MLB 2011: Predicting the NL Leaders: Can Albert Pujols Win a Triple Crown?

Lewie PollisSenior Analyst IIIMay 6, 2011

MLB 2011: Predicting the NL Leaders: Can Albert Pujols Win a Triple Crown?

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 27:  First baseman Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals waits for the next batter against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on April 27, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Who will be this year's batting champion? Who will hit the most home runs? Who will be the most valuable player in baseball?

    When the season starts, everyone has an answer to these questions—and almost everybody ends up being wrong.

    Yesterday, we revealed who 24 of Bleacher Report's MLB Featured Columnists thought would lead the American League in each of 10 categories: batting average, home runs, RBI, runs, steals, OPS, wins, ERA, UZR and WAR.

    Today, we take a look at the results for the National League.

    Included this slideshow are the results for each category, as well as the average league-leading total and an explanation from someone who voted for the winner.

    Let's see how we did!

Batting Average: Joey Votto, Reds

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    CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 21: Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a solo home run in the fifth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Great American Ball Park on April 21, 2011 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds defeated the Diamondbacks 7-4. (Photo by
    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    1. Joey Votto, Reds—58 percent

    2. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies—13 percent

    T3. Starlin Castro, Cubs—Eight percent

    T3. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies—Eight percent

    T5. Ryan Braun, Brewers—Four percent

    T5. Matt Kemp, Dodgers—Four percent

    T5. Pablo Sandoval, Giants—Four percent


    On Votto (by Jordan Schwartz)

    Joey Votto finished second in the National League with a .324 average last season, and he's off to an even better start this year, batting .351.

    The 2010 NL MVP has increased his average each year he's been a full-time player, and he has the benefit of playing his home games at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.

Home Runs: Albert Pujols, Cardinals

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 16:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St Louis Cardinals bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on April 16, 2011 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals—29 percent

    2. Prince Fielder, Brewers—25 percent

    3. Ryan Braun, Brewers—17 percent

    4. Ryan Howard, Phillies—13 percent

    5. Joey Votto, Reds—Eight percent

    T6. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies—Four percent

    T6. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies—Four percent


    On Pujols (by Robert Knapel)

    Albert Pujols is one of the most, if not the most, feared hitters in the National League. The fact that he is in a contract year makes him a whole lot more intimidating to pitchers.

    For the past two years Pujols has been the National League home run leader, and there is no reason why it should be any different this season.

RBI: Albert Pujols, Cardinals

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 12:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals at bat during the Major League Baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on April 12, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Cardinals 13-8.  (Photo
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals—29 percent

    2. Ryan Howard, Phillies—25 percent

    3. Prince Fielder, Brewers—17 percent

    4. Joey Votto, Reds—Eight percent

    T5. Ryan Braun, Brewers—Four percent

    T5. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies—Four percent

    T5. Matt Holliday, Cardinals—Four percent

    T5. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies—Four percent

    T5. David Wright, Mets—Four percent


    On Pujols (by Tim Keeney)

    RBI is a category that tends to sometimes rely on the players around you. No NL lineup has looked better than St. Louis' so far this season, and with Ryan Theriot hitting well and Colby Rasmus looking to have a breakout season, the bases will be filled often for Pujols.

    On top of lineup protection, Pujols is a pretty good hitter himself. The man is a machine. Don't bet against him.

Runs: Albert Pujols, Cardinals

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    JUPITER, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals swings against the Florida Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium on February 28, 2011 in Jupiter, Florida.  (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    1. Albert Pujols, Cardinals—25 percent

    T2. Brandon Phillips, Reds—17 percent

    T2. Joey Votto, Reds—17 percent

    4. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies—Eight percent

    T5. Ryan Braun, Brewers—Four percent

    T5. Matt Kemp, Dodgers—Four percent

    T5. Martin Prado, Braves—Four percent

    T5. Jose Tabata, Pirates—Four percent

    T5. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies—Four percent


    On Pujols (by Dan Hartel)

    Albert Pujols has led the National League in runs for each of the last two seasons, and there’s no reason to think that he won’t do it again.

    Simply put, he’s the best player in the game today—an on-base and power machine who will have ample opportunities to be driven in by the likes of Matt Holliday, Colby Rasmus and a revitalized Lance Berkman hitting behind him.

Stolen Bases: Michael Bourn, Astros

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    HOUSTON - APRIL 12:  Houston Astros' Michael Bourn #21 steals third base against the Chicago Cubs at Minute Maid Park on April 12, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    1. Michael Bourn, Astros—75 percent

    T2. Angel Pagan, Mets—Eight percent

    T2. Jose Reyes, Mets—Eight percent

    T4. Willie Bloomquist, Diamondbacks—Four percent

    T4. Matt Kemp, Dodgers—Four percent


    On Bourn (by Brandon Williams)

    Michael Bourn has led the National League in steals the past two seasons and is on his way to a third straight crown, having swiped 11 in the first month of play. No one in the NL owns Bourn's speed, and—as his perfect steal rate thus far suggests—he has become a smarter runner.

    No one has stolen 100 bases since 1987, but if there is a player in the majors capable of doing so, Bourn would be at the top of the list.

OPS: Joey Votto, Reds

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    PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 10:  Joey Votto #19 of the Cincinnati Reds slides in to score a first inning run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the Major League Baseball game at Chase Field on April 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen
    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    1. Joey Votto, Reds—62 percent

    2. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies—19 percent

    3. Albert Pujols, Cardinals—14 percent

    4. Rickie Weeks, Brewers—Five percent


    On Votto (by Vinnie Cestone)

    In 31 games Votto has played so far, his OPS is an incredible 1.079. What separates Votto is his incredible eye at the plate. The number of strikes he sees is almost Barry Bonds-like, but he does not swing at the slop.

    With his great head start, combined with the offensive ballpark where he plays, there is no reason Votto cannot continue as OPS champion.

Wins: Roy Halladay, Phillies

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    WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 13:  Roy Halladay #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies delivers to a Washington Nationals batter at Nationals Park on April 13, 2011 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    1. Roy Halladay, Phillies—54 percent

    T2. Tim Hudson, Braves—Eight percent

    T2. Tim Lincecum, Giants—Eight percent

    T2. Roy Oswalt, Phillies—Eight percent

    T5. Bronson Arroyo, Reds—Four percent

    T5. Matt Cain, Giants—Four percent

    T5. Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies—Four percent

    T5. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers—Four percent

    T5. Cliff Lee, Phillies—Four percent


    On Halladay (by Bob Warja)

    Wins are not always in a pitcher’s control, as we know. Lots of variables go into that, including defense and relief pitching. 

    Yet Roy Halladay will once again lead the NL in victories for two main reasons: 1) He is damn good, and 2) he pitches deep into ball games. It doesn’t hurt that the Phillies offense scores enough runs for him.

ERA: Roy Halladay, Phillies

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    1. Roy Halladay, Phillies—33 percent

    2. Josh Johnson, Marlins—21 percent

    3. Tim Lincecum, Giants—13 percent

    T4. Yovani Gallardo, Brewers—Eight percent

    T4. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers—Eight percent

    T4. Cliff Lee, Phillies—Eight percent

    T7. Matt Cain, Giants—Four percent

    T7. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals—Four percent


    On Halladay (by Lewie Pollis)

    What more is there to say about Halladay? In his first year out of the AL East, he posted a 2.44 ERA in 250.2 innings with the best xFIP (2.80) in the game en route to a unanimous Cy Young award.

    So far this year, Halladay has a 2.19 ERA with an identical xFIP and an insane 1.51 FIP. It's no surprise to see him as the favorite to take the ERA crown.

UZR: Michael Bourn, Astros

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    HOUSTON,TX- APRIL 10 :  Michael Bourn #21 of the Houston Astros runs in from the outfield while playing against the Florida Marlins in a MLB  baseball game on April 10, 2011 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Thomas B. Shea / Getty Images)
    Thomas B. Shea/Getty Images

    1. Michael Bourn, Astros—45 percent

    T2. Jay Bruce, Reds—18 percent

    T2. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals—18 percent

    T4. Marlon Byrd, Cubs—Nine percent

    T4. Angel Pagan, Mets—Nine percent


    On Bourn (by Nathan Palatsky)

    UZR is the combination of four metrics to mathematically express who the best fielder is in baseball: outfield arm, double plays, range and errors. Bourn has a below-average arm, but he has a career .991 fielding percentage and might have the single best range in baseball.

    Bourn was second in to Jay Bruce in UZR last year, but Bruce can't match Bourn's raw speed in getting to fly balls.

WAR: Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

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    DENVER, CO - MAY 01:  Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki #2 of the Colorado Rockies takes an at bat against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Coors Field on May 1, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Pirates defeated the Rockies 8-4.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies—38 percent

    T2. Albert Pujols, Cardinals—23 percent

    T2. Joey Votto, Reds—23 percent

    T4. Prince Fielder, Brewers—Eight percent

    T4. Hanley Ramirez, Marlins—Eight percent


    On Tulowitzki (by Lewie Pollis)

    A true five-tool player with a monstrous bat and a great glove, Tulowitzki would be a good bet to be the NL's Most Valuable Player even if he didn't get a huge boost from playing shortstop.

    Last year, injuries limited Tulo to just 122 games, yet he still produced 6.4 WAR. Over 162 games, that would be worth 8.5 WAR. For some comparison, last year's NL WAR leader, Joey Votto, had 7.4.