While Albert Pujols is the active leader in RBI and is 13th all-time with 1,849, there is something different about how he is getting them this year. He has 32 RBI, good for second-best in baseball, despite the fact that he has a meager .247/.293/.370 slash-line. Even considering the fact that Pujols has the exclusive luxury of batting after Mike Trout, my brain has a hard time comprehending how this could happen without breaking the matrix that is baseball correlations. So let’s dig.
First of all, high rates of RISP is, in fact, a major contributor: Pujols has had a runner in scoring position in 54 or 174 plate appearances this year, good for a 31% rate. As a mark of comparison, his career rate of RISP is 28%, so he’s getting a little boost this year. However, the interest is in the parity of those plate appearances, where he has produced a .326/.407/.478 slash-line compared to a .216/.242/.328 in situations with no RISP.
But it doesn’t stop there. Let’s go deeper into these ABs with RISP. In situations with at least two men on, Pujols has 30 plate appearances and has hit a vintage Pujolsian .370/.433/.630! This results in an OPS+ of 183, which is roughly equivalent to Barry Bonds’ career OPS+. Not bad. In contrast, however, with fewer than two men on, Pujols has hit .222/.264/.319 in 144 plate appearances this season, for an OPS+ of 59, which is equal to the career OPS+ of Rey Ordonez. D’oh!
So there’s life in the old dog yet! Or maybe the Central American Cichlid is more like it. A species that pretends to be dead only to lure unsuspecting prey. Time will tell if Pujols will remain this great with RISP (and this bad with no RISP). If it does hold up, it’s too bad that Pujols has a full no-trade clause to go along with the 114 million dollars he’s owed through 2021, because he could be a great pinch-hitter for a National League team. In the meantime, it is really going to drag the Angels down if they continue to plug “clutch Rey Ordonez” in the 3 or 4 hole every night.
Professional statistical modeler who counts pondering the game of baseball as a favorite, lifelong pastime.