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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Albert and Babe

Home runs, doubles, RBI and stolen bases are among the four most important measurements of a player’s offensive production.

St. Louis Cardinals fans already know that first baseman Albert Pujols is putting together a tremendous season in these areas and more. In fact, it is approaching historic proportions.

Look at the destruction he laid on the Milwaukee Brewers in just three games this week.

Pujols collected a pair of hard-hit doubles, his 36th and 37th of the season, as part of his four on-base performance on Monday. As the Cards won 3-0, all Albert did was drive in the first two runs and score the third himself. It was also Albert’s second consecutive three-hit game.

On Tuesday, Pujols clubbed his 45th home run, a seventh-inning solo shot that brought the Cardinals to within one run in a game they would eventually come back to win. Albert finished the night 1-for-2 with two walks and two runs scored.

In the series finale on Wednesday, Albert had his tenth multiple-home run game of the season, tying Mark McGwire for tops in club history. His 46th and MLB-best 47th home runs put him just two short of his career best. Pujols’ RBI total of 124 is just one off the Major League lead. He scored in his nine consecutive game.

As one would expect, Pujols leads the 2009 Cardinals in every offensive category imaginable, including stolen bases, where he holds a 14-12-8 edge over shortstop Brendan Ryan and another unlikely basestealer, slow-footed, yet sneaky-fast catcher Yadier Molina. Albert’s stolen base total is still two short of his career best of 16, set during his first Most Valuable Player award season of 2005.

With 21 games still remaining in the 2009 regular season, Pujols now has 47 home runs, 37 doubles, 124 RBI and those 14 stolen bases. To help put that into context, only three other players in the history of the game have ever amassed those kinds of balanced totals in one full season.

The other three are former Cardinal Larry Walker in 1997, another ex-Cardinal, Andres Galarraga in 1996 and the greatest of them all, Babe Ruth in 1921. In a not-so-unimportant aside, Walker was the MVP and Ruth likely would have been had the award been given.

With just three more Pujols home runs over the next three weeks, Walker and The Big Cat will be crossed off this list, leaving just Albert and Babe.

No one else. Ever.

Year Home Runs Doubles RBI Steals
Albert Pujols 2009 47 37 124 14
Larry Walker 1997 49 46 130 33
Andres Galarraga 1996 47 39 150 18
Babe Ruth 1921 59 44 171 17

For the skeptical: If you are into power only and discount the importance of the stolen base, this is just for you.

In a most impressive run of consistency, Pujols now has put into the books four seasons of at least 40 home runs, 35 doubles and 110 RBI. That matches the MLB record held by Yankees Hall of Famers Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

A-Rod didn’t do it. Manny hasn’t either. Is there any doubt as to the identity of the greatest active baseball player on this planet?

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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