Thursday, May 11, 2006

Can Albert Pujols pass Barry Bonds?

To follow up on the last post, let's look at another one:

Albert Pujols, through 34 games and 147 plate appearances so far this year, has already hit 18 home runs.

Given all the hoopla over Barry Bonds pass a number that is NOT a record, is he in danger of losing the one home run record he does hold?

Pujols is on pace for 150 walks this year, which one could say would be a fair approximation for the year. You can't just walk him and deal with everyone else in the lineup - with Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds providing protection, you can't walk him 200 times because the other guys will crush what they see.

But will his power pace keep up?

Well, the new Busch is more favorable for hitters than the old Busch. 8-9 games each in Enron, PNC, Miller Park, Wrigley Field, and Great American Ballpark. Wrigley may be the most difficult to put the ball in the seats! So far in the division there have been road games at the Reds and Astros (2) and PNC and Wrigley (3). Nothing at Miller Park yet.

No trips yet to Coors Field.

No chances yet to pick on the Royals.

Already got a Miami trip out of the way.

Basically, you have a lot of home games in friendly confines, and LOTS of opportunities on the road, in favorable conditions due to climate (domes, altitude or friggin hot) or the crappiness of the team (looking at you, AL Central). Most of their opponents so far have been above-average. Their only opponents so far that could be considered sub-par are 6 Pirate games, 4 National games, and 3 Marlin games. Only 13 out of 34. So it will get easier.

Can he do it? Well, no one's had this many homers this early in the season. Not Ruth. Not McGwire. Not Sosa. Not Bonds. And it hasn't gotten too warm yet.

What better way the end a year that begins with merciless booing of an alleged steroid user, than with the breaking of a record held by said suspicious person by someone who can safely be considered above the fray in baseball's recent drug troubles?

Pujols has been through more rigorous drug-testing programs during his years in the minors. As of this year, half of his career in the majors has had a drug policy. There is no dropoff from previous years such as happened to those who have seen a drop (Giambi?)

Plus, he is entering his prime. He is just 26 years old, so a natural breakout is reasonably expected at this age.

Top it off with the fact that, well, he's a nice guy, very personable, outgoing, and likeable, which is a lot more than can be said for the current record-holder.

Baseball needs an attention-grabber? How about someone in a baseball stronghold trying to sweep away the drug stigma with each crack of the bat?

I wouldn't mind seeing that. Even if it means the Cardinals beat the Braves out of a wild-card spot. I don't think anyone would have a problem with Pujols breaking Bonds' single-season record.

Last chapter of the trilogy to come Saturday.

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