar, but it’s fair to say they could be in a better position with their squad and their outfield if they could ensure that Carlson and O’Neal were fit and healthy until October.

Logically, it may seem foolish to see Pujol as a potential counterweight, let alone a plausible differencemaker. But there is still room for magic in this old sport, and he has excelled, demonstrating it over and over again over the past two months.



Source: www.cbssports.com

- Advertisement -

Latest Posts

Don't Miss