One of our regular offseason traditions is the Exit Interview, where we look back at each player that got into a game for the St. Louis Cardinals in the past season. This is the 11th season we’ve done this and it’s a good way to get a view of the whole year, not just a short stretch of games. It’s sort of like a performance review before the players went off to their offseason work, spending a little time with Oli Marmol and going over what went right, what went wrong. Stats and grades are only for a player’s time in St. Louis, though splits numbers may include other teams. As always, my sincere thanks to the legend of cardinalsgifs for providing the header image!
Player: Albert Pujols
Season stats: 109 G, 351 PA, 42 R, 14 2B, 24 HR, 68 RBI, 1 SB, 2 CS, 28 BB, 55 K, .270/.345/.550, 154 OPS+, 2.0 bWAR, 1.8 fWAR
Statcast: .365 xwOBA, 12.0 barrel %, 91.2 exit velocity, 47.3 hard hit %, 15.7 K %, 8.0 BB %
Best Statcast category: xwOBA, xSLG (94th percentile)
Worst Statcast category: Sprint Speed (1st percentile)
Hero/Goat: Hero 15, Goat 4
Positives: Came home and reminded us what a legend he is….cracked his #700th home run in Dodger Stadium in late September….homered in his last regular season game at Busch….got hits in his last two at-bats as a Cardinal against the Phillies in Game 2 of the playoffs….had four multi-homer games….had his first career pinch-hit grand slam against the Cubs….had two four-hit games and four three-hit ones….the last five regular season games of his career, hit .500 with three homers and 10 RBI….had his best OPS+ since 2010….had the most homers he’s had since 2016….joined Babe Ruth as the only 700-homer guys that also have an inning on the mound when he threw a frame against the Giants in May….crushed lefties for a 1.146 OPS and 13 of his homers….hit .293 with a .950 OPS away from Busch Stadium….hit .361 with a 1.224 OPS in August….had a 1.103 OPS in games the Cardinals won….had a 1.128 OPS when playing first base….hit .270 and had four homers when leading off an inning….had nine homers hitting fifth….hit .403/.392/.806 in at bats where he swung at the first pitch….hit five homers on the first pitch and hit .393 on it….hit 10 homers when the pitcher was ahead in the count….had a 1.044 OPS when he was ahead in the count….slashed .317/.398/.644 with nine homers with two outs in an inning….had a 1.057 OPS with runners in scoring position….it was 1.274 with two outs and RISP….hit .307 with five homers in tie games….had seven homers and a .951 OPS in high leverage situations….had a 1.077 OPS in the first three innings….had a 1.306 OPS against pitchers he was seeing for the third time in a game….had 10 homers off of finesse pitchers….was in the top six percent of the league in expected batting average and expected weighted on base average and top three percent in weighted on base average….participated in the Home Run Derby and won his first round matchup….named NL Comeback Player of the Year.
Negatives: If it wasn’t for Yadier Molina, might have been the slowest person in the majors last season….hit .223 against right-handers….hit .215 with six homers in the first half and considered retiring before the break….hit .206 as a sub but did have three pinch-hit homers….hit .214 with a .725 OPS in the last three innings….hit .199 off of relief pitchers, though did get half of his homers against them….hit .241 against the Cubs and .229 against the Brewers.
Overview: There was a segment of the Cardinal fan base that thought that the signing of Pujols was just a sop to the fans, a nod to history and a way to sell tickets. There were some that expected, with the right usage, that Pujols would still be able to contribute to the team. Nobody, however, saw him becoming perhaps the third best offensive option behind MVP Paul Goldschmidt and MVP candidate Nolan Arenado. When Pujols was hitting .189 with four homers on the Fourth of July, it seemed like the first group was right, but AP figured something out before his trip to Los Angeles as a “legend” selection to the All-Star Game. After the Fourth, AP slashed .324/.388/.703 with 20 homers, a line that would not have been out of place during his heyday with the Redbirds. The chase for 700 was remarkable, with Pujols hitting one (or more!) almost every night. The joy that Pujols showed regularly, with huge smiles in the dugout, was infectious. The tutoring of the young players such as Juan Yepez and Brendan Donovan was really cool as well. For whatever drawbacks this season, especially its ending, had, we’ll always remember when Albert Pujols came home.
Outlook: Pujols walked off the field with his good friends Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright in the last home game of the season, but his path will diverge from theirs. Molina’s going to manage in Venezuela, Wainwright is going to go one more year, but Pujols seems to be set to take a little time off, then start fulfilling the 10-year personal services contract that he has with the Angels. It’s a bit frustrating after this reunion to see him head back out to California, but there’s little doubt he’ll still be around for certain events, such as his induction to the Cardinals Hall of Fame in three years (assuming no requirements are waived) and honoring him for his Hall of Fame induction in five years. The sooner Pujols returns to being a Cardinal full time, though, the better!