Discipline will keep Pujols from winning Triple Crown

Updated: May 11, 2009

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Albert Pujols leads in the NL in homers and RBIs, and is 10th in batting average.

Albert Pujols has once again started the season on a hot streak, and there are some who believe this could be the year someone finally wins the Triple Crown. If any hitter is able to do it in this day and age, it is Pujols, who leads in the NL in homers (12) and RBIs (33) and is 10th in batting average (.330). He's one of the best hitters in both leagues, can kill the ball seemingly whenever he wants and gets plenty of RBI opportunities in the Cardinals' offense.

I believe he's a more powerful version of Tony Gwynn, because he can hit the ball to all fields, is extremely patient (this season he has 12 home runs and 11 strikeouts) and consistently puts the ball in play. The major difference between the two is that where Gwynn had doubles power, Pujols has the ability to take a mistake and put it in the second deck.

So, he has average covered; if you don't believe me, take a look at the two times in his career that he's already hit over .350. He has protection in the lineup and opposing pitching staffs don't intentionally walk him despite the fact he is the most dangerous hitter that we've seen since Barry Bonds retired. He also has guys in front of him who can get on base and give him numerous RBI opportunities.

What, then, is stopping him from winning the Triple Crown this season? Home runs. He is a great hitter, but he's also one who believes in getting the win. He could easily lead the league in home runs every season, but that would probably mean that his strikeout numbers would increase and his value to his club would decrease. This is a Cardinals team that relies on moving runners over to score runs, and Pujols is a big part of that. His selflessness puts this team in the hunt for the playoffs every season, but also takes him out of the running for the Triple Crown.

His main competition in the home run race is Ryan Braun, who has Prince Fielder protecting him in the lineup, and Adam Dunn, who could fall out of bed and hit 40 home runs, and Ryan Howard, who could accidentally have a three-homer game in his home ballpark. Also, all three of those guys are depended upon to hit bombs and not to hit for a high average. Their clubs don't care if they have more than 125 strikeouts because of their style of play. That obviously precludes them from contending for any batting titles anytime soon, but it gives them a major advantage over Pujols in the home run race.

That won't take away from how great a season we're seeing from Pujols, but it will take him out of the running for one of the most elusive achievements in baseball.

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ON DECK: TUESDAY'S BEST MATCHUPS

Dodgers at Phillies

The Dodgers were an average team away from home with Manny Ramirez, posting an 8-8 record on the road. Now, they head away from L.A. without Manny. After two consecutive poor starts in which he surrendered 15 runs in nine innings, Clayton Kershaw has allowed one run over his past two outings.

Yankees at Blue Jays

The two teams have flopped predicted spots; the Yankees were supposed to be the powerful juggernaut and the Blue Jays were the middle-of-the-pack team. So far, it's been the opposite, with Toronto racing out to a 22-11 start. Roy Halladay takes his 6-1 record out against A.J. Burnett on Tuesday.

Padres at Cubs

For so long this offseason, Jake Peavy looked as if he would pitch at Wrigley Field on a regular basis, but a deal between the Padres and Cubs never happened. Peavy pitches at Wrigley on Tuesday, but for San Diego. It's been a rough go so far for Peavy, who is 2-4 with a 4.27 ERA.

For the rest of Tuesday's schedule, click here.

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BBTN ON THE AIR: TUESDAY

TIME WHO'S ON?
10 p.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Chris Singleton
12 a.m. ET
ESPN
Host: Karl Ravech
Analysts: John Kruk, Peter Gammons, Chris Singleton

BBTN MINUTE: WILL PEAVY STAY IN SAN DIEGO?

SIMON SAYS

Simon Says ESPN researcher Mark Simon digs deep, looking for the night's best baseball numbers.

Tonight, he looks at how poorly the Mets' bullpen has treated Johan Santana in his past four starts. It wasn't pretty again Monday after Santana exited what turned into a 8-3 loss against the Braves.

Bullpen in Santana starts (2009)
First 3 Past 4
IP 6.1 9.2
ER 0 7
Hits 1 15
K-BB 7-1 5-3

WEB GEMS

MONDAY'S BEST AND WORST

BEST
Willy TaverasWilly Taveras had a productive night at the plate, going 5-for-5 with a stolen base, four runs scored and two RBIs in the Reds' 13-5 win against the Diamondbacks. Taveras has now hit safely in his past 12 games.
WORST
Gavin FloydGavin Floyd continues to struggle for the White Sox this season. A 17-game winner a year ago, Floyd was knocked around again on Monday, giving up 11 hits and eight runs in a 9-4 loss against Cleveland. Floyd is now 2-3 with a 7.32 ERA on the year.

NUMBERS TO KNOW

Jake Peavy has started slow out of the gate with a 2-4 record and a 4.27 ERA for the San Diego Padres, who are in last place in the NL West. His ERA is nearly a run higher than his career average and almost 1.5 runs higher than it was in 2008. So what's been Peavy's problem thus far? Bad luck and troubles with breaking balls.

Peavy's fielding independent pitching (FIP), which measures what a pitcher's ERA would be if you factored in only things he controlled, is 3.42, almost a full run lower than his actual ERA. Peavy is generating strikeouts at the highest rate in his career (10.1 K per 9 IP) and holding batters to the same batting average as he did last year (.229). Peavy's breaking balls have caused him problems this year.

While he's getting batters to swing and miss at about the same rate as last year, they're putting slightly more in play and, when they do, they're teeing off. Peavy and the Padres face the Cubs on Tuesday night, and the Cubs entered play on Monday hitting .193 and slugging .337 on curveballs and sliders, both of which are below the MLB average.

Peavy (opponents vs. breaking balls)
2008 2009
Miss pct. 30.5 30.8
Pct. of PA in play 32.4 36.5
BA on balls in play .253 .333
SLG on balls in play .288 .444

-- ESPN Stats & Information

FANTASY: PREVIEW OF TUESDAY'S GAMES

Adam Madison examines the 15 games on Tuesday's slate.

Fantasy Madison ranks the pitchers scheduled to take the mound and supplies loads of other information that could help shape your roster for Tuesday. Daily Notes