By Jeremy Clements
(St. Louis, Mo) St. Louis Cardinals fans would have never imagined using the name Albert Pujols in a sentence with the word liability until now. After misplaying a ball in the 9th inning of last nights game against the Kansas City Royals, El Hombre has committed 9 errors this year, which is more than twice the number of errors he committed all of last season. His 9 miscues put him only four shy of shortstop Ryan Theriot’s team-leading 13 errors.
Three of those errors have come in games where Pujols started at third base, which shouldn’t be a surprise since he isn’t a third basemen by trade. Excuses aside, he has committed six errors at his natural position of first base, making him the third worst defensive first basemen in terms of fielding percentage in the majors just one season removed from winning his 2nd Gold Glove.
Going a step farther Pujols has committed four of these errors during the Cards current seven game skid. Two came in the 10-0 drubbing the birds took from the Washington Nationals, one was committed in the 7-4 loss to the Nats, and he committed one last night resulting in the game winning run for the Royals.
Beyond just this losing streak the Cardinals are 1-7 when Pujols has a miscue in the field. Four of those seven losses have come against teams that are either at or below .500 (Pirates, Royals and two losses to the Nationals). With Pujols playing below average defensively I find it puzzling that Tony La Russa, who claims to play the matchups based on statistics, continues to experiment with Pujols at third base. I realize that keeping all the big bats (Pujols, Berkman, Holliday, Jay, Rasmus, Craig) in the line up is important. But is it that important to have so many offensive weapons in the lineup when the defense plays like a slow pitch softball team?
The offense hasn’t been consistent but it has been good enough to more than the 38 games the birds have claimed thus far. With Carpenter struggling and pitchers like Westbrook and McClellan who depend on ground ball outs this defense has to improve and it must start with Albert Pujols.
I wouldn’t label him a liability. He’s had 705 chances and has committed only 9 errors. But then again when you’re a superstar coming off of a spectacular defensive season during which you committed only 4 errors in 1,619 chances you have to live up to certain expectations and this year Pujols just isn’t living up to them so far.
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