St. Louis Cardinals: Albert Pujols’ 2010 charge for the Triple Crown
Ten years ago, St. Louis Cardinals’ legend Albert Pujols made a charge at baseball’s Triple Crown in an attempt to be the first winner of that rare and coveted award since 1967.
It was close, but St. Louis Cardinals’ legend Albert Pujols fell just short of baseball’s highly coveted and rarely achieved Triple Crown in 2010. The Triple Crown is the batting achievement of leading a league in batting average, home runs, and runs batted in (RBI). It’s an award any slugger would love to add to his career resume.
In 2010, it was an August surge in which Albert Pujols hit .379 with 11 home runs and 23 RBI that put the Triple Crown in reach for the 30-year-old first baseman. When the month of August was over, Pujols found himself in the hunt for the Triple Crown with Carlos Gonzales of the Rockies and Joey Votto of the Reds.
Pujols entered September with a slight lead in the NL chase for home runs (35) and RBI (95), while his .316 batting average trailed Votto’s .327 and Gonzales’ .326. Albert Pujols being in the running to win the Triple Crown shouldn’t have been a surprise for anyone who had been watching his career. After all, he was a rare baseball player who could hit consistently for power and average.
By 2010, this 6-3, 235lb right-handed bat, had already won an NL batting title, a Rookie of the Year Award, three MVP Awards, five Silver Slugger Awards, and made eight All-Star appearances. Add on to these credentials, he had never had less than 32 homers or 103 RBI in a season, or a BA of less than .314. Finally, he had already led the league in home runs in 2009 with 47.
Was there more? Yes, he led the league in runs scored four times and SLG, OPS, and OPS+ three times. Albert Pujols’ career up to 2010, seem to point to baseball’s first Triple Crown winner since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967, and the first in the National League since the Cardinals own Joe Medwick in 1937.
An up and down 2010
Albert Pujols got off to a great start in 2010 by hitting .345 with 7 home runs and 19 RBI in April. However, over the next three months, his batting average fell off, at least by Pujols standards. In May he hit .291 followed by .298 in June, then had an un-Pujols-like .267 in July.
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Nevertheless, he continued to hit home runs and pad his RBIs through these three months. Going into August he was carrying a .299 BA with 24 homers and 72 RBI. His incredible August set up his September run for the Triple Crown, along with Carlos Gonzalez and Joey Votto.
Pujols managed to keep the lead in home runs and RBI throughout September, finishing with 42 homers and 118 RBI. However, Pujols wasn’t able to close batting average gap with Gonzalez and Votto. By the end of the month, Carlos Gonzalez (after hitting .378) finished with a .336 BA for 2010, winning the NL batting title.
Albert Pujols finished 2010 with a .312 BA with 42 homers and 118 RBI. In previous years, he had hit more home runs and RBI, but 2010, was the only year he led the National League in two of three categories for the Triple Crown.
2010 was also the last great year in Albert Pujols career. It was the fifth and last year where he led a league in Runs Scored(115), and the fourth and last year where he led a league in OPS+(173).
I know some of you will say 2011 was a great year, but for Pujols, it was the first year he hit under .300 and had less than 100 RBI. He also has had some very good years with the Angels, but not great. Certainly, not what we saw the first 10 years of his career.
The Triple Crown has plenty of St. Louis Cardinal history attached to it. Rogers Hornsby won it twice, in 1922 and 1925. Tip O’Neill won it in 1887 when the Cardinals were called the St. Louis Browns. With Joe Medwick’s in 1937, no other franchise has won as many.
Albert Pujols is one of the great players of this generation, and one of the two greatest in St. Louis Cardinal history. In a recent article at MLB.com, Richard Justice calls Pujols, ‘the perfect player in 11 years with the Cards’. Justice hits the nail on the head.
To conclude, he doesn’t need anything else to be a first-ballot Baseball Hall of Famer. Nevertheless, it would have been a fitting way to top off Albert Pujols’ legacy in St. Louis, if he had joined O’Neill, Hornsby, and Medwick with the Triple Crown.