A couple days I quipped that Albert Pujols will have a hard time driving in runs if SS Cesar Izturis were to hit in the #2 hole given the awfulness that is Cesar Izturis (258/302/315 in 2007 and 259/295/334 career). Beyond the snark, I wanted to see how various line-up spots around Pujols have produced compared with his RBI totals and whether last season's 103 RBIs can be reasonably expected to be unrepeatable.
Here are the slashstat results for the lead-off hitter, #2 and the clean-up hitter along with Albert Pujols results since 2002. (That is all ESPN had available.)
What surprised me with these results was the generally poor hitters Pujols has had hitting in front of him for the past six years. Given Pujols' hitting abilities, I would have thought the Cardinals' would have worked harder to get high OBP hitters in front of Albert.
Next I noticed that Pujols lowest RBI total occurred at the same time the #2 hitter had its best season - 2007. This led me to examine whether he came to the plate with fewer runners on base than he had in previous seasons given the #2's SLG of .498. It is possible he just had fewer opportunities. Looking at the following data does not seem to support that, though.
|Year||# Runners On||# RISP||RISP AVG||Pujols RBI|
Pujols has had basically the same number of runners on base as he has had in previous seasons outside of 2002, where he had the most runners on-base and in scoring position. Maybe his lower 2007 RBI total was related to fewer runners in scoring position (RISP) as a result of the presence of HR hitters Rick Ankiel and Chris Duncan batting second.
However, I remained curious because he had essentially the same number of RISP position in 2006 when he drove in a career-high 137. However, he hit a great .397 with RISP. Combined with a career-high HRs, this is sufficient to explain the 137 RBIs.
Was there anything else in the data to explain his career-low RBI in 2007? I eyeballed his 2Bs and noticed a siginicant drop from his peak years.
Wow! There was quite a drop in XBHs last season. While the RBIs could be dismissed by the better, more powerful #2 hitter last season, I cannot shake the drop in XBHs as being a result of the injured elbow. I can't prove that, but the off-season reports about the worsening condition has me more worried about Albert Pujols than I was before I started this exercise.