(source: Associated Press)

Projecting Ten More Years Of Pujols


One of the most difficult problems facing Bill DeWitt as he prepares to negotiate what will prove to be the largest contract in baseball history involves gazing into his crystal ball and determining what the rest of Albert Pujols’ career might look like. The first ten years have been spectacular, launching Pujols on a statistical destination that very few ballplayers have ever dreamed of reaching. His ceiling of achievement seems limitless.

Of course, the human body diminishes with time. Pujols has already achieved much and is only 30 (supposedly) while at the peak of his physical conditioning. But DeWitt isn’t going to pay Pujols on past achievements, but rather what he might do in the future.

Below is my attempt to foretell the future based on the statistical performances of similar players. For this study, I used home runs and WAR score (wins above replacement) to examine the declining abilities of six players through the ages of 31-40. I calculated their average home runs and WAR from the ages of 27-30 (their “peak”) and then determined the percentage of increse/decrease over that early average. This gives us a rough outline of how players generally regress as they move through their thirties.

WAR STATISTICS

  27-30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Mays 9.3 114% 113 113 118 93 46 70 37 53 70
Aaron 8.8 80% 80 93 65 94 56 75 40 55 22
Ruth 8.9 135% 144 124 92 120 128 101 78 56 -
R. Jackson 6.6 61% 56 59 73 8 44 0 0 20 20
 C. Ripken 7.2 40% 47 56 57 47 21 22 33 25 0
Henderson 6.4 156% 78 89 39 55 48 33 30 0 39
Tot Avg. % change   74% 86 89 74 69 57 37 35 35 25

I chose different types of ballplayers for this analysis based on their value and similarities to the numbers Pujols has produced at his 27-30 peak. I also wanted some variety – though Henderson or Ripken weren’t as prolific with the home run as Pujols or Aaron, their values came from other aspects (running, fielding) that help us “age” the numbers.

If we plug in the averages against the numbers Pujols has produced, we get this:

WAR PROJECTIONS – PUJOLS

  27-30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Pujols 8.6 6.4 7.4 7.9 6.4 5.9 4.9 3.2 3 3 2.2

As you can see, we are left with a nice curve in declining value over the rest of Pujols’ career. It’s a testament to Pujols’ talents that he is able to still be worth a 3 WAR at the age of 39; Jayson Werth just received almost $20 million a year for a WAR that has risen over 3 just once. Paying Pujols $20 million nine years from now at the age of 39 for a 3 WAR might not be a bad deal in an ever-increasing market.

Unlike new-fangled statistics like WAR, home runs give us a solid foundation upon which to project future numbers. Almost all of the players examined in this study experienced a large bump in home runs around the age of 34, indicating that some combination of physical strength and experience produces the largest home run increases at that age. This has been true of players not studied as well; Jim Edmonds, though not generally considered a prolific home run producer, had his highest home run totals during his early thirties.

Here are the home run averages from the ages of 27-30, followed by the percentage change throughout thier thirties:

HOME RUN STATISTICS

  27-30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Mays 33 148% 115 142 157 112 66 69 39 85 55
Aaron 37 86% 119 105 78 119 103 127 92 108 54
Ruth 37 127% 162 146 124 132 124 111 92 59 -
R. Jackson 31 103% 87 94 132 48 125 45 81 87 58
 C. Ripken 25 56% 96 224 68 104 68 56 72 60 56
Henderson 19 147% 95 79 216 32 47 47 84 74 63
Tot Avg. % change    111% 112 132 129 91 81 76 77 79 48

When we look at Pujols’ numbers, we predict something like this:

HOME RUN PROJECTION – PUJOLS

  27-30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40
Pujols 40 44 45 53 52 36 32 30 30 32 19

Those are pretty incredible numbers, honestly, and probably a bit optimistic considering that Pujols has never reached 50 home runs thus far in his career (although he’s been close at least twice). It’s also interesting to note that, if Pujols follows this kind of curve, he will overtake Barry Bonds as the all-time home run leader by 19 home runs (781 – 762), although it’s hard to say where Alex Rodriguez might be at that point.

While these gently-decreasing figures indicate that the Cardinals might consider front-loading any contract to get maximum worth out of their money, Pujols’ numbers don’t project to be too far off of his averages later in his career. How much might someone who hits 30 home runs a year be worth in 2019? For example, in 2010 Carlos Beltran made $20 million a year and he averages just under 30 home runs a year for his career. What do you pay Pujols for the same production nine years later as he nears 40?

Surely DeWitt will balk at giving Pujols a contract worth $30 million AAV for the next ten years. But, given his estimated production and the ever-increasing market, would that kind of money be a bad deal?

Tags: Albert Pujols Alex Rodrigues Babe Ruth Bill DeWitt Cal Ripken Contract Crystal Ball Ever Foretell Hank Aaron Home Runs Largest Mickey Mantle Projections Reggie Jackson Ricky Henderson St Louis Cardinals Statistics WAR

  • 14kennyboyer

    Hope they sign Albert as a Cardinal for live with big bucks, let TLR become the second winniest coach in baseball
    history and let him retire with honor. Get new owners
    with a new manager that can work with young players.
    Build a farm team and bring up young players. Stop going
    after 1 year contracts with veterans. The “best fans in baseball” won’t support a team the way it is currently run.
    Come on Cardinal fans stop going to the games if things continue. That’s the only thing management understands.

    • Ray DeRousse

      Well, it’s safe to say that LaRussa only has two more years left. Once he’s gone, perhaps ownership can push for the use of younger players that LaRussa has been fighting against.

      • 14kennyboyer

        Yeah LaRussa is a jerk. They lost me when
        they gave away Ryan Ludwick. Anybody who
        disagrees with Tony is Gone. He plays his favorites and I’m sure that his critisism
        by LaRussa,Carpenter and Pujouis played a big part in Brendan Ryan losing his self
        confidense and added to his problems at the plate. Real Card fans should still go to the games but Boo LaRussa at every chance. Just say’in.

        • Ray DeRousse

          Cards fans will never boo LaRussa because he is a “Hall Of Fame manager” and they are the Best Fans In Baseball™.

          Unlike you, I wasn’t so upset about losing Luddy as much as I was about not getting equal value for him. It seems there are a lot of Cards fans who are much more angry about that particular trade, though.

          • 14kennyboyer

            True about Luddy. They got nothing for him and that was just one of the concerns.
            He was dependable with runners in scoring position, outstanding defensively, and a fan favorite. FO rational was that his contract was coming up and that they wanted to conserve as much money as possible to complete Alberts’s new contract. It seemed odd that just when Luddy met with LaRussa to discuss his playing time he was on his way to SD.
            To top it off they add a one year deal to
            Berkman,pay him allot of money and get a bat with little defense. I’m hoping the Berkman deal works out for the Cardinals.
            It appears that the Cardinals are building
            an American league team in the National.
            Kinda like the old LaRussa A’s. The best fans in baseball don’t support this type of front office. Your right though, booing would be a little harsh. But one must remember: Ozzie,Drew,Edmonds,Ludwick,Rolen,Ryan et all.

  • Dave Bolger

    Amazing that an article on projecting Pujols’ future stats (nice job by the way) can turn into a discussion on LaRussa being a jerk. If the Cards don’t sign Pujols, how will we blame LaRussa?

  • CardsinDC

    The thing to note here is how different each of these players performed over the years. Aaron and Jackson were really erratic while Ruth and Mays were relatively consistent. That introduces a lot of variability into your analysis, but you are dealing with players of a similar magnitude of WAR as Pujols. I’d consider redoing your analysis based on players with similar consistency/rises in their WAR from 27-30 but not necessarily playing at the same level as Pujols. This might give you a more reliable shape of your curve that you can transpose up the Y axis 4 or 5 WAR. Realistically, transposing like that may give Pujols a favorable bump because it will exaggerate his post-peak years, but it would be interesting to get a different view.

    • Ray DeRousse

      Yeah, that’s a good thought. Actually someone like Henderson had a similar WAR to Pujols 27-30 before a fairly large drop. It was dramatic enough that I considered pulling his stats altogether, but then I realized that keeping him and a couple of others of different calibers allowed me to account for changes in radically different athletes.

      The real challenge was finding a group of players who are (a) similar to Pujols, (b) not tainted by steroids, and (c) played through their 40th year. Mantle and Gehrig were not in here because they only played until they were 36.

      If someone can find me six players I will run the numbers again for an alternative view.