MILWAUKEE, WI - SEPTEMBER1: Albert Pujols #5 of the St Louis Cardinals hits a single during their game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on September 1, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Cardinals beat the Brewers 8-4. (Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images)
The strange thing about Albert Pujols's late drive for a .300 batting average is that so far he's only managed to put up a .300 average in one month—.317 in his 17-game June. Before that, .245 and .288, after it .295 and .298, and it's only after his 4-4 afternoon yesterday that's hitting better than .300 in the second half. (It pushed his second-half average all the way from .297 to .313.)
He's yet to have an Albert Pujols month this season, if by Albert Pujols month you mean something that looks a little like his career averages: .328/.421/.618. When he's at his best he's been hitting not for average but for power.
I don't know a lot about this Albert Pujols. I kept assuming we'd be seeing him eventually, as he began pulling a higher and higher percentage of his hits and racking up minor leg injury after minor leg injury, but his early-season slump (especially that punchless May) has made it difficult to see the continuity between this first baseman and the one that the Cardinals were about to hand hundreds of millions of dollars to earlier this year.
The slump in league offense hasn't helped, either. Pujols's isolated power in 2011 is actually the third-lowest of his career, ahead of only 2002 and 2007; even after going up 11 points yesterday it's 23 points lower than it was in 2010. Pujols is accruing more of his value than ever as a home run hitter—they represent 51.7% of his total bases, against a career mark of 45.9%—but it's not because of increased power like we expected; it's because he's not hitting any doubles. (Which rate at 16.7% compared to a career 23.3%.)
This all worries me with a long-term deal in the offing, not that I'm prepared for the Cardinals to go in a different direction. His collapsing walk rate has offset even the newly super powered second-half Pujols's .329 ISO; with an OBP under .400 he resembles nobody so much as the good Ryan Howard.
And I'll be honest, 2006-me still isn't ready for that.
2011-me is ready for Rafael Furcal to continue acting as a Tyler Greene simulator, though I'd like to see the real thing as soon as Memphis's season is less of a going concern than St. Louis's; Furcal is up to .239/.294/.394 now.
One use for the Tyler Greene Simulator: Furcal now has 17 extra bases in 109 at-bats as a Cardinal, which puts him within nine of 26 Ryan Theriot has managed in 411 at-bats. I do appreciate Theriot's ability to get on base more than the average replacement-level shortstop, but I'm excited to see if Furcal can catch him in September.
Theriot's complete lack of power reminds me of how easy it is for certain kind of players to slide by on the low expectations their position has given them. Theriot does a number of things surprisingly well—he can hit for average, he swats some doubles, he's always making contact—and better than we expect to see from shortstops. We don't expect power from shortstops anyway, so his particular deficiency—his ability to ever drive the ball out of the park—gets zeroed out in our minds.
But Theriot is especially bad at hitting home runs. His ISO, .063, is half the league average and almost 50 points lower than the league average for a shortstop; it's closer to the average pitcher (.042.) The difference between the runs he's actually created (44) and the runs he'd create if he had actual shortstop power (50) is real, but it's in a blind spot.
Possible commenting prompt: Where else do these blind spots show appear? The other one that immediately comes to mind is the difference in defensive incompetence between your average hulking first basemen and the particularly clumsy ones, like Richie Sexson.