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Albert's 5 Best Games

He’s the best player in the game and has, to this point, had a tremendous career. As I pointed out Sunday, he’s been responsible for 67 wins above replacement in his 8 years in a Cardinal uni. He’s already 39th in baseball since 1955 in terms of the number of wins added and he’s still in his prime. I wanted to, therefore, take a look at Albert’s top 5 games of his career, as measured by WPA (been measured since 2002). So, without further ado…

#5 – WPA -- .676 June 6, 2003 vs. Baltimore

Albert went 4-4 w/ a walk, a double and 4 RBI in the Cards’ 8-6 win. He singled in the first and then walked in the 3rd. In the 4th, Albert drove in the Cards’ 5th run of the inning w/ a single up the middle scoring Miguel Cairo. You’d think a 5-0 lead at home in the 4th against the Orioles would be enough to win going away but the esteemed Brett Tomko was on the mound (and Miguel Cairo was in the lineup!). The Orioles put a 4-spot on the board in the 5th and tied the game in the 6th. Unbelievably, w/ the game tied at 5 in the bottom of the 6th and Albert up w/ 2 outs, Orlando Palmeiro was caught attempting to steal 2nd. I guess his heroics would have to wait an inning or two.

Albert singled leading off the bottom of the 7th but was left stranded when Edmonds, Rolen, and Renteria couldn’t get him safely to 2nd. The O’s took the lead in the top of the 8th 6-5 off of Esteban Yan (how, exactly did we win this game? Oh year, #5!). Albert came to the plate w/ 2 out and the bases loaded against Jorge Julio in the bottom of the 8th. Albert belted the second pitch into the LF corner and Taguchi, Cairo, and J.D. Drew all came around to score to give the Cards an 8-6 lead. That lead would hold up when Cal Eldred retired the side in order in the 9th. No other Card was close to Albert’s .676 WPA in this game. The second highest was by everyone’s favorite Cardinal (behind Tomko, Yan, and Marquis) – Tino Martinez – whose 2-3 w/ 1 BB performance gave him a WPA of .194.

#4 -- WPA -- .677 June 20, 2007 vs. Kansas City

I don’t know about you, but the first time I saw this opponent listed among Albert’s top 5, I was certain that Odalis Perez started this game for the Royals. Nope. It was Gil Meche. Albert was 2-4 w/ 3 BB in this 7-6, 14 inning win at home. Strangely, Albert didn’t even have the game winning hit. That’s surprising considering how high his WPA was in this game. Ryan Ludwick led off the bottom of the 14th w/ a homer to win it.

Albert batted in the first w/ runners on 1st and 2nd and nobody out and hit a weak ground ball to third that forced Aaron Miles at 2nd. Pujols then stole 2nd. He then singled in the 3rd and walked and scored in the 5th. He walked again in the 7th and then came to the plate w/ Miles on 1st and no one out, down 6-5 in the bottom of the 9th. He doubled down the right field line off of Octavio Dotel, tying the game but was stranded at third when Ludwick and Stinnett struck out. He then flew out in the 11th and walked leading off the 13th and, while he didn’t produce the game winning run, the team wouldn’t have been in a position to win w/o his ability to reach base via the walk and, of course, his 9th inning double.

#3 -- WPA -- .748 July 26, 2008 vs. New York Mets

Albert was 5-8 w/ a homer in another 14 inning game in which the Cards won 10-8. This time, his hit was the game winner as he hit a blast to deep left-center field w/ Schumaker on off Aaron Heilman w/ 2 outs in the top of the 14th. He also singled and scored in a 4 run first and singled again in the 2nd. After striking out in the 4th, he drove in Skip w/ a single in the 6th and came around to score on Yadi’s single 3 batters later. Albert flew out in the 7th and hit into a DP in the 9th and, of course, the Mets were able to tie the game in the 9th on a homer by (gulp!) Fernando Tatis! He then singled and was stranded in the 12th before hitting his bomb in the 14th to win it. Skip’s WPA was .249 after going 6-7 and Kelvin Jimenez had the staff’s highest WPA despite walking an unholy 5 in just 2 otherwise perfect innings.

#2 -- WPA -- .843 September 12, 2006 vs. Houston

When looking at the boxscore, you’d never guess that Albert damned near single-handedly won this game for the team. He was 1-3 w/ 2 BB, 1 K, and 2 RBI. It’s a good game – reaching base 3 out of 5 times is nothing to sneeze at, but it doesn’t look like a game where one player would have a WPA of .843. He struck out in the first and grounded out in the 3rd. In the 5th, he was intentionally walked w/ 1 out and Speizio on 2nd and then walked and was stranded in the 7th.

The Astros had taken the lead 5-4 in the 6th on a Chris Burke homer and it appeared as though it might hold up. In the bottom of the 9th, however, John Rodriguez led off w/ a single and Skip pinch-ran. Skip was sacrificed to 2nd and then Preston Wilson struck out. Speizio, in what can only be considered a gift from the gods, was hit by the first pitch he saw, bringing Albert to the plate. With runners on 1st and 2nd and 2 out, Albert drilled the 4th pitch he saw for another double to left and Skip and Scott came around to score. The Cards won 6-5. Anyone want to guess who Albert victimized for the game winning hit?

#1 -- WPA -- .995 April 16, 2006 vs. Cincinnati

Before going into the details of the game, I want everyone to ponder for just a moment how ridiculous a WPA of .995 is. If it is 1.000, no one else would have been needed to help him win the game. His teammates accumulated a COMBINED ½ a percent of that win and Albert, BY HIMSELF, was 99.5% responsible for this victory. That’s absurd and, if I can figure out how to reasonably research this, I’d like to find out if anyone – since they’ve been tracking WPA, has ever had a higher single game WPA. .995 is absurd!

The Cards took a 2-1 lead in the first after Albert walked and then he and Eckstein scored on John Rodriguez’s triple. Albert made his only out of the game in the 3rd when he grounded out and then he hit a 2 run homer in the 5th to put the Cards ahead 5-4. In the 7th, he came to the plate again and, for good measure, hit a line drive homer off of former Cardinal Rick White. The Cards couldn’t hold that 2 run lead as Wainwright, Flores, and Looper gave up 3 in the top of the 8th.

Todd Coffey managed to escape the bottom of the 8th when the Cards couldn’t score despite 3 hits and an intentional walk. Encarnacion was caught stealing and so, despite having the first 4 batters of the inning reach base, the Cards entered the 9th down by a run. After Looper retired the side in order in the top of the 9th, Jason Marquis pinch hit for Looper leading off the 9th. David Weathers was on the mound. Pujols took Weathers Down (pause) Town on his 4th pitch to give the Cards an 8-7 win. Pujols finished the game 3-4 w/ a walk, 3 HR, 4 runs scored, and 5 RBI – 2 of which came on the game winning blast. Only 7 other Cardinals had positive WPAs in this game; 10 had negative WPAs – counting Mulder twice, once for his minus .048 at the plate and once for his minus .223 on the mound. He, like Flores, Looper, Eckstein, and Taguchi were awful in this game, forcing Albert to be Super Albert in order to defeat the Reds.

I’m going to see if I can figure out a way to put his .995 WPA in perspective – comparing it to other players to see how many, if any, players have had better games than Albert did this day.