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Albert Pujols’ not very good 3-HR game

Posted by Andy on October 23, 2011

Albert Pujols went 5-for-6 last night with 3 homers and 6 RBI. Not bad for a guy who some thought was washed up.

It was a great game, no doubt, but because the Cardinals already had a big lead when he did much of his heavy hitting, it wasn't worth all that much in terms of WPA.

His value of .211 for the game is quite low. Here are all the 3-HR regular season games from 2011:

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI BOP Pos. Summary
1 Prince Fielder 2011-09-27 MIL PIT W 6-4 4 3 3 3 0 0 3 5 1 0 0.707 4.614 1.320 4 1B
2 Casey McGehee 2011-08-03 MIL STL W 10-5 4 4 3 3 0 0 3 5 0 0 0.424 4.359 .755 5 3B
3 Jason Giambi 2011-05-19 COL PHI W 7-1 5 5 3 3 0 0 3 7 0 2 0.414 5.519 .596 5 1B
4 Carlos Quentin 2011-05-24 CHW TEX W 8-6 5 5 3 3 0 0 3 5 0 2 0.376 3.767 .976 3 RF
5 Aubrey Huff 2011-06-02 SFG STL W 12-7 5 5 3 4 0 0 3 6 0 0 0.284 5.310 .638 4 1B
6 Carlos Beltran 2011-05-12 NYM COL W 9-5 5 5 3 3 0 0 3 6 0 0 0.284 5.006 .682 3 RF
7 Corey Hart 2011-05-23 MIL WSN W 11-3 5 4 3 3 0 0 3 7 1 0 0.283 6.051 .600 2 RF
8 Chris Heisey 2011-06-22 (2) CIN NYY W 10-2 5 5 4 3 0 0 3 5 0 0 0.252 3.552 .634 1 CF LF
9 Jose Bautista 2011-05-15 TOR MIN W 11-3 5 5 3 3 0 0 3 4 0 0 0.040 2.938 .520 3 RF
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/23/2011.

As you can see, Pujols' performance would rank as one of the "worst" as compared to this group, not that this is his fault (but rather a credit to his teammates.)

In fact, Pujols' game is the lowest-ranked 3-HR game in post-season history:

Rk Player Date Series Gm# Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO WPA RE24 aLI BOP Pos. Summary
1 Adam Kennedy 2002-10-13 ALCS 5 ANA MIN W 13-5 4 4 3 4 0 0 3 5 0 0 0.634 4.655 1.390 9 2B
2 Reggie Jackson 1977-10-18 WS 6 NYY LAD W 8-4 4 3 4 3 0 0 3 5 1 0 0.386 4.874 .883 4 RF
3 Babe Ruth 1926-10-06 WS 4 NYY STL W 10-5 5 3 4 3 0 0 3 4 2 0 0.337 4.501 .618 3 LF
4 Adrian Beltre 2011-10-04 ALDS 4 TEX TBR W 4-3 4 4 3 3 0 0 3 3 0 0 0.319 2.585 .810 5 3B
5 George Brett 1978-10-06 ALCS 3 KCR NYY L 5-6 5 5 3 3 0 0 3 3 0 0 0.301 2.708 1.220 1 3B
6 Bob Robertson 1971-10-03 NLCS 2 PIT SFG W 9-4 5 5 4 4 1 0 3 5 0 1 0.254 4.736 .716 5 1B
7 Babe Ruth 1928-10-09 WS 4 NYY STL W 7-3 5 5 3 3 0 0 3 3 0 0 0.241 2.119 1.284 3 LF
8 Albert Pujols 2011-10-22 WS 3 STL TEX W 16-7 6 6 4 5 0 0 3 6 0 0 0.211 5.808 .628 3 1B
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 10/23/2011.

In fact, even most of the 118 2-homer post-season games resulted in more WPA than Pujols got yesterday.

115 Responses to “Albert Pujols’ not very good 3-HR game”

  1. scott-53 Says:

    @89: Great hitting game by Pujols, but (all things being equal) if he was issued 5 intentional base on balls the Cardinals win the game 13-7.

  2. Kelly Says:

    Scott-Well, first, that's probably not true, but yes, they probably would have happened. But so what?

  3. scott-53 Says:

    @102: The post is about win probability.

    "It was a great game,no doubt, but because the Cardinals already had a
    big lead..."

  4. Cheese Says:

    @92: No, I didn't need this post to tell me that a homerun at 12-7 isn't clutch ordinarily, but, what this post did do is point out to me that I wasn't acknowledging (for whatever reason) this in this particular instance. And that to me had value, even if it pointed out something that regularly would be self-evident.

    No, my comment (while perhaps upon second-review errs more toward being caustic then my intended tongue-and-cheek) was a response to some of the earlier posts attacking the OP, where they took the title as a literal attempt to bash Pujols, instead of the tongue-and-cheek 'look, it must not be good because it was only xxx WPA, despite the fact that his performance was other-worldly'. That they missed the point that the poster agreed with them and acknowledged his performance was great by his very choice of the post title they were criticizing!

  5. pauley Says:

    @82- Andy, who wrote the article, makes that very statement in post 11- "...of course Pujols' performance was amazing, as I said, but from a purely stats-perspective, it WOULD have been better if he had struck out earlier in the game."

  6. Uncle Jimmy Says:

    I guess my interpretation is more generic, but I have always thought that the moment tends to define the achievement. It magnifies the accomplishment and also the act of the mistake. I always felt bad for Buckner because of the way he had to "pay" for the sins of the Boston bullpen in 1986, but we are always defined by our actions in a defining moment. In that perspective, Albert Pujols's game was outstanding, but there was no "defining moment" when any of the home runs was hit. I thought the shot off the second deck facing was massive. I guess I can only trust my eyes and what I saw to define what I thought was an individual game performance which will be talked about forever. It is very rare when the performance of one individual decides the outcome of a game (excepting a shut down pitcher, such as Bob Gibson). So, I don't know stats as well as you do, but I know beauty when I see it and I know when a performance becomes unique.

  7. Jim Dunne Says:


    You're assuming too much. If Pujols doesn't hit that first home run, the game is still very close, and may take a very different turn. Maybe everything else happens equally, maybe not.


    Exactly! To put this hypothetical into baseball terms, suppose a player goes 5 for 5, with 5 solo home runs, and his team wins 7-1. Each individual home run won't produce a significant add to WPA - the first ones because they are so early that they're not changing the complexion of the game (the other team still has significant chance to come back), and the later ones add little because their teams chance of winning is so large. He's being penalized on that 5th home run because of the first four. To say that it's "not very good" completely mischaracterizes the achievement.

    Then suppose the next night he goes 1 for 5, with four K's and a solo home run in the bottom of the 9th, to win the game 1-0. The second game will have an enormous WPA, but it's hard to classify that as "better." More clutch? Maybe. But saying that it's "better" that he didn't hit home runs instead of striking out in those at-bats is kind of daffy, don't you think?

    So let's stop attaching value words like good, bad, better, worse, etc to WPA. That's not what it measures.

  8. scott-53 Says:

    @107: I agree 100%. Things would have little chance of happening equally.

    Still, a visiting team with an 8-6 lead after 5 innings will win the game about 77%
    of the time. Also, you can't run out the clock in baseball.

    Win probability is my personal favorite advanced stat. It's a telling stat in
    my opinion.

  9. scott-53 Says:

    @108 : Didn't word that answer very well.

    You can't run out the clock in baseball making the first home run an important one.

  10. Ken Says:

    In all the arguments about WPA, it dawns upon me that nobody has noticed a stat Pujols accomplished that could be unique. When we think of hitting for the cycle, it's rarely done, and the usual comment afterwards is: "missed gettting the cycle by a homer", or however else it came up short. Well, I have always wondered if anyone had ever hit a HOMER cycle: a solo, 2-run, 3-run and slam in the same game. From what everyone has said, Pujols certainly came closer to that than anyone else post-season; he missed a homer cycle only by a slam. Not to trivialize a grand slam, of course, but even getting 3/4 of a homer slam is nothing to be sneezed at!

  11. Ken Says:

    Sorry, though I had read my post before submitting, this little glitch still snuck in; should be: "even getting 3/4 of a homer CYCLE is nothing to be sneezed at!"

  12. cyberjudge Says:

    Game 3 was historic even before Albert. From the top of the 4th through the top of the 6th, each team scored 3+ runs for a record total of 5 frames. In fact, only 4 times previously, in 1922, 1959, 1978 & 1997, had 2 teams each scored 3+ runs in the same inning in the WS. In Game 3, it happened in consecutive (4th & 5th) innings.

  13. pcg Says:

    To all who are using the logic that Pujols' performance was the best ever, based on his 3 HR and 14 total bases, something no one else has topped in postseason history:

    Would you also say Shawn Green's 4 HR / 19 total bases performance was the best hitting performance ever? You'd have to, right?

    But that's ridiculous, as anyone watching that game would attest; the fact is basing "the greatest" on number of HR and total bases is just as ridiculous as basing mediocrity on a low WPA (which I'm quite positive Andy was NOT doing in the first place).

  14. Kelly Says:

    Why wouldn't you think of Green's game as the best hitting performance ever? Why would that be ridiculous?

    You are conflating two terms here, "greatest" and "best." They are slightly distinct. "Best" doesn't depend on story line etc. "Greatest" does. For instance, right now Jeter is NOT the "best" shortstop in the game today, but most would agree he is the "greatest." People often mix up these two words.

    Green's performance might very well be the best. You would certainly make a case for it, though Whitten's record RE24 game would be in the conversation.

    Basing the BEST game on hard numbers like the most number of bases etc. IS pretty logical. It is certainly not "ridiculous." What would be ridiculous is to dismiss doing so out of hand. What's your defense for that position other than what it would mean to Shawn Green? You really don't defend your argument, you just sort of scoff Green's game and then pretend you scored a point.

    As far as Andy goes, he should have worded his article differently. If just a few people were confused, it would be on them. If you confuse virtually everyone, it's on you. Communication is measured by how well you communicated your thought, and if you didn't do that then its on you.

  15. pcg Says:

    My point (hastily and poorly made, to be sure) re: Green was that I've never heard anyone talk about it as the pinnacle of achievement, though in terms of HR and runs scored, it has never been surpassed (Guy Hecker's 8/15/1886 effort notwithstanding). Maybe it's because it was a May game and every pitcher Milwaukee trotted out was a tomato can throwing BP to an otherwise yawn-worthy Dodgers offense. You'd argue those are strikes against the performance's position as greatest, not best; I would argue that very few people make such pedantic distinctions.

    But whatever, I didn't mean to distract and I'm not trying to break into Green's house to steal his sense of accomplishment, any more than I think Andy was in the first place. I just re-read the original article and, aside from the tongue-in-cheek headline (which everyone is taking way, way too seriously) I can see no conceivable problem whatsoever with anything Andy wrote. Factual, concise, and giving the full picture of WPA (i.e., not denigrating Albert's individual performance based on the stat, but rather recognizing his position among others according to that particular stat).

    I see we're playing the "rewrite the headline" game as well. "Albert Pujols' not very good (as measured by WPA against similar individual achievements as defined by key accumulation statistics) 3-HR game" Would that have been a better headline? Is there just no room for hyperbole in writing on this blog?