Cardinals 2009 Player of the Year

In an obvious selection, Albert Pujols receives our nod as the top player on the 2009 St. Louis Cardinals. To make this a bit more interesting, different comparisons are offered.

To be completely honest, I put off writing this article for a long time. I mean, how can one make this interesting when there is no suspense? By simply seeing the title alone, everyone already knows the answer.

Of course, Albert Pujols is our 2009 St. Louis Cardinals Player of the Year. That is as much of a no-brainer as a no-brainer can be. It is not that his teammates did not contribute to the club's National League Central crown, because they did.

Yet Pujols stands above all others. So rather than make comparisons of Pujols' results against his teammates, I decided to take two other views. First, we will look at how his 2009 season stacked up against the remainder of Major League Baseball in ten key offensive measures.

2009 MLB rank Career rank Best Year Award
Home runs 47 1 2 49 2006
Runs 124 1 4 137 2003
OPS 1.101 1 4 1.114 2008 MVP2
SLG 0.658 1 3 0.671 2006
IBB 44 1 1 MVP3?
OBP 0.443 2 2 0.462 2008 MVP2
Walks 115 3 1 MVP3?
RBI 135 3 2 137 2006
BA 0.327 6 7 0.359 2003
Doubles 45 T7 4 51 2003/4

On the left side of the above table, you can see that Pujols ranked in the top ten in MLB in every single one of the categories, including being first in half of them, five. They include arguably the most telling, OPS, as well as the most glamorous, home runs.

Given all that, it is not surprising that the only real question remaining about Pujols and his third National League Most Valuable Player Award is whether or not the vote will be unanimous. He has already taken the Sporting News Player of the Year Award, a cross-MLB honor voted upon by his peers, with many more honors on the way.

So, where do we go from here? Pujols is the best player on the Cardinals, the best player in the National League and the best player in MLB. To what can he be compared, then?

One obvious answer is to measure Pujols against his own lofty standards.

Considering his recent elbow surgery coming on the heels of a second-half slowdown, there is little doubt that Pujols was not 100 percent, especially later in the season. Yet it is illustrative to stack Albert's 2009 results against his bests established over his previous eight seasons. That is what is represented in the center of the above chart - the columns entitled "Career rank", "Best" and "Year".

As great as his 2009 season was, in only two of the ten categories did Pujols set a career best. Both were related to bases on balls. Pujols' 44 intentional passes (IBB) this season doubled the next-closest player, yet the rate of them dropped by over half once Matt Holliday was acquired.

In three very important categories, home runs, runs batted in and on-base percentage, Pujols' put together his second-best year ever. In fact, only in batting average, where he hit "just" .327, did Pujols rank in the bottom half of his career seasons, at seventh of his nine years' results.

Moving to the next columns, you can see that the two predominant past seasons during which Pujols put up his best career numbers were in 2003 and 2006. What makes that most interesting is that in neither year, he won the NL MVP.

Further, in 2005, his first MVP year, Pujols did not register a career best in a single one of these ten stats. That also may have had something to do with the stellar co-stars Jim Edmonds and Scott Rolen in place at the time.

Last season, in what became his second MVP campaign, Pujols racked up his top on-base and OPS totals in his nine years.

My closing thought is more of a wonder. I wonder how much even better than he was in 2009 could Pujols become in the future?

If his recent elbow surgery offers a full season of relief, Cardinals fans have at least two more years before Pujols' contract is up to find out.

Our congratulations are hereby offered to Albert Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals Player of the Year for 2009.

Note: To follow our entire series of Pitchers and Players of the Year at each level of the St. Louis Cardinals system from bottom to top, check back here daily. To see the roster of winners and article schedule, click here.

Brian Walton can be reached via email at Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog.

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