When Albert Pujols signed this past off-season with the Angels, the Cardinals responded by signing Carlos Beltran. The Beltran signing turned out to be a stroke of brilliance as the future Hall of Fame outfielder has had a great season. The Beltran signing also meant at the time that Lance Berkman would slide back to first where he is best suited and Berkman could deliver offense somewhat worthy of the numbers Pujols put up last season. But it hasn't turned out that way as Berkman missed most of this season with injuries. So that means, the Cardinals have really missed Pujols, right? Not exactly.
The Cardinals have had to piecemeal the position and no less than four players have played first base for the team more than twenty games apiece. They include Berkman (21 games), Matt Carpenter (33), Matt Adams (24) and Allen Craig (39). Frankly, the defense has suffered a bit. Pujols was a very good first baseman. But in this observer's opinion, part of his range metrics were due to him ranging way too far to his right to take balls the second basemen would have easily handled. The second base position for the Cardinals is rating higher this season with part of the territory going back to their hands. But overall, the Cardinals miss Pujols' fielding. But offense?
Yes, they miss him a little bit, mostly on the power side. here are the Cardinals' totals from the first base position last year and this year:
- 2011 - .292/.367/.522, 38 homers, 32 doubles, no triples, 106 RBI, 113 runs scored.
- 2012 - .291/.366/.499, 14 homers, 30 doubles, 5 triples, 67 RBI, 61 runs scored.
The 2012 season has 59 games remaining, or a little over a third to go. If you extrapolate those numbers for a full season, there should be 21 homers, 7 triples, 45 doubles, 102 RBI and 92 runs scored. There is less homer firepower, but the rest of the numbers hold their own. That slight loss has been made up in right field where Beltran and others account for an .888 OPS compared to last year's, .858. So overall, the loss of Pujols on offense for the Cardinals has not been as dramatic as you would think. In fact, it has been negligible.
The four players mentioned that have played the position have also played other positions. So the comparison is not exactly apples to apples. But those four players have accounted for 3.4 fWAR during this season. That compares to Pujuls' 5.1 of a season ago with again, a third of the season to go. The position should garner another win or so of fWAR over the rest of the season almost getting the team to where it was with Pujols.
If you add in the emergence of Craig, the fantastic season for Matt Holliday, the great seasons from Yadier Molina and David Freese and the addition of Beltran and this offense is every bit as good as the Pujols-led offense of a year ago. Of course, a year ago, the team won a World Series. They do not look good to repeat as of this writing. But you can't blame the offense that has more than made up for the loss of its former Hall of Fame first baseman.