Continuing with my look at Albert Pujols and what we can expect by studying his hitting profile from 2021 …

Two things: (A) obligatory small sample warning; (B) plenty of statistics ahead, but just because it’s the only way to communicate what I’ve learned.

1) As we know there’s a major disparity between Albert’s performance against right-handed pitching and left-handed pitching. But with the valuable assistance of Brooks Baseball we can zero in on the specifics. And the four-seam fastball stats are glaring.

* 4-seam fastballs thrown by RHP: .146 average, .200 slug, .055 Isolated Power, and one homer in 55 at-bats.

* 4-seamers thrown by LHP: .347 average, .714 slug, .367 ISO, six homers in 49 at-bats.

2) Pujols, hit .308 on sinking fastballs thrown by RHP last season, but did not homer in 98 at-bats. Against lefties? Boom: a .478 average on sinkers, with a .913 slug and .435 ISO and three homers in 23 at-bats.

3) RH pitchers didn’t throw Pujols many changeups last season. It was much the same with LH pitchers, but in 24 at-bats that ended with the changeup, he hit three homers and slugged .625.

4) Sliders carved up Pujols’ bat in 2021 and it didn’t matter if a lefty or righty threw it. In 63 at–bats that ended with a slider Pujols batted .127 with a .191 slug and .064 ISO with one homer. Same with the curve: a .136 average and no homers in 22 at-bats.

5) In limited opportunities against a cutter, Pujols did well against both LH and RH, with a .316 average, two homers and a .632 slug in 19 at-bats.

There’s a more streamlined way of looking at this. Brooks Baseball gives us three categories: hard pitches, breaking pitches and offspeed pitches.

And when it comes to the hard stuff, the higher velocity pitches, it was pretty much the same statistical story:

* Against RHP: 91 at-bats, .209 average, .275 slug, .066 ISO, two homers.

* Against LHP: 81 at-bats, .383 average, .765 slug, .183 ISO, 10 homers.

– That second line catches my attention. In 2021 Pujols wrecked lefties that dared to challenge him with heat … 10 homers in 81 at-bats? That’ll work.

– I was surprised to see the numbers, but Pujols just didn’t do much damage last season against breaking pitches. He hit for a higher average against lefties compared to righties, but we’re talking about a .159 average (vs LH) and no homers in 44 at-bats against breaking balls.

– Pujols did, however, bat .250 with a .625 slug and three homers in 24 at-bats against offspeed pitches tossed by lefthanders.

So if these numbers serve as a guide, what does all of this mean for manager Cardinals manager Oli Marmol?

– Worst matchup for Pujols: hard-throwing righthanders.

– Best matchups for Pujols: hard-throwing lefties, and LH that like to go with a lot of offspeed stuff.

– If Marmol is inclined to slot Pujols in against righthanders … well, good luck. Going into this little exercise, I assumed Pujols did OK last season against RHP that didn’t throw hard, tried to deceive him with changeups, and could bedevil him with breaking balls. But that simply wasn’t the case.

This is meaningless, but Pujols went 1 for 8 in at-bats that ended with an offspeed pitch from a righty. OK, so what about breaking balls from righthanders? This: 41 at-bats, .098 average, 10 strikeouts, .171 slug, one homer.

– In order of highest frequency, ighthanders attacked Pujols with the hard stuff (308 pitches) and breaking balls (238 pitches.) So it makes a heck of a lot of sense to expect more of that approach in 2022.

6) This is by no means official, and it is certainly subject to change. But based on the current Roster Resource depth charts at FanGraphs, the Cards’ four opponents in the NL Central may have only six lefthanders in their 20-pitcher rotation slots.

7) This is from Bill James Online. Here’s how Pujols fared in 2021 based on the quality of the opposing pitcher. These are the overall numbers; there were no LHP or RHP splits available.

– 3.50 ERA or lower … 85 at-bats, 5 homers, .200 average, .637 OPS.

– ERA between 3.51 and 4.25 … 55 at-bats, 1 homer, .182 average, .451 OPS.

– ERA between 4.26 and 5.25 … 56 at-bats, 3 homers, .250 average, .712 OPS.

– ERA above 5.25 … 79 at-bats, 8 homers, .304 average, .984 OPS.

Well, other than Milwaukee, Pujols will likely see a lot of awful pitching in the NL Central this season. He hasn’t had many at-bats against opposing starting pitchers in the division, so there’s the factor of the unknown. We’ll have to see how the tour will go.

8) Finally, let’s go back to where we started. The best way for Marmol to proceed is to follow the way Dodgers manager Dave Roberts used Pujols last season. Roberts maximized Pujols’ probability of success in a way that Angels manager Joe Maddon failed to do.

As an Angel in 2021, Pujols took only 30.4 percent of his plate appearances against left-handed pitching.

But as a Dodger, and with a smarter manager and front office in place, Pujols took 57.8% of his plate appearances against lefties in ’21.

And Roberts, Pujols and the Dodgers benefited from the intelligent usage of The Machine. The payoff: For the Dodgers Pujols had a batting line of .303 with a .347 onbase percentage and .606 slugging percentage vs. lefties. With 10 homers, .953 OPS and an adjusted runs created metric (wRC+) that came in at 49 percent above the league average.

Thanks for reading …


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All stats used here are sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant and Brooks Baseball Net unless otherwise noted.


Bernie Miklasz

Bernie Miklasz

For the last 36 years Bernie Miklasz has entertained, enlightened, and connected with generations of St. Louis sports fans.

While best known for his voice as the lead sports columnist at the Post-Dispatch for 26 years, Bernie has also written for The Athletic, Dallas Morning News and Baltimore News American. A 2023 inductee into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Bernie has hosted radio shows in St. Louis, Dallas, Baltimore and Washington D.C.

Bernie, his wife Kirsten and their cats reside in the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood of St. Louis.