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Posts Tagged ‘Albert Pujols’

Albert Pujols was supposed to be a Cardinal for life.

Albert Pujols’ decision to take his talents to Southern California has inspired great joy among Angels’ fans and, not surprisingly, a considerable amount of vitriol from those who root for the Cardinals. Phony, trader, liar, mercenary, and fraud have all been used on twitter and talk radio to describe Pujols because he opted for a mega 10-year deal worth $254 million (with $30 million in extra incentives) over a hometown discount. Apparently, charity begins in St. Louis.

Although it’s understandable why Cardinals’ fans might feel betrayed, such sentiment is both incredibly naïve and logically absurd. According to fangraphs.com, Pujols has provided $194 million worth of performance in excess of the $104 million the Cardinals have paid him since 2002 (if 2001 was included, that figure would be even higher). In other words, the Cardinals already got their discount. What’s more, not one, but reportedly three different teams offered Pujols a better deal than the Cardinals, so it sure seems as if it was the team, and not the player, that had an unfair sense of his worth.

Albert Pujols’ Salary vs. Value, 2002-2011
 
Source: fangraphs (value) and baseball-reference.com (salary)

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Albert Pujols, one of the greatest players in the history of the game and most revered figures in the city of St. Louis, is a coward who lacks leadership skills, at least according to the headline writers at Yahoo! Sports.

Judging by the solemn photo of Pujols, crouching low after allowing a relay throw to slip by his glove, you’d think the Cardinals’ first baseman did something heinous. Was he caught cheating on the field? Or, maybe he put a personal accomplishment ahead of team goals? Perhaps he had an argument with his manager, or disrespected a teammate in full view of the country? Pujols did none of those things. He simply skipped out on reporters by leaving the clubhouse soon after the game.

Yahoo! Sports Teaser for a Column by Jeff Passan

Source: Yahoo! Sports

Yahoo! Sports wasn’t alone in criticizing Pujols for his early exit. In columns and tweets, media members took turns lambasting the MVP for his refusal to live up to his post game obligations. Not content to simply cover the World Series, many in the media instead decided to make their role a central story line.

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(In addition to appearing at The Captain’s Blog, this post is also being syndicated at TheYankeeAnalysts.)

By going 0-5 with three double plays, Albert Pujols turned in one of the most forgettable Opening Days in major league history, which means it will likely be remembered for a long time.

Worst Opening Day Performances, 1957-2011

Player Date Tm PA H GDP WPA RE24
Paul Konerko 4/3/2000 CHW 4 0 2 -0.110 -3.23
Albert Pujols* 3/31/2011 STL 5 0 3 -0.430 -3.09
Josh Bard 3/31/2003 CLE 6 0 0 -0.414 -3.07
Vernon Wells 4/1/2002 TOR 6 0 0 -0.252 -3.04
Tony Horton 4/12/1966 BOS 6 0 2 -0.494 -2.98
Mike Bordick 4/2/1997 BAL 5 0 0 -0.194 -2.95
Trot Nixon 4/5/1999 BOS 4 0 1 -0.267 -2.91
Victor Martinez 4/5/2004 CLE 6 0 1 -0.274 -2.90
Glenallen Hill 4/3/2001 ANA 4 0 2 -0.546 -2.86
Mike Devereaux 4/26/1995 CHW 4 0 1 -0.147 -2.83
J.J. Hardy 4/7/2009 MIL 5 0 2 -0.229 -2.82

RE24 is defined as the number of runs that batter contributed during a game based on the base/out situations during his plate appearances.
Source: baseball-reference.com and (*)fangraphs.com

Tuffy Rhodes salutes the crowd after hitting his third home run on Opening Day in 1994. Rhodes would hit 10 more homeruns over the rest of his career.

Despite being only one game of 162, events that take place on Opening Day seem to have a much longer shelf life, especially when the player’s ability contrasts sharply with his performance. For example, 493 players have hit three homeruns in a game, including some of the game’s best all-time players. However, if you ask most baseball fans to rattle off a few names from the list, Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes is likely to mentioned, even before the likes of Willie Mays, Lou Gehrig and Mike Schmidt (who all hit four). Rhodes wasn’t the only improbable player to go deep three times in a game (Otto Velez, Tony Solaita, and Jeff Treadway all did it), nor was he the only man to accomplish the feat on Opening Day (George Bell and Dmitri Young also hit a game one trifecta*). However, Rhodes was the only forgettable player to record this memorable accomplishment in his team’s first game, a combination that has given him a slice of immortality.

*Interestingly, Bell, Rhodes and Young all accomplished the feat on the same date, April 4, in 1988, 1994, and 2005, respectively.

Unfortunately for Pujols, his 2011 opener falls on the other side of history. The Cardinals’ slugger isn’t the first person to hit into three double plays. In fact, almost 100 have. However, Pujols is the first to do it on Opening Day. If he was a lesser player, this poor timing would eventually be forgotten, but because of his historic stature, yesterday’s futility will likely remain a trivial footnote on his great career. If his sense of humor is as good as Joe Torre‘s, who credited Felix Milan with helping him ground into four double plays (a major league record), Pujols could point out that his “achievement” wouldn’t have been possible without Colby Rasmus, who was forced at second each time.

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Spring training hasn’t been very kind to the St. Louis Cardinals. First, Albert Pujols decided to table contract extension negotiations until after the season, and now it has been confirmed that Adam Wainwright will have Tommy John surgery and miss the entire season.

Pujols and Wainwright are both vital parts of the Cardinal team. In fact, the Cardinals are more dependent upon their best position player and pitcher than just about any other team. Combined, the Cardinals received 34.5% of their total WAR production from Pujols and Wainwright, the fourth highest percentage in the major leagues. So, the thought of losing one next season and being without the other this year has likely diminished much of the optimism usually associated with spring.

Top WAR Contributions from Teams’ Best Pitcher and Position Player, 2010

Source: fangraphs.com

As illustrated by the graphs above and below (click to enlarge), which display each team’s 2010 WAR leaders relative to its position players’ or pitchers’ total, much of the Cardinals’ production emanated from Pujols and Wainwright. Among position players, Pujols contributed 32.4% of the team’s WAR (considering the Cardinals’ $100 million payroll, maybe $30 million for Pujols makes sense after all?), which ranked sixth in the National League and eighth in the Majors. Meanwhile, Wainwright contributed 37.4% of the team’s pitching WAR, a level higher than every N.L team but the Brewers.

2010 WAR Leaders Relative to Team (Position Players)

Source: fangraphs.com

2010 WAR Leaders Relative to Team (Pitchers)

Source: fangraphs.com

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After agreeing to table contract extension talks with Albert Pujols until after the 2011 season, St. Louis Cardinals’ owner Bill DeWitt Jr. lamented, “We’re not the Yankees”.

Like Musial, will Pujols end his career as a life-long Cardinal?

Although that statement is literally true (unless the Steinbrenners secretly sold the team over the winter), the Cardinals have historically been thought of as the “Yankees of the National League”. Other than the Bronx Bombers, no team has been able to match the Cardinals’ success, which includes 10 World Series championships and 21 National League pennants. Based on that resume, the red birds have built both a rabid local and regional following that has helped make the team one of the most popular in all of baseball.

Considering his team’s success and popularity, is DeWitt right to sell his storied franchise short by crying relative poverty? According to Forbes’ most recent MLB franchise calculations, the Cardinals rank eighth in both overall value ($488 million) and revenue ($195 million), but check in toward the bottom in terms of operating profit ($12.5 million). Based on those figures, it certainly does seem as if St. Louis is not in a position to make Pujols the highest paid player in the sport by giving him a 10-year deal worth approximately $300 million. However, they should be.

2009 MLB Franchise Valuations

Source: Forbes.com

A closer look at the Forbes’ study reveals that the Cardinals have had relatively stagnant revenue over the last few years, with the only significant bump occurring after the team opened up its new ballpark in 2006. Most recently, the team enjoyed no revenue growth between 2007 and 2009 (the entire sport grew 7.5% during this period), according to Forbes. Instead of leading the sport’s expansion, as you would expect a brand like the Cardinals to do, the organization’s revenue growth has fallen more toward the middle of the pack.

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Joey Votto was named the 2010 NL MVP with a commanding 31 of 32 first place votes. Finishing a distant second was Albert Pujols, who in addition to winning three MVPs has also been the runner up four times.

Votto’s selection over Pujols is perfectly justifiable, but it is interesting to note that it was actually Pujols who was recently awarded the silver slugger for first base in the National League. Coincidentally, Votto became the first player to win the MVP, but not the silver slugger, since Pujols in 2005. In total, there are only five instances of an MVP failing to win the silver slugger (excluding American League pitchers voted as MVP) since the latter award was first given out in 1980. Listed below is a comparison of the MVP and silver slugger for each instance.

Based on offensive WAR, in three of the five seasons, the silver slugger actually had a better year with the bat than the MVP. Not surprisingly, in all of them, the MVP’s team made the playoffs, while the silver slugger’s team did not. In 2000 and 2005, however, Giambi and Pujols rated as the better hitter by a significant margin, leaving one to scratch their head as to why they were overlooked for the silver slugger.

MVPs Who Didn’t Win a Silver Slugger

2010 Player PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG oWAR
NL MVP Joey Votto* 648 106 37 113 0.324 0.424 0.600 6.9
1B SS Albert Pujols 700 115 42 118 0.312 0.414 0.596 7.4
                   
2005 Player PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG oWAR
NL MVP Albert Pujols* 700 129 41 117 0.330 0.430 0.609 7.2
1B SS Derek Lee 691 120 46 107 0.335 0.418 0.662 6.0
                   
2002 Player PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG oWAR
AL MVP Miguel Tejada* 715 108 34 131 0.308 0.354 0.508 5.8
3B SS Alex Rodriguez 725 125 57 142 0.300 0.392 0.623 8.2
                   
2000 Player PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG oWAR
AL MVP Jason Giambi* 664 108 43 137 0.333 0.476 0.647 9.4
1B SS Carlos Delgado 711 115 41 137 0.344 0.470 0.664 7.6
                   
1991 Player PA R HR RBI BA OBP SLG oWAR
NL MVP Terry Pendelton* 644 94 22 86 0.319 0.363 0.517 5.5
3B SS Howard Johnson 658 108 38 117 0.259 0.342 0.535 5.7

 *Team made the post season.
Note: Excluded Dennis Eckersley, Roger Clemens, Willie Hernandez and Rollie Fingers, who each won the MVP as pitchers in the American League.
Source: Baseball-reference.com

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