As the Cardinals playoff hopes wane, fans have cast about for other things to talk about. Most of them center around what the Cardinals will do with their pending free agents. Recently it’s been whether or not Nyjer Morgan is certifiably crazy. There is one remaining on-field area of intrigue, and that’s if Albert Pujols can hit .300 for the season.
Pujols is the only man to start his career with 10 consecutive .300 AVG, 30 HR, 100 RBI seasons. Regardless of your perspective on these traditional statistics, if it can be said ‘Player X is the only player in MLB history to do Y’ that’s pretty special. Several people have tweeted today that Pujols must hit .337 over the remaining 19 games to make .300. Can he do that?
Albert has certainly hit .337 or better for ninteeen-game stretches in his career. For example – in 2001 he hit .337 or better during 75 different 19-game intervals. Yes I did manually count. If it seems like a high number, let me explain. Games 1 through 19 would be one 19-game interval. Games 2-20 would be the second 19-game interval, even though only one game has been replaced by a new game. I kept looking at the games in that way (games 3-21 is interval #3, 4-22 interval #4, and so on) until I ran out of 19-game samples. I did not carry over 19-game intervals from season to season.
Basically Albert hit .337 or better for the first 2 months of 2001, then did it again from July 21 2001 until the end of the season.
This season has been Albert’s most difficult at the plate, and the 19-game intervals I looked at bear that out. Over all the intervals reviewed (it should be 110 unless my math is off), Pujols has only hit .337 or better in eleven. The first inteval ended with the game during which he broke his arm (Interval 56). He did not reach the .337 plateau again until the July 26 – August 14 period (Interval 89).
However, the late surge is why there remains some hope he can do it. Ten of the 11 periods observed occurred after that 26 July game. His most recent hot intervals started with the 10 August game against Milwaukee and ended with the Cincinnati series last weekend. In fact, his best hitting all season has been in progress since the July 24 game at Pittsburgh. Over that 42-game stretch he’s hit .323/.397/.605, with 12 HR and 25 RBI.
The most recent 19-game interval, starting with Game #110 (17 August, again at Pittsburgh) and ending Wednesday night, has seen Pujols hit .328.
Bottom line. He’s hot right now, he’s in a sustained period of good hitting at the moment, and he’s hit .337 or better in ten 19-game intervals since the 24th of July. There’s good reason to think he can get to .300 before the last out of the season.