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Pujols who? Cardinals just fine without

May 10, 2012

We’re basically a month into the season and former St. Louis Cardinal and current Los Angeles Angel of Anaheim Albert Pujols is batting .190 with just one home run and nine RBIs (as of Tuesday). I won’t lie, I love it. Once an avid Pujols supporter, he left a bad taste in my mouth when he left the Cardinals after 11 Hall-of-Fame seasons. In just those 11 years with the Cardinals, Pujols had a .328 average with 445 home runs, 455 doubles,1,291 runs and 1,329 RBIs. Those are Hall-of-Fame numbers already. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all that he gave us – and by us I mean Cardinal Nation – but him bolting to L.A. for about $3 million more a year of his 10-year, $240 million contract rubbed me the wrong way.

Whatever the reasons, the Cardinals ended up making him a solid offer and he chose not to take it. Thanks Albert. With all the extra money you saved us, the Cardinals were able to re-sign solid veteran shortstop Rafael Furcal, re-sign Lance Berkman, who took Pujols’ spot at first, pick up former Cardinal killer Carlos Beltran and sign the best defensive catcher and good offensive catcher Yadier Molina to a long contract.

It’s probably best for the Cardinals that Pujols did bolt. He is on the backside of his prime and his numbers last year were in obvious decline. He hit career lows in average (.299), doubles (29), RBIs (99), walks (61) on-base percentage (.366) and on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) at .906. He still had 37 home runs, but the decline was evident. Granted, his numbers would be excellent for most any other player, but we’re talking about a future HOF and he was not Pujolsesque.

Before this season, Pujols had 275 more walks than strike outs and this year he has 10 more strike outs than walks. I noticed his problem last season. Those outside pitches he used to be patient enough to walk on are now getting him out, with him swinging more out of control than before. It seems Pujols’ struggles have rubbed off on the Angels. They are currently 13-18 – last in the American League West division – and are 17th in the American League in average (.244), 22nd in the American League in runs (111), 22nd in slugging (.373) and 27th in the league in on-base percentage (.295). Those are some really horrid numbers.

On the other hand, the Cardinals (20-11 and first in the Central) aren’t moping around after losing the face of the franchise. St. Louis is currently first in on-base percentage (.355) in the National League, second in both runs (167) and batting average (.283), and third in slugging percentage (.465).

Beltran was basically signed to fill Pujols’ power and he isn’t disappointing. Beltran leads the team with 10 home runs (second in the National League) and is tied for the lead in RBIs (second) with third baseman David Freese with 26. Speaking of Freese, he has yet to get injured (he’s prone to injury) and is having an excellent start to the season. Center fielder Jon Jay is third in the league with a .379 batting average. Leadoff man Furcal has seven three-hit games and is batting .361, shrugging off last season’s .231 average, but he always has provided good defense with his strong arm at shortstop. This has all been going on with Berkman on the disabled list the past three weeks.

Now for the pitching. Even with awesome offensive numbers, the Cardinals wouldn’t have had the start they’ve had without pitching. Starter Lance Lynn leads the majors in wins and has a 1.40 ERA. Jake Westbrook is 4-2 with a 1.76 ERA, Kyle Lohse is pitching up to his contract finally and is 5-1 with a 2.08 ERA, lefty Jaime Garcia is decent at 2-2 and a 3.76 ERA and Adam Wainwright is settling down and finding his groove after a rough start. Wainwright is 2-3 with a 5.61 ERA, but has brought his ERA down from 11.42 after his second start of the year.

The Cardinals seem to be doing just fine without Pujols and the Angels aren’t doing so hot with him. Pujols will start hitting again. He’ll get on one of his hot streaks, though they don’t come as often as they used to, and will probably finish his career with close to 700 home runs. The three-time MVP will break out of his slump, but I will be patient enough to watch it all year long if I have to.

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