Foot speed is not as important in today's game as it used to be, but a prospective .400 man needs to leg out his share of infield hits to avoid taking the collar, which Pujols has done the past two nights to drop his average from the .390s to .381. It would help if he walked at a prodigious rate, as Ted Williams did 147 times when he hit .406 in 1941, but Pujols is not the type to walk 100 times in a season.
Assuming he has 600 official at-bats for the season (he's averaged 590 his first two years), Pujols would have to go 123-for-293 (.419) in the second half to finish an even .400. Again, if he walked more, he would have fewer official at-bats and therefore would need fewer base hits.
Then there is that little problem of Pujols being right-handed. No player has hit .400 from the right side since St. Louis' Rogers Hornsby (.403) in 1925. No righty has hit as high as .380 since Joe DiMaggio (.381) in 1939, and only two have hit .370 since then -- Nomar Garciaparra (.372, 2000) and a Coors Field-aided Andres Galarraga (.370, 1993).
Right on Target
Top averages for righties since 1950:
Nomar Garciaparra, BOS
Andres Galarraga, COL
Jeff Bagwell, HOU
Rico Carty, ATL
Joe Torre, STL
Mike Piazza, LA
The only serious threats to .400 since 1941 have been made by left-handers: Tony Gwynn (.394, strike-shortened 1994); George Brett (.390, 1980); Williams (.388, 1957), and Rod Carew (.388, 1977).
In 2000, Rockies left-hander Todd Helton was hitting .400 as late as Aug. 21 but "tailed off" to finish at .372. Toronto's John Olerud was at the mark on Aug. 2, 1993, but finished at .363.
Pujols' batting splits illustrate why this is a major sticking point in his pursuit of .400. He's hitting .368 against righties, which is just not high enough considering that it constitutes more than 75 percent of his at-bats. Against lefties, he's raking at a rate of .425, but that is in a mere 73 at-bats.
Who will be the Mets' All-Star representative?
Thanks to the rule that every team gets at least one All-Star, there have been some truly shady picks over the years. Pittsburgh's Carlos Garcia and Milwaukee's Ricky Bones in 1994 were inexcusable. In 1999, Jason Kendall's injury led to Ed Sprague Jr.'s selection as the lone Pirate, which meant Chipper Jones (that year's NL MVP) got left off the team.
This year's Mets no doubt will add to that list of weak, mandatory selections. Unlike other clubs that have played putrid baseball, they just don't have anybody who has distinguished himself. The Tigers? Dmitri Young is having a strong season, with 15 home runs and a respectable OPS of .919 despite his cavernous home park. Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff has similar numbers, and Rocco Baldelli ranks in the top 10 in the AL in hits with 99.
But the Mets don't have anybody who can claim legitimate All-Star status. Cliff Floyd? His 43 RBIs are nice, but how many easy flyouts has he turned into doubles with his brutal outfield play? Their best player this season probably has been rookie right-hander Jae Seo (5-3, 3.09 ERA). But wouldn't it be nice to see the nod go to Armando Benitez, if for no other reason than to see the New York press recoil in horror?
When do you call off the dogs?
A better question might be, When did Steve Spurrier become manager of the Red Sox? Boston's 25-8 thumping of the Marlins on Friday was so thorough that even BoSox manager Grady Little had to admit his boys crossed the line by scoring their 24th and 25th runs on sacrifice flies. But where exactly is that line, anyway? This is such a high-offense era that the good ol' book of unwritten rules might need to be revised or thrown away with completely.
Why is it still considered bush league to steal a base when leading by five runs or more? That doesn't constitute a safe lead anymore, especially in parks like Coors Field and The Ballpark in Arlington. Even a 10- or 12-run lead isn't safe nowadays, not the way some of these lineups are stacked. (Against Toronto, you better be up by 15 before letting up.)
Who are all these kids being called up?
The past two weeks have seen a new wave of top-tier prospects called up to the big leagues: Victor Martinez (Indians), Miguel Cabrera (Marlins), Dan Haren (Cardinals), Aaron Heilman (Mets) and Brandon Claussen (Yankees). Are they here to stay, or will their presence do little more than wreak havoc on the Futures Game roster?
Of the group, the one most likely to stick around is Martinez, the Indians' catcher of the future. The 24-year-old's numbers at Class AAA were Piazza-like -- .328 batting average with a 14 percent rate of throwing out basestealers. No matter, though, because he had an OBP of .417 in Class AA last year and .395 this season.
Also, the Marlins seem intent on giving Cabrera a real chance, and he rewarded them with a two-homer performance Tuesday against the Braves to solidify his spot in the lineup for at least a few more weeks. As for the other guys, they will have to prove themselves every time they step on the field.
Are the Blue Jays racist?
Whoa! Where did a crazy question like that come from? The Blue Jays are wondering the same thing after the Toronto Star ran a front-page story entitled "White Jays" this weekend. The paper did a head count on how many minorities were on every major league roster. The Blue Jays came in last with six, followed by Anaheim and Boston (seven each). Understandably, Blue Jays players reacted angrily to the story. Said Carlos Delgado: "It was probably the stupidest thing I've ever seen."
Delgado is right. It was stupid to make such a big deal out of what is most likely a coincidence. It was also a disservice to Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi, who has turned the franchise completely around since being hired after the 2001 season. Some of his best acquisitions include Cory Lidle, Greg Myers, Frank Catalanotto and 2002 Rookie of the Year Eric Hinske. Those guys happen to be white. They also happen to be excellent ballplayers that any GM would love to have.
On the other hand, it does bring up an interesting side affect of sabermetrics. Teams like Oakland, Toronto and Boston almost exclusively draft college players because they are less risky and advance to the major leagues quicker than high schoolers. Well, it just so happens that the overwhelming majority of college players are white. These regimes haven't been in place long enough to affect the current rosters much, but it is quite possible that these three clubs will be made up almost entirely of whites in a few years.