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Will Albert Pujols Injury Hurt Fantasy Players?

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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.)

#1 AVG OBP SLG Pujols RBI
2002 268 331 342 127
2003 261 311 377 124
2004 293 335 377 123
2005 295 368 405 117
2006 280 335 366 137
2007 283 323 346 103
         
#2 AVG OBP SLG Pujols RBI
2002 272 330 392 127
2003 267 329 455 124
2004 279 350 473 123
2005 265 332 414 117
2006 271 338 426 137
2007 309 372 498 103
         
Pujols AVG OBP SLG Pujols RBI
2002 314 394 561 127
2003 359 439 667 124
2004 331 415 657 123
2005 330 430 609 117
2006 331 431 671 137
2007 327 429 568 103
         
#4 AVG OBP SLG Pujols RBI
2002 309 399 568 127
2003 301 396 569 124
2004 286 402 543 123
2005 274 376 494 117
2006 308 389 521 137
2007 246 320 386 103

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
2002 361 189 .340 127
2003 304 160 .374 124
2004 315 178 .343 123
2005 328 188 .329 117
2006 296 167 .397 137
2007 315 165 .331 103

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.

HR 2B XBH
34 40 76
43 51 95
46 51 99
41 38 81
49 33 83
32 38 71

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.