I was talking with a friend earlier today about how it seems Albert has hit an unusual amount of solo homers this season, at least compared to a lot of other power hitters. Well, part of that is due to short term memory: #5 has hit 6 solo blasts in a row now between August 26th and his multi-home run game yesterday on 9/12. Also, going back to August 13th, 10 of his last 11 homers have resulted in only 1 RBI.
On the season, 24 of the 38 that have gone yard were solo, or 63.2%
That's not too unusual, and before I go further, we have to remember that most all of this data are prone to the small sample size rut that is always fun to look at but rarely that informative. This is more for curiosity's sake.
For his career, Pujols has hit 220 solo homers out of a total of 405: 54.3%
I wanted to look at the total # of solo shots / total # HRs from the league totals for the length of Pujols's career, but it would take way too long to count out solos from 2000+ lines of data from www.baseball-reference.com If anyone knows an easier way to do this, please let me know - I'm not used to looking up information online and so I am not fully aware of what's available out there.
Anyway, broken down year by year, Pujols's numbers (solo / total, rounded up to the nearest decimal) look like the following:
2001: 21/37 = 56.8%
2002: 14/33 = 42.4%
2003: 22/42 = 52.4%
2004: 26/45 = 57.8%
2005: 21/40 = 52.5%
2006: 22/48 = 45.8%
2007: 20/31 = 64.5% (sidenote: He almost missed 30 HRs. Only hit 2 in final month and a half)
2008: 20/36 = 55.6%
2009: 30/46 = 65.2%
2010: 24/38 = 63.2%
Totals: 220/405 = 54.3%
Obviously, in his first 6 seasons his solo rates ranged from 42.4% to the highest at 57.8%. Again, small sample sizes, but in the last 4 years, it has ranged from 55.6% to 65.2%. There are too many factors that could begin to explain this, ranging from not performing in pressure situations to not receiving a pitch in the strike zone and so on, but there seems to be some sort of growing trend here.
I wanted to compare Albert to the other "most dangerous hitter in baseball" so I looked at A-Rod's totals from the same 2001-2010 timespan. They are as follows.
2001: 27/51 = 53.0%
2002: 29/56 = 51.8%
2003: 28/46 = 60.9%
2004: 18/35 = 51.4%
2005: 27/47 = 57.4%
2006: 16/34 = 47.1%
2007: 18/53 = 34.0%
2008: 23/34 = 67.6%
2009: 15/29 = 51.7%
2010: 10/21 = 47.6%
Totals: 213/406 = 52.5%
As you can see, Pujols and A-Rod have hit almost the exact same amount of solo shots to total shots: 220 for AP vs 213 for AR and 405 for AP vs 406 for AR. Impressive all around. I will take this opportunity to not take a cheap shot by saying I hate the Yankees and A-Rod happened to be caught using steroids in this time, whereas Pujols has, as far as we know, not.
Anyway, there does not seem to be a trend for Rodriguez that would indicate that he is instilling a growing fear into the hearts and minds of pitchers. Again, SSS.
I considered the fact that the AL plays baseball a bit differently and often features more home runs and more home run hitters. I figured the easiest comparison would be home run hitters from a friendly ballpark so I chose Coors Field, and 2001-2004 Todd Helton and 2005-2010 Matt Holliday. Perhaps Larry Walker would have been a better choice, but it's too late now. Their numbers?
2001: 28/48 = 58.3%
2002: 18/29 = 62.1%
2003: 22/32 = 68.8%
2004: 22/31 = 70.0%
2005: 6/18 = 33.3%
2006: 19/33 = 57.6%
2007: 18/35 = 51.4%
2008: 18/24 = 75.0%
2009: 11/23 = 47.8%
2010: 13/25 = 52.0%
Totals: 175/298 = 58.7%
As I expected, Holliday's numbers were not surprising for someone I consider a dangerous hitter but nobody that a pitcher is actually afraid to face of the likes of this decade's Bonds Pujols A-Rod etc. However, Helton's solo shot percentages are quite high - perhaps due to the protection of having to face Larry Walker and several other 30-HR guys in that time?
The 2007-2010 percentages for Pujols made me consider IBBs for these respective sets. A-Rod has 78, Pujols 232, and Helton/Holliday 109. Pujols by the years:
2010: 34 and counting
When compared to his solo shots numbers, his average IBBs have increased when his solo shot percentages have increased. In 2005 and 2006 his IBBs increased significantly but his solo percentages did not - however, those were lineups that featured Larry Walker ('05) and Rolen and Edmonds in both years to provide dangerous cleanup hitting. From 2007-2008 it seems the consensus in the media was that the Cardinals had no legitimate backup for Pujols, but 2008 of course featured Ludwick's crazy awesome season, and 2007 showed Lil Dunc's once-promising 21 HR season and 2008 had Glaus at 20+ and 2009 brought in Holliday.
Still, after the 2003-2005 seasons it seems that teams stopped being afraid of what the Cardinals brought to the table - work around Pujols and there's not much to fear. Even with Holliday having a good year (disappointing for me compared to his contract) we all know there isn't anything in the 6-9 and 1-2 spots to really worry about. What went from a promising 1-6 of (what I wanted to see) Rasmus > Lopez > Holliday > Pujols > Ludwick > Rasmus lineup has of course turned into Schu > * > Pujols > Holliday > Rasmus > * * etc.
I guess what I'm getting is that these small samples seem to show that pitchers/managers/whatever are afraid of Pujols moreso than any other player in the game and that they are becoming increasingly comfortable with not letting him hit.
Assuming Pujols's power numbers do not begin fading in the next few years from wear and tear, I believe this means the Ludwick trade was not only terrible for this season, but will impact the team for the next several years. Colby must maintain his power threat and stay healthy, and Freese must be healthy in order to add some stability and to the lineup - something neither of them has thus far shown.
And for GOB's sake, we need to install some high OBP players in front of Pujols - aka some young, cheap talent from hmm, the minors maybe? Trading the 3rd biggest power threat and playing the gritty vets is not only hurting the team, but limiting the best player in baseball from showing that he might actually be able to put up greater numbers than he already has, something I am not sure if I believe possible. So I suppose I will end with this: It is time for TLR to go. I liked him until 2008 or so and I grew up with him, but there always comes a time..and I hope that time does not effect Pujols's future location.