At its core, baseball remains a game of statistics. How far one is willing to go in this direction has been a religious debate among followers of the game for several decades now and it isn’t going to change any time soon.
For a given player, one can view situational stats cut just about any way imaginable. Examples can range from the basics of how a hitter performs against left-handed pitching all the way to his results with two strikes and two runners on base in extra-inning home games.
I thought I had seen it all until I returned recently to a favorite specialty site, BirdBats.com. Its proprietor, Jeff Scott, collects St. Louis Cardinals game-used bats and tracks their use by players like no other. (For those interested in reading more about Jeff and his business, check out this interview.)
In the case of now-free agent Albert Pujols, Scott not only tracked which bats Albert used in each plate appearance over the course of recent seasons, since the 2004 World Series in fact, he also recorded Pujols’ game results by his varied choice of lumber, both by brand and finish.
That’s right. Pujols’ splits by bat type.
I should mention that Pujols has used Marucci bats exclusively since 2008 and has a minority interest in the company.
You can find all the details at BirdBats.com, but here is a summary of Pujols’ 2011 bat usage and results from Jeff.
“Unlike the past three years, when he used the Gwynn finish 97-99.6 percent of the time, Albert used seven different finishes. He still used Gwynn the most – 82 percent of all plate appearances. But, he also used what I call the Bonds finish (cherry handle/black barrel), a natural barrel/black handle, a natural handle/Hornsby barrel, an all-natural finish, a pink bat and a black bat.
“My advice to Albert for 2012 – other than ‘re-sign in St. Louis’ – is to stick with the natural barrel/black handle bat. He hit .458 with that model during the regular season and .423 with it (including 4/5 of his HR) during the post season.”
Most Cardinals fans are undoubtedly hoping that this winter, Pujols does not create another kind of split – a breakup from his only home as a major leaguer.
Update: Following the posting of the article above, I heard from Jeff Scott, who provided further explanation as to why he got started.
“I started tracking Pujols game by game in 2005 because, at the time, he used several different brands of bats (and every collector wanted one that he used). I’d get questions from people considering the purchase of a Pujols bat, such as, ‘I found this great 2005 Rawlings bat of his… what do you think?’ I was able to objectively respond that he used Rawlings five times in 700 plate appearances and encourage them to consider the odds that the bat was actually used by Albert in a game (vs. BP, in the cage or by someone else). People often thank me for helping them avoid bad purchases, so I’d like to think the effort does some good. I’m just happy every game is televised and I have a DVR.”