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NL MVP race not so close

Numbers show Albert Pujols clearly deserved second honor of his career

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NL MVP race not so close

Courtesy of MLB.com

Courtesy of MLB.com

Courtesy of MLB.com

Tracy McDannald, Sports editor

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The voters made the right choice giving the National League’s Most Valuable Player award to St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.

Sure, Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard led the majors with 48 home runs and 146 RBIs, but two numbers shouldn’t make up for his glaring statistics: batting average and strikeouts.

Pujols, who won his second MVP award, batted .357 with 37 homers and 116 RBIs while Howard hit more than .100 points lower (.251) and struck out a staggering 199 times compared to Pujols, who struck out just 54 times.

To delve further into the stats, Pujols’ batting average was higher than Howard’s .339 on-base percentage and the St. Louis first baseman slugged a higher percentage (.653 to .543). Pujols did it all while being walked 104 times (third in ML), including a league-leading 34 intentional free passes.

Now, imagine if Pujols would’ve had as many opportunities to swing the bat as Howard, who logged 610 at-bats compared to Pujols’ 524. Also, take into account the lineup both men have around them.

Howard bats in a lineup with All-Stars and Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins, who won last season’s MVP award. Meanwhile, Pujols’ presence and high walk total set-up outfielder and virtual unknown Ryan Ludwick for an All-Star season and made fellow outfielder Rick Ankiel more dangerous.

The toughest part of any MVP debate is defining the words “most valuable.” But again, just go to the numbers.

Howard only had one unstoppable month when he set a team record with 32 RBIs in September. But, his batting average wasn’t even above .200 toward the end of May. Yes, the Phillies made the playoffs but don’t forget that half of the game is still pitching, which the Cardinals didn’t have much of.

Despite that, St. Louis stayed in the playoff race until September and Pujols was the reason. He played great for six months, including a .398 average in August to keep them alive. The Cardinals still managed to post a winning record (86-76), so it’s not like Pujols was on the worst team in baseball.

Chalk up a victory for the baseball writers for looking at the whole picture and not just two misleading numbers.

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