i missed yesterday's game but in reviewing the play-by-play i saw that albert did it again -- ie, came up with men on base in a key spot and put a damper on the rally. in this case he struck out with men at 1st and 3d, nobody out, and the cards up 4-2; the man on 3d later scored thanks to a sloppy throw by ramirez, but without that piece of good fortune the cards would have had nothing to show for a very promising situation.
albert seems to keep having these little failures, and they're so uncharacteristic they really stand out. so i wonder: do we blow those poor at-bats out of proportion? do we only remember the times when albert lets us down in the midst of a rally, while taking the productive at-bats for granted?
let's go to the data. according to espn's situational splits, this is pujols' line when batting with a man on third and less than two out:
an impressive line -- seems like maybe we are not entirely fair to albert. let's parse this out: his 9 base hits are worth a minimum of 9 rbis -- with a man on third, presumably every hit brings home at least 1 run (i'm not going to worry about albert's rare infield hits here). since three of the hits are HR, that gets the rbi count up to 12. albert also has two sac flies this year, which brings the rbi count up to 14. that leaves only two rbi unaccounted for, and my strong suspicion is that both of them scored on one of albert's non-HR hits -- ie, if albert got a double with the bases loaded, that'd be an extra rbi (or two).
so we've got 23 opportunities to drive in a man from 3d with less than two out -- 21 at-bats plus 2 sac flies. if, as i'm assuming, albert's 9 hits and two sac flies account for all 16 rbi, then he only got the man home from third 11 times -- and failed to do so 12 times. that's a 48 percent success rate. not disastrously bad, but i think we expect more (and reasonably so) from a hitter as good as albert. hence our sense that he disappoints us in those at-bats.
i took another guess: maybe our sense of disappointment is heightened by the current rag-tag nature of the lineup. without roley larry and reggie, the team relies on albert more than ever; and the weakened lineup has left the cards in a lot of tight, low-scoring games, in which a man stranded at 3d may loom large. so i broke this out by month, using mlb.com's double splits. unfortunately, mlb.com doesn't break out man-on-3d-less-than-two-out at-bats, so i simply looked at all man-on-third situations, no matter how many outs. i also looked at at-bats with runners in scoring position (RISP). the numbers are telling:
|apr-jun, man on 3d
|jul-aug, man on 3d
look first at the "man on third" breakdown. since july 1 albert has 4 hits and 4 rbis in those situations -- which means all 12 of his outs left the runner stranded at third. now remember, this split doesn't control for the number of outs; it's possible all 12 of those at-bats came with 2 out, in which case a long fly ball wouldn't drive in a run. it's a small sample size; you never know. but whatever the case, maybe we're not just blowing this out of proportion; albt's simply not picking up those baserunners. look at the rbi rates -- 20 in 24 at-bats through jun 30 (.833 rbi per at bat), but just 4 in 16 at-bats since july 1 (.250).
ditto the RISP situations: 0.300 rbi/at-bat since july 1, vs .616 rbi/at-bat in apr-jun. since july 1 he has twice as many rbi in when hitting without men in scoring position as he has when hitting with RISP -- completely bass-ackwards. since july 1 albert has 29 rbi, and 20 of them have come via the homerun. which means that aside from hitting dingers, he has plated just 9 baserunners in the last six weeks. so we're not just imagining this; it has been feast or (all too often) famine with albert.
it's probably no coincidence that this "slump" -- and let's not get carried away, the man is hitting .343 since the all-star break -- has occurred during larry scotty and reggie's disablements. i think that, in trying to make up for the loss of other rbi men, albert has expanded his strike zone in key situations, in the belief that he's got to be "the man." maybe in their absence he's seeing more marginal pitches and, not wanting to be pitched around, swinging at them. or maybe there is no explanation; maybe it's just the random ebb and flow of a long season, a stretch of missed opportunities with no direct causation.
just something to think about next time prince pu comes up w a rally brewing . . . .