The number 700 seems to get bigger every day.
Can Pujols crack the sky with seven more home runs to reach a hallowed landmark achievement?
As they resume play Friday night against Atlanta at Busch Stadium, the Cardinals have 37 games remaining on their regular-season schedule. Does that give No. 5 enough time to homer his way above the annoying Alex Rodriguez and continue on to make the ascent to No. 700?
The easy answer – because he’s Pujols – is YES. At this point it’s just silly to dismiss his chances. And we’ve just watched The Machine crank seven homers in only 39 at-bats in his last 13 games. He has six homers in his last 29 at-bats. Obviously it isn’t loony – or farfetched – to see Pujols get it done. As a Cardinal he’s always had impeccable timing.
If you’re open to a more pragmatic and realistic answer, here you go: to make a 700th tour around the bases, Pujols will need plenty of opportunities vs. left-handed pitching. And he’s unlikely to see an abundance of lefties.
This season the Cardinals have faced left-handed pitchers in only 22.9 percent of their plate appearances. Which means their hitters have seen RH pitching 77.1 percent of the time.
Though Pujols has done better against righties since July 1, slugging .469 in 52 plate appearances, he has a modest count (two homers) in 49 at-bats against them over that time. Pujols has homered every 30.5 at-bats vs. righties this season. And his slugging percentage against the rights for the season is only .328.
When Pujols gets the chance to dig in against lefties this season, he’s slugging a scary .807 and has homered every 8.8 at-bats.
I don’t rule anything out with Pujols. When he gets hot, he can go deep against any pitcher and is capable of going off on a flurry of homers.
I’m just trying to explain the challenge that awaits him.
I looked at the teams that will play the Cardinals over the final five-plus weeks of the season. And though obviously starting-pitching probabilities can change along the way, I wanted to take a look at the number of left-handed starters listed as members of the rotations that St. Louis and Pujols will go against. And with that said, some of those lefties won’t go against the Cardinals because of the timing of the schedule.
Just for fun, here’s a glance at the pro-Pujols lefty-starter possibilities:
— Atlanta, 3 games vs. STL, no LH starters scheduled against the Cardinals at Busch this weekend.
— Cincinnati, 8 vs. STL, two lefties listed in the rotation as of now.
— Pittsburgh, 9 vs. STL, no lefties currently listed in the rotation.
— Washington, 4 vs. STL, one lefty currently listed in the rotation.
— Milwaukee, 4 vs. STL, just one lefty listed in the rotation right now.
— Chicago, 3 vs. STL, the Cubs currently list two lefties in their rotation.
— San Diego: 3 vs. STL, two lefties presently listed in the rotation.
— Los Angeles: 3 vs. STL, three lefties listed in the rotation at this time.
The upcoming six-game road trip to San Diego and LA that begins Sept. 21 looks promising for pro-Pujols matchups vs. lefties.
And Pujols will encounter a lot of mediocre and terrible pitching over the final 37 games. The platoon-split factors may be less relevant.
Can we talk the Pirates and Reds into starting nothing but lefthanders in their combined 17 games against the Cardinals? After trading Jose Quintana to the Cardinals, do the Pirates even have any lefty starters?
Pujols Power is very much alive, so let’s just enjoy the chase and the show and see how it all turns out.
We’re in for a remarkable, emotional and incredibly exciting September. The Cardinals will be making their stretch-drive kick in the run for first place in the NL Central. There’s the sentimentally powerful Pujols and Yadier Molina farewell. There’s Pujols determined and dangerous as ever, aiming for No. 700. And Paul Goldschmidt making his charge at what would be the first National League Triple Crown since 1937. Goodness. Keep the meds handy.
Thanks for reading …
-Hope you have a great weekend.
Bernie invites you to listen to his opinionated sports-talk show on 590-AM The Fan, KFNS. It airs Monday through Thursday from 3-6 p.m. and Friday from 4-6 p.m. You can listen by streaming online or by downloading the show podcast at 590thefan.com or the 590 app which is available in your preferred app store.
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All stats used here were sourced from FanGraphs, Baseball Reference, Stathead, Bill James Online, Fielding Bible, Baseball Savant, Brooks Baseball Net and Spotrac.
For the last 35 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. 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.