How Good Is This Guy, Pujols?

How about in the company of only Ruth, Gehrig, Williams and Bonds by the time he is done?

In September, 2005, I wrote an article entitled, "The Best Hitter in the World". The subject was Albert Pujols. It might have been a bold statement to make about a player that had not yet completed five years in the major leagues and not won an MVP Award.

Since then, Pujols has kept right on going. In the month after my article was written, I was in Minute Maid Park in Houston when Pujols launched his moon shot off Brad Lidge to temporarily keep the Cardinals in The National League Championship Series.

After eight full seasons in the major leagues at the age of 29, this may be a good time for a reassessment. A reasonable assumption might be that Pujols is at the midway point of a 16-year career. If, in the next eight years, he can duplicate what he has accomplished in his first eight years, he would wind up with the following numbers:

Category Value Rank Comments
Batting Average 0.334 23
On-Base Percentage 0.425 13
Slugging  0.624 4 Behind Ruth, Williams and Gehrig
OPS 1.049 5 Also behind Bonds.
Hits 3,062 19
Home Runs 638 5
RBIs 1,954 5

Of course, Pujols may not continue at this rate. The landscape is littered with players like Ron Santo, Jim Rice, Don Mattingly, Dale Murphy and Roberto Alomar who appeared to be on the way to solid Hall of Fame careers but who suddenly lost their skills in their early thirties. The same could happen with Pujols but with his consistency and makeup, I would not expect it.

Pujols may extend his career beyond 16 years as many Hall of Fame players have done. This would enhance his counting stats (hits, home runs), probably with some deterioration of his rate stats.

The most remarkable aspect of Pujols' career is his consistency. His lowest batting average in his eight years is .314 in 2002 and his lowest power numbers were in 2007 with 32 home runs and 103 RBIs. He has averaged 40 home runs and 122 RBIs in his eight years but has never led the league in either category. He has finished in the top four in the NL MVP voting in seven of his eight years but has won the award only twice.

Back to the original question of how good he is, Pujols should take his place in the top five along with Ruth, Williams, Gehrig and Bonds as possibly the best right-handed hitter of all time.



Bill Gilbert is a baseball analyst and writer and member of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).