|Thanks mostly to Craig, the Cardinals haven't greatly missed Pujols this year. (Getty Images)|
When Albert Pujols signed with the Angels during the Winter Meetings, the immediate question in St. Louis was how the defending World Series champions would replace the franchise icon for the past decade.
As it turned out, they signed Carlos Beltran to play right field, which moved Lance Berkman to replace Pujols at first base. But Berkman has been hurt for most of the season and four different players have started at first. Allen Craig -- who has been excellent -- has 42 starts, Matt Carpenter has 26, Matt Adams 23 and Berkman 21.
Let's size up the numbers from Pujols last year at this time to Pujols now and the Cardinals' first basemen, which I guess we could name Lance Matthew Craig:
Through Aug. 9
Albert Pujols, 2011
Albert Pujols, 2012
Cardinals 1B, 2012
Obviously these numbers don't tell the whole story, but they're basic enough to give us an idea and the only obvious difference is the drop in home runs. Still, the 2012 Cardinals' first basemen get on base more often and hang well in every category (again, except homers, but it's not a drastic dip).
Most important to all things baseball is, of course, winning.
The Cardinals were 62-54 through August 9 last season. They are currently 61-51. The Angels are 59-53.
None of this is to say that Pujols isn't valuable, because he is. It just appears he's not nearly as indispensable (at least not anymore) as we may have thought he was.
Hat-tip: St. Louis Post-Dispatch