There’s nobody on Earth hotter than Albert Pujols proper now. In his final 10 games, Pujols is slugging 1.258. That’s the second-highest mark of his profession over any 10-game stretch, overwhelmed solely by his slugging share between August 6 and August 21 of this yr: 1.259. Mainly, at 42 years previous. The Machine is having arguably one of the best hitting stretch of his profession. Because the begin of August, Pujols leads all massive leaguers with at the very least 40 plate appearances in slugging share… by greater than 300 factors — 1.083 for Pujols; .779 for second-place Paul Goldschmidt. He additionally leads MLB in on-base share, batting common, weighted runs created-plus, remoted energy, and he’s tied for the league lead in dwelling runs in that span. That final quantity is crucial. With simply 41 games left within the common season, Pujols wants seven extra dingers in an effort to turn into the fourth member of the 700 membership. What are the chances he will get there?
Nicely, at his present tempo, he ought to get there earlier than the tip of September, however that’s not lifelike. As a way to appropriately decide the place Pujols will finish the season on the all-time dwelling run leaderboards, we have to take a look at a few components.
- The chance that the Cardinals will face left-handed pitching down the stretch. This yr, in opposition to right-handed pitchers, Pujols is slugging simply .600. That’s terrible. Towards southpaws, Pujols is slugging 1.242, which is 232 factors increased than Aaron Decide is slugging in opposition to lefties. So, if Pujols goes to succeed in 700 dongs, a hefty quantity of lefties on the beginning docket must be the very first thing we take a look at. Positive, Pujols can nonetheless pinch-hit in opposition to lefties late in games, however these at-bats can be too far and few between.
- Pujols has solely performed in about 60 p.c of Cardinals’ games this season. I’ll attempt to have a look at each chance of his prominence within the lineup in these remaining 41 games, however the details of emphasis might be how quickly the Cardinals safe a playoff spot and division title. In the event that they don’t have anything to play for aside from playoff seeding, I’d think about the Cardinals would give Pujols each likelihood they may supply for him to succeed in his milestone. In the event that they don’t safe a playoff spot quickly, they’d doubtless push Pujols’ dwelling run chase apart in favor of enjoying the folks that can assist them win.
- Residence run regression. Positive, at his present tempo, Pujols would attain 700 even when he solely received one plate look per game. The extra doubtless state of affairs is that Pujols begins falling again to Earth extra in line to the place he was earlier within the season. That mentioned, if Pujols will get a bunch of lefties lined up and is given a hefty quantity of alternatives on the plate, he might nonetheless attain 700 even when his at-bats per dwelling run mark regresses.
In the present day, the Cardinals continued their 5-game sequence in opposition to the Chicago Cubs with a doubleheader. In line with mlb.com, three of the 4 Cubs’ possible pitchers are righties (Javier Assad, Adrian Sampson, and Marcus Stroman). Tomorrow’s starter remains to be but to be decided, however it looks as if righty Luke Farrell might be given the nod. Given Pujols’ scorching bat, the Playing cards in all probability received’t fear about his righty-lefty splits until the group begins shedding. In any case, Pujols received the beginning at DH for the primary game of the doubleheader right this moment. That mentioned, I doubt he’ll begin all 4 games. He could get extra alternatives late in games he isn’t beginning if lefty relievers are introduced in, however I don’t suppose we are able to assume Pujols will hit any dwelling runs this sequence. At most, one.
Even throughout his unbelievable month of August, he’s but to hit a single dinger off a right-handed pitcher. The Cubs do have three lefties of their bullpen at present — Brandon Hughes, Sean Newcomb, and Steven Brault — and Hughes has even labored because the group’s nearer lately. Nevertheless, it’s too unlikely that Pujols will face a lefty a number of occasions in any game all through this sequence.
After the Cubs, it will be the Braves. They have a great bullpen and will be trotting out three righties for their upcoming series (Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, and Jake Odorizzi). In 33 profession at-bats in opposition to Morton, Pujols has simply eight hits and nil dwelling runs. Can’t rely on something popping out of that game. He’s had 11 plate appearances in opposition to Odorizzi. Pujols is 0-for-10. Can’t count on something there. He’s by no means confronted Spencer Strider.
At that time, we’re already a sixth of the best way by the rest of the season for St. Louis, and he’s added zero to his identify. The Cardinals have 9 games left this season in opposition to the Pirates, eight in opposition to the Reds, and 7 in opposition to the Cubs. I’ve already mentioned how Pujols received’t have many alternatives in opposition to lefties when going through the Cubs.
Towards the Reds, he’ll doubtless get to face Mike Minor and Nick Lodolo a number of occasions. That may be Pujols’ greatest alternative to achieve floor. Minor is giving up an astonishingly excessive 2.2 dwelling runs per 9 innings on the season and Lodolo, though a lot much less liable to the house run this yr, is extra liable to the stroll. If some Playing cards can get on base in entrance of Pujols in these games, Lodolo must problem Pujols. You don’t need to do this.
The Pirates don’t have a single lefty on their beginning rotation at present. The group traded away their solely constant left-handed starter, José Quintana, on the deadline and now solely have righties in JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Zach Thompson, Bryse Wilson, and Roansy Contreras. The Pirates do have three left-handed relievers, however they’ve solely pitched a mixed 21.2 innings all season lengthy. Possibly Dillon Peters will return from the IL and pitch a bit in opposition to the Cardinals, however on condition that the Pirates are in no place to make a run for the playoffs, it’s doubtless they wouldn’t put Peters out on the mound fairly often down the ultimate stretch, choosing a number of the youthful guys as an alternative, all of whom occur to be righties. That mentioned, if Pujols manages to get an at-bat in opposition to somebody like Cam Vieaux, a couple of dwelling runs might very effectively occur.
The NL Central is likely one of the tightest division races in baseball. Solely the NL East and AL Central are tighter. On the time of scripting this although, the Cardinals had received eight in a row and 9 of their final 10, whereas the Brewers had gone 5-5 in that very same span. For my part, the Cardinals are the higher group and will win the division. Provided that the Cardinals have a reasonably simple schedule down the stretch — simply 13 games in opposition to groups over .500 — and solely 4 games in opposition to Milwaukee (St. Louis is at present 5 games forward), I’d think about that the Cardinals will wrap up the division title someday between September 21 and 28. Clearly, the sooner the higher for Pujols’ sake.
Let’s assume one of the best and say that the Cardinals clinch their division on the twenty first, in the midst of their sequence with the San Diego Padres. That would depart two games in opposition to the Padres, three in opposition to the Dodgers, two in opposition to the Brewers, and 6 in opposition to the Pirates. Six of Pujols’ fourteen dwelling runs this yr have come in opposition to these 4 groups. Actually, two of Pujols’ three multi-homer games this yr have come in opposition to the Brewers and Pirates — a type of homers within the Pirates was off utility man Josh VanMeter although; I doubt he’ll be pitching once more.
If Pujols is to succeed in 700, the ultimate ten games of the season would in all probability be one of the best time to take action. Each the Brewers and Dodgers have a plethora of southpaws on their staffs. Pujols did nice in his final game in opposition to Brewers’ starter Aaron Ashby (two dwelling runs), who must be again from the IL earlier than that sequence — though it’s unknown when he’ll be scheduled to begin when he returns. Pujols has additionally been nice in his profession in opposition to guys like Milwaukee’s Taylor Rogers in addition to Los Angeles’s David Worth, Tyler Anderson, Clayton Kershaw, though Pujols has by no means homered off Kershaw or Anderson. Sadly, it is perhaps too little too late at that time for Pujols.
It’s not going Pujols reaches 700 dwelling runs. If Pujols had higher numbers in opposition to right-handed pitchers this season, I’d really feel extra assured in saying the opposite, however because it stands, there’s a line of righties ready for the Cardinals that I can’t see Pujols penetrating. The Cardinals are vying for a division title, which might be their first since 2019, and in the event that they need to safe that title, they’ll have to appreciate that as scorching as Pujols is true now, that DH spot can be greatest served with somebody aside from Pujols filling that function. Maintain Pujols on the bench in case the opposition brings in a lefty reliever, however that may imply just one or two at-bats for Pujols for a number of games within the speedy future. Pujols must proceed his unbelievable tear, and at age 42, I don’t see it lasting for much longer.
As of Monday morning, Baseball Reference gave Pujols a 7.1 p.c likelihood of reaching 700 by the tip of the season.
Even after his dwelling run that night time, these odds nonetheless maintain true. Frankly, there simply aren’t sufficient lefties on the plate and the Cardinals will doubtless go for somebody higher in opposition to righties till the group clinches the NL Central, and which may not be for a very long time. I wouldn’t be shocked if Pujols passes Álex Rodríguez for fourth all-time, however 700 is perhaps simply out of attain. Who is aware of? If he’s simply brief, perhaps he’ll determine to return again subsequent yr. That’s all the time a chance.
Daniel Elton, senior editor at Wahu Times, writes about politics and policy with a focus on climate advocacy. Daniel previously at the New Republic and, and Self. Daniel can be reached by email.