The Cardinals' star batter has never gotten the attention of a Tom Brady or a Derek Jeter. That will all change once the postseason ends, whether or not his team wins it all.
Postseason magic in Major League Baseball often comes from the unlikeliest of sources. From Bucky Freaking Dent to Aaron Freaking Boone, unsung heroes seem to burst onto the scene every October. Last year, unheralded outfielder Cody Ross helped lead the San Francisco Giants to a championship; this year's unknown success story is Cardinals' outfielder David Freese, who earned NLCS MVP honors after hitting .545 with three homers and nine RBIs in the series after hitting .297 with just 10 longballs in the regular season.
With so many middling players taking a leading role in past postseasons, it's all the more interesting when a superstar puts up a monster postseason. Especially when that star is Freese's teammate, Albert Pujols, the consensus best player in baseball.
Heading into what is certain to be a frenzied free agency, Pujols has quietly put up the best playoff numbers of his career and led St. Louis to its second World Series in six years. While Freese was busy grabbing headlines in the Cardinals' six-game NLCS triumph over the Milwaukee Brewers, Pujols anchored the middle of the lineup put an unconscious .478/.556./913 split with two home runs and nine RBIs. In Game 2, he went 4 for 5 and drove in the Cardinals' first five runs in a 12-3 win. Six days later, he launched a 423-foot longball to spur a key four-run inning in St. Louis's series-clinching 12-6 victory. In the Cardinals' four wins in the series, Pujols hit .667 with two homers and drove in nine runs.
As staggering as the numbers are, they don't even begin to tell the story of (arguably) the best right-handed hitter of all time and his tumultuous 2011 season. Pujols finished spring training without the contract extension he'd hoped for when negotiations with the Cardinals broke down. Then he struggled out of the gate, hitting just .279 through June 19. When he fractured his forearm in a first-base collision with the Royals' Wilson Betemit, it looked like the three-time MVP was headed for the first throwaway season of his career.