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Albert Pujols homer-happy as he makes MLB historical past

Albert Pujols has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball the second half of the season.

Albert Pujols has been one of many hottest hitters in baseball the second half of the season.
Photograph: Getty Photos

Final evening, Albert Pujols lit baseball Twitter on hearth, smacking his 699th and 700th profession residence runs in the identical recreation, the identical feat he completed for his 499th and 500th home runs. It’s been an unbelievable run for Pujols. One which not lots of people noticed coming, except you’re Greg Amsinger.

I imply, 15 residence runs within the second half?! That’s nuts! Fourteen of them coming in his previous 130 plate appearances?! Unimaginable. Clearly, one thing inside Pujols was woke up when he was despatched again to St. Louis this offseason. Nevertheless, after simply six residence runs in his first 90 video games, it appeared unattainable for Pujols to achieve the legendary 700 mark. After the All-Star break, Pujols began mashing although. Solely Aaron Decide and Eugenio Suarez have hit extra residence runs since. So, when was the final time Pujols had a stretch of baseball this unbelievable?

Now, Pujols hitting 14 residence runs over the course of 39 video games isn’t something new. He’s had quite a few such streaks over the course of his profession. Nevertheless, Pujols is 42 this season. He’s not taking part in the whole lot of each recreation like he used to. His 14 residence runs between Aug. 10 and Sept. 23 occurred over the course of simply 130 plate appearances and 116 at-bats. To place that in perspective, each different 39-game span that noticed Pujols hit 14 or extra residence runs wanted at the least 160 plate appearances and 127 at-bats. That was in Pujols’ prime too, since apart from his present stretch, the final time Pujols mashed 14 or extra residence runs in a 39-game span was 2015. Previous to that sizzling streak, it occurred in 2012. It’s been seven years since Pujols had a stretch nearly as good as this, and he did it in fewer at-bats and plate appearances than it took for him to take action in 2015. Do the Cardinals simply merely carry out the best possible in Pujols?

There have been 81 instances throughout the historical past of baseball of a participant hitting 14 or extra residence runs in 39 video games at 40 or older. Thirty-one of them belong to Barry Bonds. Twenty-one of them belong to Nelson Cruz. Nevertheless, Cruz by no means did this after turning 42. Solely Bonds and Pujols. Raúl Ibañez had an unbelievable stretch in 2013, however he was 41 years previous. As is the case with each different stretch of this magnitude, Pujols wanted fewer plate appearances than anybody. The one one who comes even shut is Jim Thome, who in 2010, wanted 135 plate appearances to smack 14 dongs. Thome really solely wanted 108 at-bats, too, which is definitely fewer than Pujols, however nonetheless, Pujols did it the quickest total. Though Ibañez did hit 16 residence runs in 162 plate appearances, Cruz hit 15 in 150, and Bonds hit 15 in 151, Pujols nonetheless had the most effective residence run-to-plate look ratio of the bunch.

Now, what about just hitting home runs in the second half? Historically, Pujols has always been a much better second-half hitter than first-half. His average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS-plus, walk rate, and strikeout rates are all superior after the All-Star break, but that hasn’t always been the case. Since 2017, Pujols has only had one season (2019) where his OPS has been higher in the second half than the first. In fact, prior to 2022, 2019 was the only season where Pujols even had an OPS higher than .700 in the second half. Pujols’ on-base percentage has been lower in the second half of every season since 2017. Yet, somehow, in 2022, he has managed to record an on-base percentage over 100 points higher than his first-half split, an OPS greater than 1.000, and an OPS-plus of 198, meaning Pujols has been nearly 100 percent better than an average player in the second half. To put that in perspective, Aaron Judge’s OPS-plus in the first half was 173. Yeah, Pujols’ second half has been better than Judge’s first half, and need I remind you, Pujols is 42 years old.

I don’t know how he’s managed to turn his fortune around since the All-Star break, but Pujols is on one of the hottest streaks of his career, more than half a decade after everyone thought he was done for. Obviously, there are going to be some people who assume PEDs are at play here, and I find that notion ridiculous. Pujols pushed through the steroid era entirely clean. I know hitting 700 home runs is a legendary feat worth striving for, but why would he muddy his Hall of Fame chances just for one-half of great baseball? Hitting 700 home runs doesn’t guarantee your place in baseball’s immortal Hall, as evidenced by Bonds and probably Álex Rodríguez in a few years as well. If Pujols did that, he’d be one of the stupidest people alive. He’s not.

That said, something about St. Louis just brings out the best in The Machine. If you’d asked Dodgers or Angels fans whether or not they believed Pujols could hit 700 this year prior to the season, they probably would’ve laughed at you. Given the Pujols that they’d seen over the past seven or so years, 700 had been out of the question for half a decade, yet The Machine found a way. He channeled his prime self for one last “Hoorah!” and it was exhilarating to experience. I haven’t felt this ecstatic to be a baseball fan since the ‘Re2pect’ industrial that aired for Derek Jeter’s retirement. Think about if he wins a World Sequence now. That’d be particular. Cherish these moments whereas we have now them. We’re watching the second-ever unanimous Corridor of Fame entry in his ultimate season.

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