Cardinals: Was Albert Pujols really inferior to Derek Jeter?

gsimons
Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. It was the 400th home run of his career. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. It was the 400th home run of his career. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /
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St. Louis Cardinals
Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a home run in the fourth inning against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC. It was the 400th home run of his career. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

Offense

Pujols was a thumper, a middle-of-the-order terror, during his 11 years in St. Louis.  He pummeled pitchers virtually from day one in the majors.  While he never again approached his peak with the Angels, he still was a productive bat for his first half-decade in Anaheim before tailing off significantly.  And lest we forget, he rebounded following his release last summer to have a strong half-season with the Dodgers.

Jeter arrived in New York as a fully-formed star pretty much from the get-go.  His rookie year slash numbers of .314/.370/.430 are a virtual match for his career .310/.377/.440 totals.  On average, he was the same excellent table-setter for 20 years as he was his first year.

Of course, the expectations for these two hitters differed based on where they hit in the lineup and where they played the field.  We’ll get to the latter aspect later, focusing first on the details of their hitting skills.

Given the similar number of trips to the plate each player took, let’s look at several counting stats as a way of comparison, listing the player with the advantage first.

Hits: Jeter = 3465, Pujols = 3301

Doubles: Pujols = 672, Jeter = 544

Triples: Jeter = 66, Pujols = 16

Home runs: Pujols = 679, Jeter = 260

Runs: Jeter = 1923, Pujols = 1872

RBI: Pujols = 2150, Jeter = 1311

Strikeouts: Pujols = 1349, Jeter = 1840

Walks: Pujols = 1345, Jeter = 1082

Total Bases: Pujols = 6042, Jeter = 4921

Not only does Pujols lead 6-3 in category wins, he leads in the most important categories, and often by substantial margins.  And when he trails, it’s not by much – unless you think triples are a crucial tool in evaluating a hitter.

How about in rate stats?  Let’s see.

Batting average: Jeter = .310, Pujols = .297

On-base percentage: Jeter = .377, Pujols = .375

Slugging percentage: Pujols = .544, Jeter = .440

OPS: Pujols = .919, Jeter = .817

OPS+: Pujols = 144, Jeter = 115

Jeter takes two of the first three categories – the second by a trivial amount – but when those rates are combined into a more all-inclusive number – one that is more revealing of overall talent – Pujols has more than a 100-point edge in on-base-plus-slugging.  And with park factors indicating a 29-point edge when comparing both hitters to average via OPS+.

Pujols was a remarkable hitter – one of the best in the game’s extensive history, particularly during is peak – and markedly better than the very good Jeter, a descriptor that is in no way a slight.  It’s simply reality, one that is all but impossible to refute.

How much of this deficit does Jeter gain back via baserunning?  What do the numbers say?

Stolen bases: Jeter = 358, Pujols = 116

SB%: Jeter = 78.7%, Pujols = 73.9%

GIDP: Jeter = 287, Pujols = 413

Jeter stole many more bases with a better success rate, and he didn’t hit into nearly the number of double plays.  Pujols’ total is the all-time record, while Jeter is in 14th place.  Of course, there generally has to be a runner on first to hit into double plays, and Pujols likely had more of those situations.  Still, Jeter gets the clear win here, though baserunning as an overall portion of offensive contributions is relatively minor.

(Sidenote: Pujols has been successful in his last 16 stolen base attempts, most recently getting caught on Sept. 19, 2015.)

When comparing their offensive profiles and contributions, Pujols is the obvious winner.  This is based largely on his power, which is a significant factor when evaluating a hitter.  Singles and stolen bases are nice; doubles and homers are better – much better.

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