Albert Pujols is still ALBERT PUJOLS

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Albert Pujols’ season totals are still well below his usual standards because of his bad start, but he’s somewhat quietly been his usual dominant self and then some for the past two months.

Last night Pujols went 4-for-4 against the Brewers, smacking his 28th homer to move into a tie for the NL lead with teammate Lance Berkman. And thanks in large part to batting in front of Berkman’s (and Matt Holliday’s) power Pujols also ranks second among NL hitters with 78 runs scored while being among the top 10 in slugging percentage, total bases, extra-base hits, and RBIs.

That’s one helluva down year.

In his last 50 games Pujols is hitting .312 with 20 homers, 16 doubles, and a 1.059 OPS. To put that in some context, coming into this season he was a career .331 hitter with a 1.050 OPS. In other words, he’s been his usual self since around May 30, with a fractured wrist in mid-June briefly interrupting things, but the slow start has kept that from being obvious to everyone.

Pitch clock cut minor league games by 25 minutes to 2:38

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NEW YORK — Use of pitch clocks cut the average time of minor league games by 25 minutes this year, a reduction Major League Baseball hopes is replicated when the devices are installed in the big leagues next season.

The average time of minor league games dropped to 2 hours, 38 minutes in the season that ended Wednesday, according to the commissioner’s office. That was down from 3:03 during the 2021 season.

Clocks at Triple-A were set at 14 seconds with no runners on base and 19 with runners. At lower levels, the clocks were at 18 seconds with runners.

Big league nine-inning games are averaging 3:04 this season.

MLB announced on Sept. 9 that clocks will be introduced in the major leagues next year at 15 seconds with no runners and 20 seconds with runners, a decision opposed by the players’ association.

Pitchers are penalized a ball for violating the clock. In the minors, violations decreased from an average of 1.73 per game in the second week to 0.41 in week 24.

There will be a limit of two pickoff attempts or stepoffs per plate appearance, a rule that also was part of the minor league experiment this season. A third pickoff throw that is not successful would result in a balk.

Stolen bases increased to an average of 2.81 per game from 2.23 in the minors this year and the success rate rose to 78% from 68%.

Many offensive measurements were relatively stable: runs per team per game increased to 5.13 from 5.11 and batting average to .249 from .247.

Plate appearances resulting in home runs dropped to 2.7% from 2.8%, strikeouts declined to 24.4% from 25.4% and walks rose to 10.5% from 10.2%. Hit batters remained at 1.6%.