So the All-Star game has come and gone, which had its moments and its letdowns. I will be posting some pictures up of the game in a while.
With the All-Star game in St. Louis, we really start to hear more of the national media acknowledging that The Machine is the best player in the world right now. As he goes into his 9th season, we are hearing less and less comparisons with current players, and more and more comparisons with the best in the Hall of Fame. This year he’s helped his cause, posting some fantastic numbers in just the first half. On pace for 57 HRs and 155 RBIs, he’s reaching base an astonishing 45.6% of the time, and he’s slugging .723. To put that in perspective, Alex Rodriguez has never had a season close to these numbers, his best effort getting him .422/.645 in 2007. In fact, when you see the treatment that Pujols has been receiving, it’s reminiscent of the true villain of baseball, B*rry B*nds. So, I broke down the numbers in two categories to gage where Pujols may end up in the history books.
To really get a true idea on how many HRs these guys are hitting, I’ve decided to add the ABs and walks together and subtract the intentional walks. I subtracted intentional walks because a player has no chance to put the ball in play. For simplicity, I will still refer to this stat as ABs. Albert Pujols hits a HR every 16.1 ABs compared to B*nds’ 16.27. Mark McGwire was the best I’ve found, getting a HR in every 12.87 ABs. As far as current players with over 5 seasons, Alex Rodriguez is the only one better than Pujols in this regard with a HR every 15.94 ABs (Thome was 16.51, Manny was 16.74).
The implications? Well, considering that Pujols hits a HR as much as the current H*me Run King, and hits four more HRs than the Hank Aaron per every 162 games, it really just depends on his longevity. Even if he produces just 32 HRs each year (his lowest total to date and coincidentally the amount he has this year at the All-Star Break), he will break the HR record at age 41. B*rry broke the record (and hit his 762nd) at age 42. Hank hit his 755th at age 42 also. However, Pujols has emerged this year as a guy who can virtually be penned in for 45 dingers. He averaged this pace from 2003-2007 before he was bogged down by a few injuries that took some of his time and his power. If he were to achieve this lofty 45 HR estimate, he would break the current rec*rd at 38. So where do you draw the line? Let’s just say if he is lucky enough to have Bill James’ “perfect career” without interruption, he could hit 1,000 home runs at age 43 at a hypothetical pace of 45 home runs per year (needless to say that is a very large request).
Pujols has almost matched his season high in IBB this year with 34 (he had 32 last year). If managers were allowed a mulligan, he’d have well over 40. Albert has 4 more IBBs at the break than McGw*re had in the entire 1998 season when he hit 70 HRs. Since an Intentional Walk is typically decided at the beginning of an at-bat and is executed properly virtually 100% of the time, I’m including all plate appearances when I calculate the IBBs/PA. Albert gets passed every 32.88 PAs in his career (every 12 PAs this year), compared to B*nds 18.32 career (and 5.14 PAs in 2004), and McGwire every 51 PAs.
How could intentional passes affect Pujols’ potential for the HR chase? In 2004, B*nds had 116 fewer ABs than his average due to intentional walks. However, he still hit 45 HRs that year. On the other hand, if Pujols’ treatment ever reached the absurdity of B*nds in 2004, and he starts getting passed 100 times a year, that could shave off nearly 7 HRs a year at the 16.1 AB/HR rate. That can add up over 10 or 12 seasons.
Albert is definitely primed to sail by everyone in the record books. And it can’t be said enough that El Hombre is an all-around hitter too, not just a masher, which makes it all the more impressive. If Albert has just another 8 ½ seasons like the first 8 1/2, he’s undoubtedly a first ballot hall of famer and his name will become eponymous with baseball. And the funny thing is this guy may not have hit his ceiling, as we’ve seen this season.
After 17 seasons, if he replicates his first 8.5 seasons:
3,266 Hits, 702 HRs, 2128 RBIs, 2040 Runs, 110 SBs