how did you get here Albert Pujolsat the gates of the 700 home runs?
How is it that the Dominican is in this incredible home run rhythm – 12 homers since August 10 – to arrive with 698 to the last weeks of his last campaign?
How is it that the Cardinals legend started hitting again, at age 42, like in his prime?
In this way. Here’s what Pujols is doing to give himself a chance to join Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth as the only members of the 700 home run club in American and National League history.
He’s crushing lefties.
This is the most important way of all. Pujols was never one of those players whose numbers varied greatly depending on the pitcher’s hand. But this explosion of power has as its starting point his ability to torment lefties with hits.
Nine of Pujols’ 12 home runs since Aug. 10 have come against lefties (the first nine in a row, in fact, to reach 695, and the last three against righties). Right now, he’s hitting everything that’s thrown at him in the face.
The average exit velocity of Pujols’ hits against lefties since Aug. 10 is 96.8 mph. Based on the quality of the contact he’s making against those types of pitchers, his expected slugging percentage is .950. In more than one in five plate appearances against the strikers, he has been able to hit a potshot, or “barrel,” those kinds of connections with the speed and launch angle ideal for hitting an extra-base hit or a home run.
Pujols since August 10
Vs. LZ: 96.8 mph exit velocity, .950 .xSLG, 21% pots per plate visit
Vs. LD: 91.3 mph exit velocity, .432 xSLG, 6% pots per plate visit
Pujols’ exit velocity against lefties is the second-best in the majors during that span. His xSLG and pot rate per plate visit are the best.
Better rate of pots per plate visit vs. LZ from August 10
Minimum of 25 visits to the plate vs. LZ
Albert Pujols: 20.5%
Shohei Ohtani: 17.9%
Mike Trout: 16.7%
Eugenio Suarez: 16.1%
Randy Arozarena: 15.8%
He’s attacking pitchers fast…
Pujols, historically, has been a patient hitter. For example, he almost always has one of the lowest first-pitch swing rates in the league, swinging the first pitch he sees only about once every six plate appearances.
Prior to Aug. 10 of this season, Pujols’ swing-to-first-pitch rate in 2022 was 18%, similar to his previous seasons. As of August 10, it is 28%. That aggressiveness is paying off.
Four of Pujols’ 12 homers since Aug. 10 have come off the first pitch. Three have come against the second pitch, which means that more than half during this stretch have been with the first two shipments of the turn.
Pujols’ seven homers against the first two pitches of the at-bat are the most by any hitter since Aug. 10, one more than Aaron Judge, Julio Rodriguez and Bo Bichette, who each have six. His four on the first pitch thrown at him have him tied for the most, along with Venezuelan Ronald Acuña Jr.
…but it’s also thundering with two strikes
Even if he doesn’t jump on a pitch early in the count and the bounce, Pujols has been able to remain competitive late in the at-bat, which is paying off with the home runs he’s hitting later in the count.
Pujols has almost as many home runs (12) as strikeouts (16) since Aug. 10. Four of those homers have come with two strikes, the same number he has against the first pitch.
Only three sluggers have hit more two-strike homers than Pujols since Aug. 20: Max Muncy, who has six, and Paul Goldschmidt and Daulton Varsho, who have five.
Even after being down two strikes, Pujols still slugged .617 during this big stretch that began in early August, second-best in the majors. MLB’s overall slugging percentage with two strikes during that same period is .259.
Can hit a fastball anywhere
Eight of the 12 homers Pujols has hit since Aug. 10 have come off fastballs. Eugenio Suarez is the only batter who has hit more homers off fastballs during that span; Pujols is tied for second with his former teammate Mike Trout and his current teammate, Goldschmidt. His slugging percentage against fastballs is .800.
Best SLG vs. straight since August 10
Minimum of 50 plate visits concluded with fastballs
Eugenio Suarez: .870 (11 HRs)
Albert Pujols: .800 (8 HRs)
Mike Trout: .794 (8 HRs)
Joc Pederson: .787 (4 HRs)
Michael Harris II: .765 (4 HRs)
But it’s not like Pujols is standing there just waiting for fastballs in the middle of the plate to look for a personal milestone. He is covering the entire plate against those speedy deliveries. Look at the location of the pitches he’s homered against.
Half have been on the edges of the strike zone. And one was well outside the zone: Drew Smyly’s sinker that Pujols hit over the fence on Aug. 22, a delivery that — at 4 feet, 3 inches tall — was the second-highest fastball anyone hit from home run in MLB this year.
And if you leave a slider hanging on it, you’re in trouble.
The four homers Pujols has hit since Aug. 10 that weren’t off fastballs? All were against sliders that the pitcher left high and in the middle of the plate.
Three of those sliders have been in the very heart of the zone, pitches across the middle of the plate that Statcast classifies as meatballs.
And that shows us what Pujols has been doing. Since starting this torrid run on Aug. 10, when breaking balls are thrown at him in the zone, he’s slugging 1,087. Against breaking pitches outside the strike zone, he’s slugging .071.
Best SLG vs. breaking pitches in the zone since August 10
Minimum of 20 plate visits resulting in broken shipments in the area
Shohei Ohtani: 1,579 (4 HRs)
Cal Raleigh: 1,250 (5 HRs)
Aaron Judge: 1,107 (6 HRs)
Albert Pujols: 1,087 (4 HRs)
Nico Hoerner: 1,000 (3 HRs)
Pujols is capable of going after the fastball, no matter where it’s thrown, or waiting for a breaking pitch to stay in a zone where it can do damage. If he does it a couple more times, he’ll have entered the 700 home run club.
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