If you’ve watched Cubs baseball for any significant amount of time you are likely familiar with the term “Cub killer,” that particular player who just has a knack for doing damage against the Chicago Cubs. You are also probably aware that while some people think the Cardinal Way has to do with strong fundamentals on offense and defense that has built the foundation of their National League-leading 11 World Series championships, Cubs fans know that the real Cardinal Way is a farm system that produces a relentless onslaught of Cub killers. Which is why it’s such a remarkable statement that of all of the Cub killers the Cardinals have produced in the last 20 seasons one stands alone as the greatest Cub killer - Albert Pujols.
The Angels released the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer today and while many people will have a negative emotional reaction to this news (“why can’t he just finish the season?!”) baseball is and always has been a business. The Angels are currently 13-16 and at the bottom of the AL West, but with exceptional talent like Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on the roster they can no longer afford to have a declining player taking up a roster spot if they want to get back into the mix to win the division. They are only 4½ games out of first place right now, but they need a lot to go right to get back in the mix. Every game they sent Pujols out to DH in 2021 was a game where they didn’t DH Ohtani with his wRC+ of 162. Every game Pujols played first was a game Jared Walsh and his wRC+ of 179 was on the bench.
Today Pujols’ .198/.250/.372 slashline doesn’t inspire a lot of terror, but it’s worth taking a look back at his glory days. So I decided to run the stats for the best Cardinals hitters against the Cubs in the last 20 years with a minimum of 100 plate appearances. You can sort it by wRC+, wOBA, or OPS. The results are the same - the single Cardinals player who did the most damage against the Chicago Cubs in the last 20 years is Albert Pujols:
Top 20 Cardinals hitters vs. Cubs 2001-2021
The numbers are truly absurd. In 157 games with the Cardinals against the Cubs (so you know, basically one full season) Pujols slashed .307/.406/.625. He hit 50 HR, scored 113 runs and had 123 RBIs. If you prefer advanced stats, his wOBA was .425 — 17 points higher than Matt Carpenter’s .408. He had an OPS of 1.031 — the only qualified player in that timeframe with a number over 1.000. Oh, and as if that weren’t enough, his BABIP of .261 is 48 points lower than the .309 BABIP he had during his time with the red birds. That’s right, Pujols was unlucky when he played against the Cubs and he still absolutely tormented the team during his time in St. Louis.
To top it off, Pujols is actually a good guy. In 2008 he was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award for his work with the Pujols Family Foundation, Boys and Girls Club of America and the Ronald McDonald House:
Albert Pujols has had another stellar year with the St. Louis Cardinals. However, it is his extensive and dedicated off-field efforts that have earned him this year’s Roberto Clemente Award. Through the Pujols Family Foundation, Albert has been able to improve the lives of children and young adults with Down syndrome in St. Louis, Kansas City, Nashville, & Southern California, as well as provide much-needed support to underprivileged children in his home of the Dominican Republic.
He also sets time aside to support other organizations and causes, including the Boys & Girls Club of America and the Ronald McDonald House. I would also like to thank our partner Chevy, whose generous financial support of this award is instrumental in continuing the legacy of Roberto Clemente,” MLB Commissioner Bud Selig said during the presentation.
It’s unclear if Pujols will look to catch on with another team in 2021. There are already rumblings he could join the Cardinals, although to be clear those rumors are 95 percent nostalgia — the Cardinals are atop the division and do not need a DH or a 1B. Most analysts are assuming he’ll clear waivers and retire while he waits for his call from Cooperstown. When that call comes (and it really is when, not if) it will be well deserved. Pujols has had a remarkable career and few fanbases understand exactly how dominant he was better than Cubs fans.