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Brewers vs. Cardinals: St. Louis Bullpen Puts Milwaukee on Brink

The St. Louis Cardinals made some major moves to take care of two weaknesses at the trade deadline: relief pitching and defense. Those two factors were the difference in the game Friday night as the St. Louis Cardinals took a 3-2 series lead against the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS.

Albert Pujols and David Freese continued to do their share of the offensive damage as they combined for two hits, a walk, two runs and an RBI on three of the Cardinals’ runs.

Matt Holliday, for the second night in a row showed indications that his finger is recovering as he went 3-for-5 with two RBI and a double. 

Catcher Yadier Molina also started showing signs of getting his bat going as he went 3-for-4 with one RBI and one run. 

But the real story in Game 5 of the NLCS for the Cardinals was again their bullpen, as they threw for 4.1 innings and gave up zero runs. The Cards bullpen on the series has now thrown 21.2 innings—just one less than that Cardinal starters—have given up only 12 hits over that span, and have a collective ERA of only 1.69. 

Part of that is the brilliance of Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa getting the right pitcher in against the right batter. Many of the key pitchers are also those who who were acquired at the trade deadline or off the waiver wire. 

Friday night’s winner, Octavio Dotel, was one of the pitchers picked up in the trade with Toronto and picked up his second postseason win.

Marc Rzepczynski, aka The Alphabet, pitched a key out to get Prince Fielder to strike out with two men on base. 


Lance Lynn was moved to starter after he came off the DL, in part because the trade for Edwin Jackson allowed that luxury. Lynne pitched 1.2 scoreless innings in Game 5.

Finally Jason Motte has solved the “closer” problem whether he’s officially the closer or not. While he’s not a new acquisition, he’s been the primary closer since the trade deadline, and has only blown one save since and has an ERA. 

Motte has now been perfect in 8.0 postseason innings, retiring all 24 batters he’s faced this year, and in one inning of work in 2009. 

The other major factor in the game was defense, as four Milwaukee errors resulted in five Cardinals runs. In adding Rafael Furcal before the trade deadline, the Cardinals addressed their largest defensive liability.

The Cardinals were one of the worst offenders in the regular season in terms of giving up errors, but in the postseason they’ve only committed three—fewer than what Milwaukee did in the latest outing.

For now, the Cardinals and Brewers will face off in Miller Park on Sunday afternoon, though that may change should Texas win Game 6 Saturday and clinch their series.

Should that happen, it’s likely the St. Louis-Milwaukee clash would move to the prime time slot at 7:05 PM EST. 

The projected starters in that game are Shaun Marcum and Edwin Jackson, another acquisition.

Marcum’s postseason ERA of 11.25 does not bode well though. Should the series go to a seventh game, it is likely aces Chris Carpenter for St. Louis and Yovani Gallardo for the Brewers would square off. 

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8 Ways the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies Made History in Game 5

On Friday night the St. Louis Cardinals upended the heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies in a game for the ages. The Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter out-dueled the Phillies’ Roy Halladay in an instant classic as from the first hitter of the game to the final out every pitch was literally a suspense filled moment. 

In fact there was so much story line to this game that there are actually several ways in which the game made history. Here are the top five historical rarities that became current realities in that game. 

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Albert Pujols: Maybe He’s Not as Greedy as ESPN Told Us He Was

Last summer, when the St. Louis Cardinals and Albert Pujols failed to reach an agreement, wild speculation from around the media, mostly launched by ESPN, concluded that Pujols was asking for a 10-year, $300 million contract. 

Columnists everywhere went crazy, suggesting that Pujols was selfish and that it would ruin the club to keep him. They speculated that maybe he even wanted a share of the team. It got to the point where speculation was enough for more speculation. 

Now it comes out that actually what Pujols was asking for is a decidedly less $230 million over the same 10 years. That’s $7 million a year less. So now the same media that went ballistic over $300 million is saying, “Oops, I guess we were wrong,” right?

Nope. The media, for all its tenacity to shred anyone else for any perceived slight, rarely raises its sharp sword against itself, not even when it’s appropriate. Rather than acknowledge they were wrong, they make it seem that new sum, which is roughly 30 percent smaller than originally reported, is still egregiously enormous. 

The media blithely ignores the fact that Pujols is just now rounding off the best first 11 years in major-league history and deserves to be the highest paid player in baseball—which the $230 million wouldn’t even do. Rather, they make it sound like he’s just another “me-first” player who is looking out for No. 1.

Who cares that he gave the Cardinals a hometown discount in his last contract? Over those 11 years, he’s averaged under $9 million a year. Lesser stars like Joe Mauer, Ryan Howard, Vernon Wells and even A.J. Burnett are making more money this year than his $16 million, and that’s hardly a complete list of players. 

Nothing against them, but they have a far less impressive body of work than Pujols. 

They wildly speculate about how only a team like the Chicago Cubs could afford him now. Again, they ignore reality. For all the way they’ve made it sound, Pujols and the Cardinals are further apart than the NBA and the Players Association. 

In fact, they aren’t far apart at all. They’re only one year and $1.3 million apart. That’s not exactly an untraversable impasse there.

The media never owns up to its errors. I see no columns written about, “Well, I guess I missed that one.” I see no debate on Around the Horn, the show where four fickle faces fling fecal-fed, fallacious fabrication for fun, and don’t own up to their universal indictment of Pujols’ selfishness just six short months ago. 

On Pardon the Interruption, no one interrupted the normal shouting back and forth to say, “Hey, sorry Albert, I guess we got it wrong!

No, that would be too much like responsible journalism. Today’s journalism has a different code. When you don’t have news, create sensationalism. When it’s not sensational, it’s just not news.

The fact is that if Pujols were to get the 10-year, $230 million contract, he would have played 21 years for the Cardinals and been paid a total of $319 million—more than $100 million less than Alex Rodriguez over his career.

This is a career that could end as the all-time leader in home runs, RBI, runs and doubles. He doesn’t even need to maintain his yearly averages to do that. Heck, he even has a shot at Pete Rose’s all-time hits record if he plays 11 more years!

And this is a player who, for all that’s ever been revealed about everyone else, is clean as a whistle in an age of cheaters. How much is it worth to baseball to replace the two biggest embarrassments on their record books with a man who played clean and is one of the biggest philanthropists in professional sports? How much is that worth to an organization?

So when you factor all of that in, $319 million isn’t a lot for 21 years of one of the greatest hitters, perhaps even the greatest when all is said and done. Pujols’ request isn’t just not selfish, it’s pretty doggone reasonable! He’s absolutely worth it!

As scarce as the “We were wrong” articles are, the articles that say “he’s worth it” are now just as scarce.

And they wonder why he doesn’t want to talk to the media.  

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Rafael Furcal to the St. Louis Cardinals: Could It Mean Keeping Albert Pujols?

Updates 4:11: John Mozeliak stated during the Cubs/Cards game that he hopes the deal will be finalized by the end of the day. Apparently there are still a few kinks to work out, but the deal will be done. 

Update: 2:53: The latest reports are that there is now a deal in place. It boils down to the Dodgers giving cash and Furcal to the Cardinals for a “lower level prospect.” In other words the Cards are essentially adding him for free. 

The Dodgers get rid of some salary (but not all of it) and get a chance to play their prospect. 


The St. Louis Cardinals have been in hot negotiations all day with the Los Angles Dodgers in pursuit of the shortstop, Rafael Furcal. According to Scott Miller of CBS Sports, the Dodgers are close to asking Furcal to give his permission for the trade.

Furcal has 10 and 5 rights, which means that as a 10 year veteran and at least five with his current team, he must approve any trade. Previously Furcal has indicated he would be willing to waive those rights to go to St. Louis. ESPN confirms.

As of yet there doesn’t appear to be much information on what the Cardinals would be giving up, but it’s unlikely they’ll be giving up any of their key components in their roster. It also appears that the Dodgers would be eating a good amount of cash in the deal. 

While the Dodgers mainly benefit by getting rid of a contract and giving Dee Gordon a chance at becoming the full time shortstop, the Cards benefit is much greater. 

When the St. Louis Cardinals acquired Matt Holliday there was a lot of speculation that by re-signing him, there would be no way to keep Albert Pujols. This of course, was very much in contradiction with what Pujols had stated about what he wanted—to play for a contender. 

Amid all the swirling trade rumors and speculation of next year’s free agency the things that Pujols hasn’t said drown out the one thing which he has said.

Wild projections of $300 million and 10-year contracts aren’t coming from Pujols, but from media speculation. Those are projections which Pujols has publicly stated “are way off.” In fact, he’s even said that he and his agent have laughed at them.


To reiterate, what he has said is that he wants to play for a contender. Over the course of his time with the Cardinals, that’s certainly been the case. In fact, after just 10 seasons in the Majors, Pujols is already 34th all time with 56 postseason games played. 

Holliday was an aggressive acquisition to keep the Cardinals in playoff contention, as was the Colby Rasmus-for-Edwin Jackson deal earlier this week. Dealing Rasmus was a smart move by the Cardinals. Certainly he has a ton of potential but the emergence of John Jay has made Rasmus expendable.

In acquiring Jackson the Cards bolstered both their rotation and their bullpen as the acquisition enables career reliever Kyle McClellan back to the bullpen. Add in Marc Rzepczynski and Octavio Dotel and you have significantly stronger bullpen.

The need for these upgrades simply cannot be understated. The Cardinals have the third most blown saves in the Major with 16. Their ERA from the seventh inning on is 21st at 3.94. In other words, if baseball were a seven-inning game the Cardinals would have the best record in the Majors.

There are two reasons for the Cardinals late-inning woes. Firstly, the bullpen problem which has already been addressed. Secondly, there is the fielding problems they have. With 71 errors the Cards are tied for 22nd in the Majors. They are tied for the seventh most unearned runs allowed in baseball with 44.


This brings us, at long last, to the subject of Rafael Furcal, Albert Pujols and why the acquisition of the former could be the key to the retention of the latter. If the rumors are true, that the Cardinals are aggressively trying to trade for the Dodgers shortstop, Pujols may be around for a very long time.

Ryan Theriot is frankly just not a good enough fielder to play the shortstop position. In fact, you could make the case that based on his zone runs (minus-10) and his fielding percentage (.958) he’s one of the two or three worst fielding shortstops in the game.

In fact, roughly one quarter of all the Cardinals’ unearned runs can be attributed to Theriot. Furthermore the Cardinals give up 4.21 runs when Theriot starts at short compared to 3.95 when he doesn’t. Clearly, he’s a defensive liability. 

Rafael Furcal is not the best fielder in the league. In fact, he’s somewhere between average and slightly above average, but that’s still a significant improvement over Theriot. Simply having a player who can make the plays he is supposed to make can be the difference between an unearned run and a double play, particularly in the Cardinals system where they pitch for the ground ball.

While he’s had the inferior season with the bat, lately Furcal has been coming around. It may simply be a matter of motivation. His career OPS is 30 points higher. Certainly he’s been looking like he’s playing like he wants to be traded. His OPS over the last nine games is .862 to go with five RBI and five runs.


Furcal isn’t going to lead a team anywhere by himself but he could be the final piece of the puzzle this year for the Cardinals.

Offensively, particularly when they have their titanic trio in place, they are absolutely lethal. In fact, in the 45 games where the Cards have had Bekrman, Holliday and Pujols all in place, the Cardinals have scored an average of 5.4 runs per game. In games where one of the three is missing they’ve only averaged 4.6.

If that’s not convincing enough for you throw in their hot young third baseman, David Freese (.865 OPS). When he’s in the lineup along with the other three, the Cards are averaging a whopping 5.8 runs per game. If Yadier Molina (.775) and Skip Schumaker (.699)  start along with those four, the Cards average 6.3 runs.

Don’t be deceived. The Cardinals are a better team than their record indicates. They have been battling injuries all season long. Add the newly designated starting center fielder to the mix and with those seven players you’ve got a starting lineup with a combined OPS of .826.

Furcal has been able to hit in hitting lineups. While this season he’s been somewhere between absolutely cataclysmic and merely abysmal for most of it, that probably has as much to do with playing on a bad, bankrupt team, with no chance of going anywhere as anything. Any Dodger right now would benefit from a change in environment.


He’s hit in the past, and in a heavy-hitting Cardinals lineup, he would hit well again.     

While Berkman is out with a minor shoulder injury right now, the Cardinals are finally looking like they are on the precipice of finally having the middle of their order healthy for the first time. Actually having their starting lineup, um, starting is going to make a difference offensively.

Not only that the team has a couple of other very exciting young players who will be back in August. Allen Craig, who had a very healthy .928 OPS before going down with injury is coming back at at the beginning of the month. 

Eduardo Sanchez, the electric young pitcher who had a 1.88 ERA, a 1.047 WHIP and a 193 ERA+ before going down with injury is expected back at the end the month. His addition should further shore up bullpen.   

Adding the pitching through trades and getting healthy should result in the Cardinals giving up fewer runs.  Adding a better glove would result in fewer runs. Getting healthy will result in more runs scored. Scoring more runs while giving up fewer runs should result in winning more games.

There’s every reason to think that they can still win the Central division. In fact, adding Furcal would make them the favorites to win it, if they aren’t already after the Jackson trade.

Once they get into the postseason and can field that enormously potent lineup every game the Cardinals have every chance of winning a series against Philadelphia or San Francisco. Putting up a lineup with an aggregate .800 OPS would put the adage about “good pitching beats good hitting” to the test. 

Besides that, a trio of starters that includes Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Edwin Jackson on the mound isn’t too shabby either.

The rumors are rampant that the Cardinals are making a play to win one last World Series before they lose Albert Pujols. I think they’re actually making a run at a World Series to keep Albert Pujols. Again, I put more stock in what he says he thinks that pure media speculation.  

He says he wants to stay in St. Louis if they do what it takes to stay competitive. Nothing says competitive like winning another World Series. If the Cards win it all, then Pujols stays, and Furcal might be just what they need to put them over the top.  

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MLB and Race: Should the Majors Be Concerned About Decline in Black Players?

On Opening Day this year, the percentage of African American players fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since 2007. The highest percentage was 19 percent in 1995. So why is the percentage of black players going down in the majors? Is there an underlying racial problem?

Not as much as you would think.

First, there has been a sharp incline in the number of foreign-born players since then. In 1995, 83 percent of all major league players were American born. This year, only 72 percent of players who have appeared in major league games are American born. 

When you take into account the percentage of American players who were black, the number in some ways is even more disconcerting. In 1995, 22.8 percent of all American-born players were black as opposed to this year, when only 11.74 percent are black. This could indicate a growing disparity among American players. 

However, we also need to take into account a couple of other things. First, it shouldn’t be assumed that non-black is equal to white. While foreign-born Latino players have been factored in, American-born Hispanic players have not been. The number of Hispanic Americans has gone from 8.9 percent in 1990 to 16.3 percent in 2010.

Regardless of what percentage that is, it’s still a decline in black players. However, whether it’s a shift from black players to Hispanic players or black players to white players might be important to understanding why there is a decline.

The other question, more appropriately asked and yet not, is whether this is actually a problem. The percent of the US population which is black is 12.6 percent. If the percent of the American-born players who are black is 11.7 percent, is there really disparity?

If there were just six more black players in the majors right now, the percentage would exactly correspond with total population demographics. By definition that’s a complete lack of disparity. I mean that literally. 

Disparity: inequality of outcome or condition between cultural groups or differences in outcomes or conditions between cultural groups that are not predictable based on the number of group members present in the general population

In other words, all things being equal, we should expect to see the number of black Americans playing in the majors that we do see.

There is a difference between prejudice and racism. Prejudice is to “pre-judge” or make determinations about a person or people based on their race. They don’t have to be negative either, i.e. black people are better athletes is prejudiced, regardless of whether you think it’s true or not.

Racism is to establish a system where a particular race has advantages over other races in that system. The evidence of a racist system is disparity. For instance, pre-integration baseball was very much racist.

At the time, there also was a kind of prejudice that black players weren’t good enough to play with the white players, and as a result, there was a racist system which prevented them from proving otherwise. 

Now it seems that prejudice and racism have flipped. We have a system without racism, as evidenced not only by the demographically equal inclusion of black Americans but also the international inclusion of so many other nations. 

Previous notions that Japanese players and Latin-American players were not good enough to play with the American-born players has also been turned on its head, and as a result, international scouting has grown. In fact, based on countries where scouting and recruiting has extended to the impact on the player pool is far greater than it was during integration. 

In fact, the population of the Dominican Republic alone is half of the black population of the United States in 1960, and right now it could be argued that the Dominican Republic could field a lineup of hitters better than the United States.

With prejudices falling away and equality truly entering the picture, should we really be concerned about the number of black Americans playing baseball being only what it should be expected to be? Granted, if it was to keep falling, or there was some evidence of something maliciously systemic occurring, there could be cause for concern. 

However, it appears that the real reason that the percentage of blacks playing has more to do with everyone else playing. Beware the prejudices, even if they aren’t negative. 

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Albert Pujols: 11 Reasons Through 11 Seasons Why He Is Worth Whatever He Wants

As the negotiations are on hold and Albert Pujols is starting the season, it’s worth asking, how much Albert Pujols worth? I looked up how Albert has done through the course of his career to check and see how he stacked up against the best ever. 

The following is a list of areas where Pujols is among the all-time leaders, and where he might be at the end of 11 seasons. In short, they are 11 reasons why Pujols’ contract negotiations should boil down to a fill-in-the-blank contract. 

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Albert Pujols Is Clean: How The Numbers Show He’s Beyond Suspicion

It seems like most of the superstars of the ’00s have given us a reason to be disappointed in them. Bonds, A-Rod, Big-Mac, Slammin’ Sammy and Manny, among others, have all come up tainted. It leaves a fan incredulous, ready to accept that any player with big numbers is dirty.

As a result players who are not dirty end up getting painted with the same broad brush as players that are. If success is the barometer of cheating, then there’s something wrong with your barometer. 

It’s an unfair assessment, for each player should be reviewed individually. That’s not to say we shouldn’t suspect anyone unless they’ve failed a test, but I don’t think that production alone merits suspicion of steroid use.

In the case of Albert Pujols, when you review the numbers carefully, it becomes apparent that there’s reason to believe he’s a player for the ages, and doesn’t owe one bit of his success to cheating. Below are the common arguments against Pujols, and why they are flawed. 

Argument One: It’s Obvious He’s Juicing, Just Look at the Numbers! 

Well, yes, let’s do that.  First, let’s look at some other players who we know juiced (whether they admitted it or not) and see what a juiced players numbers look like. Prior to 2000, Barry Bonds never had a season with a lower than 10 AB/HR ratio, and had a career average of 15.4 AB/HR.  After he started juicing (allegedly), he exploded and over the rest of his career he averaged 9.1 AB/HR/ He increased his HR rate by 60 percent overnight. That’s what it looks like when you are juicing.

From 1989-1997 Sammy Sosa averaged 1 HR for every 19.4 AB, then jumped to 10.1 over the next four seasons. McGwire says he used them “on and off” for a decade. If you look at his ratios over the decade, it’s easy to draw conclusions about when he’s using and when he’s not, for they’re all over the place.

Over 16 seasons he averaged 10.6, but in those 16 seasons, 13 of them were either one whole number up or down from that ratio. If you look at A-Rod’s numbers they’re all over the place too, varying from 10.8 to 22.6 (if you don’t count his “learning” years.)

On the other hand Albert Pujols best (10.9) and worst season (17.7) are only separated by a moderate margin of 6.8. He’s never gone more 3.5 AB/HR of either side of his career average. And his number has never been ridiculously high, just always very good. Additionally his ratios aren’t all that different from players like Henry Aaron, who is free of steroid (though not “greenie”) suspicion by virtue of the era he played in. 

Also, you don’t see huge totals coming from Pujols. His biggest home run season is 49, which is prodigious no doubt, but not steroid prodigious. Albert’s numbers are more note-worthy for other reasons, particularly consistency. Consistency is not a thing that you jump to when you think juicing.

When you think juicing you think cycling, and cycling means “streaky.” Albert’s “the Machine.” The single most impressive thing about him is his consistency. Every year he’s batted over .300, with 30 HR and 100 RBI. No one else in the history of the game has started their career with that kind of consistency.

And it’s not just season to season, it’s month to month. His HR splits are April-71, May-73, June-63, July-62, August-74, Sep-51. Furthermore, if you look at the months year by year he’s rarely below 5 HR for a month, or over 10. Not counting months when he was on the DL for a significant portion, he’s only failed to hit at least 5 twice, and he’s only gone over 10 four times. 

The numbers don’t indicate he’s juicing, they suggest the opposite. You can’t merely look at the volume of production, you have to look at the type of production. The total accrued numbers may reflect what you’d expect from someone juicing, but the manner in which they were accrued is exactly the opposite of what you’d expect to see.

You don’t see numbers jumping up and down—neither month to month nor year to year—as you would expect to see them from a cycling steroid user. What you see is a consistent performer. And if he was consistently ‘roiding, we should have seen a failed test by now. When people ask, what about the numbers, the answer is, “yes, what about the numbers?”

Argument Two: Just because he hasn’t been busted yet, doesn’t mean he’s not dirty, nor does it mean he won’t be

True. But not being busted doesn’t mean that he’s guilty either. There’s a problem with an attitude of guilty by suspicion. If you are truly an advocate of this position, then I’d just ask you, what would it take to prove to you that he’s clean? What kind of society is it when we start adopting an attitude of guilt being proven by assumption. 

Since when is not failing a drug test proof that you’re juicing? Let me introduce to you the possibility that not failing a drug test might be because you’re not juicing. The same testing that Bonds failed, A-Roid failed and Manny failed, Pujols passed.

He was tested six times last year. We also know that they are testing for masking agents—if you don’t believe it look no further than fertile Manny Ramirez. We know that testing has caught players like A-Rod, Manny and Clemens.

So why is the testing working for the other guys but not on Pujols? What does he know that they don’t? How’s he passing without even cycling? Without an answer to how he’s getting around the drug testing and the other investigations while the other stars who are guilty are getting busted, you have to lean towards Albert being clean. 

What about Jason Grimsley and Chris Mihmfield? 

Shortly before the Mitchell Report was released it was rumored that Albert Pujols would be named in it. Of course he wasn’t. However Jason Grimsley was and there was a name blacked out in the released version, which revealed (wrongly) was Chris Mihlfield. Keith Oberman followed up on the story and the next thing you knew it was a national story, stirred by the fact that Mihlfield was also Pujols strength trainer.

There was one problem with the story—it was wrong. Mihlfield wasn’t the name blacked out. Furthermore, Mihlfield will not work with anyone who is juicing, as he stopped working with Grimsley the moment he learned he was using.

Still the rumor persists among those who insist that Pujols is dirty. In essence their argument is that Grimsley was dirty and worked with Mihlfield. Mihlfield works with Pujols, ergo, Pujols is dirty. It’s a fallacy of an undisturbed middle. The argument goes: some of A is a B and some of A is C, therefore all Bs are Cs.

It’s probably the most common fallacious argument people make, and it’s made here, so even if the facts were true, it would be a bad argument. When you add to that the fact that some of “A actually isn’t C” i.e. Mihlfield doesn’t take any juicers for clients, it makes it even worse. If anything, the fact that Mihlfield works with Pujols is evidence that Pujols is clean, not dirty. 

Having answered the three principle arguments against Pujols (weak as they are) I want to point out another argument for Pujols being clean. And, it’s the best argument.

Pujols is a devout Christian, and it means a lot to him. He insists that he wear his uniform properly, including his hat, and that his teammates do as well, out of respect for the game. He doesn’t smoke. He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t have tattoos. He doesn’t go out to clubs. He doesn’t chew tobacco. He married the mother of a girl with Downs’ Syndrome (not his) and adopted her. He started a charity fund for her.

He’s won the NL “Player of the Year” award three times, which is voted on by players. He’s also won the Marvin Miller Man of the Year award, which is an award for on and off field activities which is voted on by players. He’s also won the Roberto Clemente award.

Randy Johnson said of him, “I think Albert is the one guy in our game who could go to the opposition, say something, and they’d listen. That’s how highly people regard him.” The point I’m making here is that it’s not just about steroids. It’s the whole package. He doesn’t just talk, he backs it up with his way of life. Taking steroids would be inconsistent with everything else about him. 

Finally, there’s what he has to say about it himself. 

“I can understand why people don’t know who they can trust or their hero was caught. I want to be the guy people look up to. But I want to be the person who represents God, represents my family and represents the Cardinals the right way. So many people can’t wait until I do something negative. I can’t understand it. That’s sad, because I want to be that poster boy in baseball. Just give me the chance. If we’re in a hotel and a woman gets on the elevator by herself, I’ll wait for the next one.”

“People have their agenda. You have to be careful who you can trust. It’s the same thing with pictures. I’ll have my picture taken on the field, but not off the field. Nowadays with photo technology, you can do so many things. I see teams take their jerseys out when the game is over. To me, that’s not professional. I don’t care what you do when you get off the field, but don’t do it on the field. You don’t want kids to see negative things.” 

When you take a cursory glance at his overall numbers from the last decade and see their similarity to those who have been caught it’s easy to just conclude he’s doing the same thing they are. However, if you take a closer examination, the numbers tell a different story. And when you take the man as a whole, you see a completely different story.

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Jaime Garcia’s Historic Rookie of the Year Run

At the start of the season it was a question as to whether Jaime Garcia would even be on the team or sent down to AAA. He didn’t receive the media attention of Atlanta’s Jason Heyward, or Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, but he’s had the type of season the latter was expected to have.

Yet, when it comes to the Rookie of the Year talk, those two, and the fresh Buster Posey, are at the forefront of the conversation. For whatever reason, Garcia’s historic rookie campaign is getting pushed to the backburner.

And let there be no mistake about it, Garcia is having a historic season. He currently wields a 2.33 ERA. The last rookie starter who qualified for the ERA title with a lower ERA was John Matlack in 1972. Since integration, only four rookies have qualified for the ERA title and had lower ERA’s than Garcia. He is arguably having the best season by a rookie pitcher in the last 38 years, and he’s hardly in the conversation for the league’s Rookie of the Year award. 

Compare those numbers with Buster Posey, who’s leading all rookies with 300 or more plate appearances with an OPS of .877, the Cubs’ Tyler Colvin who leads rookies with 19 HR’s, or Gaby Sanchez who leads with 79 RBI’s. While those stats are all nice enough, they are hardly historic, even if you were to merge them all into a “Frankenstein” hitter.

While Garcia is actually in the run for the ERA title, ranking sixth in the majors in ERA and is tied for 22nd in wins, the best any hitter is faring among those who qualify is Sanchez who ranks 19th in BA. To be fair, if Posey were qualified he’d be sixth in BA, but he doesn’t qualify, and his August splits don’t suggest that he’d be doing so well in a full season.

Which brings me to the point of why Garcia’s season is so impressive, and why he should be the front runner for the ROY award. He’s not doing this over a short season. He’s qualifying. It seems that what often gets lost when looking at rookies is how much that second half of the season can impact a player.

Whether a hitter or pitcher, the first few times around the league aren’t scouted by opposing teams. These teams are learning how to pitch to them, or hit them. Once they get “figured out,” teams adjust and so do the stats. No player is immune to it, not Strasburg, not Heyward, and not Garcia. If you check their respective splits you’ll see what I mean.

Virtually every player not named Albert Pujols will see a dip in their numbers about their second or third month in the Majors. It’s what they do after that that tells you how good they really are. It tells you how they adjust to the adjustments other teams are making. 

Garcia has passed through the fire. He had 4.50 ERA in the month of June, and he’s coming back, posting an ERA of 2.35 for the month of August and is currently on a streak of 20 1/3 innings without allowing an earned run. While I wouldn’t argue that playing a full season is a necessity to win the ROY, I would argue that it shouldn’t count against you either.

When you’re posting historic numbers, and you’re doing it over a full season, you should get the nod over players that are putting up very nice numbers over half a season. 

Precisely why Garcia’s accomplishments aren’t garnering much attention is a mystery to me. I’ve little doubt that if Strasburg had the same ERA there’d be a nightly ticker tracking it on ESPN. One can only hope that the voters pay attention to the season and vote based on that rather than media reports. 


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Why The Hitters Triple Crown Has Become So Hard To Win

Currently Albert Pujols and Joey Votto are locked in a battle for the coveted “Triple Crown” of hitters in the National League, while Miguel Cabrerra is chasing it in the American League. The hitters Triple Crown, for those that don’t know, refers to leading the league in home runs, RBI, and average in the same season. It has been 42 years since anyone has won it at all, (Carl Yastremski for Boston) and it’s been 73 years since anyone has done it in the National League (Joe Medwick for the Cardinals). Overall, it’s been won 16 times, 11 of those in the 45 years between 1922 and 1967, with the longest stretch without a winner being 10 years. So I got to thinking, what happened. Why did players stop winning the Triple Crown. Through research and consideration I came up with the following reasons.




Integration is a big part of the reason. If you don’t count Ted Williams second Triple Crown in 1947, the year that integration technically occurred (but there were only two black players in the Majors) the Triple Crown has only been one three times. In fact, even when Yaz won the last one in 1967 integration hadn’t fully taken hold.

Ironically it was the same year that Boston, the last team to do so, actually fully integrated. Integration impacts the chances of winning the Triple Crown because it expands the player pool. (Incidentally the only African-American player to win the Triple Crown is Frank Robinson.) The impact of integration is easy to demonstrate, 8 winners in the 25 years before is a lot more than the the three winners in the 63 years since. Still, it doesn’t tell the whole story. How come no one has won since 1967? There were three those three winners in 20 years.




When Ted Williams won in 1947 there were only eight teams in each League and 615 total players in the Majors. When Yaz won in 1967 there were only ten teams in each league, and a total of 776 players. This year there are 16 teams in the NL, and 14 in the AL, for a total of 1163. The Majors have almost doubled in size since Williams won his Triple Crown, and it has increased by more than 67 percent since Yaz won his.

It’s not just size of the players that have increased, it’s the total number of players. Having more players makes it harder to finish first.




It’s one of those things that doesn’t get as much talk as it should, in that that it makes a lot of sense out of a lot of things. Integration had it’s impact as is considered it’s own “era” of baseball, but while internationalization has had at least the same impact, it’s not really discussed very much. This year 315 players, nearly 28 percent of Major Leaguers, are foreign born players. And it’s not just average players either.

This year’s All-Star game featured nine foreign born players among its 18 starters. Five of the six leaders in the three Triple Crown categories for the two leagues are foreign-born. In fact, both players threatening to win it this year are foreign born. Pujols is from the DR, and Votto is from Canada. 

Integration added about 10 million players to the player pool, roughly the same as the Dominican Republic alone.

In 1967 there were a total of 89 foreign born players. This year there are 315. Even that doesn’t tell the whole story though, because Cuba and Puerto Rico have been delivering MLB  players consistently. In 1957 there were 23 from those two countries. In 1967 there were 44, and in 2010 there are 44. When you take those two countries out of the equation, in 1957 2% of the league was foreign born not from Cuba or PR. In 1967 it was up to about 5%. In 2010 it is over 23%.

That’s a significant number. If you count the two nations who provide the most Major League Players, Dominican Republic (119) and Venezuela (76) you increase the population to draw players from by nearly 40 million. If you count the next two, Japan and Mexico, you basically add a population equivalent to the entire US population. As an aside this also explains the “drop” in African American players. There’s an obvious corresponding drop in American players period, which corresponds inherently with the increase of the percentage of foreign born players. Pardon me for stating the obvious, but it seems to get lost.




Babe Ruth had a career batting average of .342, good for 10th all time, an often overlooked fact. He wasn’t just a slugger, he was a pretty darned good hitter too! Several factors, smaller parks, changing pitching mounds and strike zones, perhaps changing balls, steroids etc have all combined to make hitters specialize. For a very long time there just weren’t a lot of players who both hit for a high average and knock a lot of balls out of the park.

In at least the last 30 years+, I can only find four players, A-Rod, Bonds, Manny and Andres Galarraga who have even won a “career Triple Crown” meaning they’ve led the league in all three categories at any point in their career. If Pujols can hold on to his RBI lead he’ll be the fifth , and probably the first to do so without a little “extra help.” Somewhat surprisingly, it’s not just the Triple Crown no one has won.

Since the respective Triple Crown achievement in each league there have been no players to lead in both Home Runs and BA in the same season.

Finally, since integration, no player has hit 400 home runs and had a BA over .330. The closest is Guerrero who has a BA of .320, but has never led the league in any of the Triple Crown categories, indicating he hits both with power and average well, but neither well enough to lead the league. Again Pujols threatens to break that streak with just one more HR. He is an exception though. He’s not a slugger. He’s a very powerful line-drive hitter. In a very real sense, he’s a specialist in the sense that he’s a hitter, not a slugger, he just happens to hit a lot of his line-drives really, really hard.




Pitching used to be easier to hit. Since 1920, only 29 starting pitchers with more than 1000 IP have recorded a H/9 innings rate of fewer than 8. Of those 27 have played since the last time a Triple Crown was won. Only three players are in the top 50 all time in batting average. Hitting for average is just harder that it used to be, which is part of the reason you start getting specialization.

Taking all of this into consideration, I think Pujols could break the streak. He’s the type of hitter that can do it because he has both power and average. There’s also the fact that he’s generally done his best hitting in August and September.

This year has certainly been no exception. He’s been hitting well over .400 for the month, and basically a HR every other game and an RBI per game. His OPS for the month is over 1.300. He’s also got the “fitting” thing going for him, which really isn’t a reason, but it would be appropriate somehow if there were a foreign born player who did it. Still, if he (or Votto) does it, because it is so hard to do now, it might be the be the most impressive Triple Crown ever.



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Albert Pujols or Joey Votto? Breaking Down the National League MVP Race

This year’s National League MVP is quickly becoming a race between two players, Albert Pujols and Joey Votto, who are not only in a race for the MVP, but also for the Triple Crown. Looking at these two players, it’s not so much an issue of which one deserves the MVP—they both do. The question is, which player deserves it more? While the sexy pick is the underdog Votto, a closer look at the numbers reveals a different story. Here are five reasons why Pujols deserves it more.



Fielding isn’t normally the first thing you look at when you’re considering the MVP, especially from first basemen, but when you’re looking for places to distinguish players, especially if they play the position, one place you can look is fielding. While Votto is a decent fielder, Pujols is the NL leader at the position in Put Outs, Assists, Double Plays, Range Factor, and has a higher fielding percentage than Votto. Fielding alone isn’t enough to give it to Pujols, but it’s a factor that shouldn’t be entirely ignored. 



The two players are atop the leaderboard in most of the hitting stats, or are very close to it. While Votto leads Pujols by one run, and has a very slight lead over Pujols in BA and OBP, Pujols leads Votto in HR, RBI, hits, doubles, walks, steals, slugging, and OPS.

Pujols leads Votto in more categories, and in more significant categories. The Cardinals played three fewer games than the Reds as well. Taking this into account, Pujols projects to nine more RBI and six more HR than Votto. Pujols has actually done slightly more than Votto to merit the award.



Votto’s been nothing short of splendid. His second half splits, .344 BA, .420 OBP, .590 slugging, and 1.010 OPS, are exactly what you want to see from an MVP candidate. The problem for Votto isn’t what he’s doing in the second half, it’s what Pujols is doing, .352 BA, .411 OBP, .662 slugging, and 1.073 OPS. And as if that’s not enough, Pujols is picking up speed, posting a ridiculous August, with a 1.353 OPS, nine HR and 20 RBI with a week left to go in the month.

On August first, Votto had a .322 BA and was 23 points ahead of Pujols. Since then he’s actually raised his BA a point, but now is only one point ahead. Pujols has clearly taken it to another level, and it doesn’t look like Votto has another level to take it to. Look for those slight leads that Pujols has now to grow over the next few weeks. 



There aren’t a lot of places where you can see a big distinction between the players, but there is a big one in one place, what they do when they are needed the most, with two out and runners in scoring position. In that situation Votto is hitting .302 with a 1.092 OPS. Pujols on the other hand is batting .381 with a 1.320 OPS.

Not to get too “sabermetricy” on you here, but Pujols has a 265 sOPS+ (split OPS+) in that situation, which is a measure of how a player does in a split compared to the league average of 100. Votto’s is an admirable 200, but 265 is just flat out ridiculous, and MVP worthy.


It’s Most Valuable Player

Surprisingly, it’s often advanced that Votto should win it because he has more value to the Reds than Pujols does to the Cardinals. I find this hard to accept for a couple of reasons. First, on the intangibles, it’s well known that the Cardinal slugger is the hardest working man on the team. That’s pretty meaningful on a team with four or five rookies starting pretty consistently.

When young players see a player with Pujols status working as hard as he does, they work hard. Apart from that though, there’s the statistical argument. Votto has 147 runs produced, accounting for 23.63 percent of all Reds’ runs scored. Pujols has 146, accounting for 25.61 percent of the all Cardinals’ runs. Both on and off the field, Pujols has more value than Votto. 

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