Mauer’s .400 vs. Pujols’ Triple Crown

Joe Mauer is having perhaps the greatest season ever for a catcher and – if the voters have any sense* –  he should be the unanimous choice for AL MVP.  He’s also batting in the .370s, and has an outside chance at .400.  Albert Pujols, as I’ve mentioned before, is really awesome.  He’s in the top 10 in the NL in batting, 2nd in RBI, and leading that league in home runs. Since the Cardinals are most likely going to win the NL Central, it should be much more obvious that Pujols deserves the NL MVP.  He’s also got an outside shot at winning the Triple Crown. I looked at the chances of these two most valuable players reaching their receptive historic achievements over at MLB Notebook.  An excerpt’s below; click through for the full version.

* Most of them don’t, at least from my perspective. It should seriously be a super easy choice though.

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“[Stats don’t include August 24th games.]

Mauer is hitting .378 right now (it was .380 at the time of Daniel’s post), and so he’d need to hit something like .458 the rest of the way (that’s 66 for 144) to finish with a .400 average and the necessary 525 at bats. Mauer is a .327 career hitter for average, and ZiPS in-season updated projections has him at .333, so while he’s a great hitter he’s still a long-shot.

Albert Pujols is currently leading the NL with 40 home runs – 2 ahead of Mark Reynolds, and way ahead of the three guys tied for third place (Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, and Adam Dunn all have 33). Pujols is a better home run hitter than Reynolds, so it would be quite expected that he would finish with more homers even if the two were tied right now. Pujols does have a small cushion though, so while it’s not a slam-dunk for him I think he’s the favorite. ZiPS has Pujols finishing with 49 bombs, and Reynolds with “only” 46. (Fielder and Ryan Howard at 44 would tie for third.)

Pujols is second in RBI with 106 – 4 behind leader Prince Fielder and 7 ahead of Ryan Howard. If you think that Albert is a particularly good RBI man then you could give him a slightly increased chance to take over the top spot, but I definitely wouldn’t give him better than even odds against the field – all else being equal (which it isn’t necessarily, since all three categories are related).

In batting average, Pujols .317 is 6th, with Hanley Ramirez’s .361 way out in front of Pablo “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval’s .332. Hanley isn’t really a .361 hitter though, so that’s not actually the target Pujols would need to shoot for. The ZiPS projection has Ramirez as a .324 hitter, which would have him finish the season at .352. That’s still a long way for Pujols to catch up, but he is a .333 career hitter with a ZiPS projection of .328 for the rest of the season (so he’s about as good of a hitter for average as Mauer – at least according to the projections – which is handy). If Pujols finishes with 550 at bats (which is about what he’s on pace for), he’d need to hit .482 (55 for 114) to get to .353 (his target, assuming Hanley hits his projected .324 the rest of the way). Even if Ramirez gets a bit unlucky and only hits around .300 the rest of the way, Pujols would still need a .465 average to beat him by the end of the year. And that’s all assuming nobody else goes on a tear.

So at this point, Pujols would likely need to hit better for average going forward than Mauer would. Plus Pujols needs to do a couple of extra things. I guess that Mauer’s relatively small chance of hitting .400 is larger than Pujols’ relatively small chance of winning the Triple Crown. They both have next year though.”