Friday, April 16, 2010
One powerful performance
By Mark Simon
If you were to compile a list of the greatest offensive seasons against the New York Mets, Albert Pujols' 2009 should be at or near the very top.
Jerry Manuel might want to adjust whatever his strategy was against Pujols, who hit .469 against the Mets last season, with four home runs and 14 RBIs. And those gaudy numbers came in only nine games.
A player has hit at least .400 with four home runs against the Mets on 27 different occasions. When the Mets were in their infancy, blundering to a 40-120 mark in 1962, three different players reached those two plateaus: Hank Aaron, Stan Musial and the Dodgers' Ron Fairly.
Musial's numbers were scarily similar to Pujols (.468 BA, 4 HR, 15 RBIs), though it took him nearly twice as many games (17) to get there.
More recently, Brandon Phillips (2007 Reds), Carlos Lee (2005 Brewers) and recently retired Rich Aurilia (2001 Giants) were the last three players to reach those numbers for a season.
Rating the best of the best isn't easy. Chipper Jones 1999 (.400 BA, 7 HR, 16 RBIs) deserves points for the impact of the blows he struck. Dave Kingman's nine-game stretch in 1980 (.441 BA, 8 HR, 19 RBIs) is the most powerful. The .509 batting average, with eight home runs and 27 RBIs by Braves outfielder Rico Carty in 1964 is the best all-around combination, though the pitching staff he performed against was less than impressive.
If the Mets pitch to Pujols this season, he'll have a chance to become only the second player to hit .400 with four or more home runs in a season against them twice. The only other? Steve Garvey for the Dodgers in 1978 and 1980.
Pujols' is a .327 career hitter against the Mets, with 19 home runs. One more big swing puts him into another nice group.
The list of those with a .300 career batting average and 20 or more home runs is pretty impressive: Chipper Jones, Gary Sheffield, Joe Torre, Gary Carter, Vladimir Guerrero, Kingman, Bill White and Willie Davis.
The chances of another performance in the 2009 mold this season are high if the Mets elect to take their chances with him in this series. Pujols has a .431 batting average with seven home runs in 51 at-bats against the three pitchers the Mets will throw in this series (Oliver Perez, Johan Santana and John Maine).
But keep this in mind: Pujols may not see a good pitch the whole series. The man hitting behind him, Matt Holliday, went just 8-for-42 against the Mets last season.