SocraticGadfly: #Pujols, Bonds and the record books

December 09, 2011

#Pujols, Bonds and the record books

Now that Albert Pujols has agreed to sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and Ticket Turnstiles, what does this mean for the possibility of him chasing down Barry Bonds' 762 career home runs or other records?

First, a glance at Pujols' stats in the biggest counting and sabermetric areas, outside WAR. Apologies for the imperfect lineup of the columns. Couldn't quite get what I wanted from Baseball-Reference, but it should work well enough for our purposes.



Second, the big question No. 1: Was Pujols' 2011 season an immediate sign of things to come, or was it, as I say, an outlier for a few years still, from a mix of nagging injuries and him "pressing" because of contract issues (despite his denial) and a newish batting roster with the likes of Lance Berkman and Allan Craig, and also the absence of Adam Wainwright?

I say it was more him "pressing."

In fact, even if the Angels' lineup isn't perfect, I wouldn't be surprised for Pujols to personally bounce back and post a 7 WAR year next year. And maybe more after that.

Here's part of why: park factor.

Per ESPN, before 2010, Angels Stadium was moderately a hitters' park for the second half of the 2000s decade. New Busch, for its full existence from 2006 on, has been a pitchers' park.

The biggest question, of course, is can Pujols catch Bonds? And, I say: It's possible. Details on that and more below the fold.

Pujols is at 445 HRs now. Let's say that Angels Stadium, plus playing in some AL parks like Arlington, New York and Boston, plus playing with the DH, is work a few to several homers a year. Let's say the Angels' lineup is decent enough, at least, for Prince Albert to not get too, too many intentional passes issued to him.

To me, 140 HRs, or 46.7 per season, sounds reasonable for the next three years. He had 47 in 2009 and 42 in 2010.

That puts us at 585.

Let's go to his next three seasons. I think 100 HRs, or 33.3 per season, is not unreasonable.

That puts us at 685. That leaves just 78 HRs, or 19.5, for the last four seasons of Pujols' contract, to pass Bonds. So, yes, it's possible. Barring serious injury, and at what I think is a reasonable rate of decline for Pujols, I'd offer 1-in-3 odds or so on this happening.

Other major records? Pujols has 1,329 RBIs; Hank Aaron leads at 2,297. That's 969 to pass, over 10 years. I'd give that the same odds as the HR chase.

Runs? I doubt Pujols can catch Rickey Henderson, Ty Cobb for No. 2, or Bonds at No. 3. But he might just pass Aaron into fourth.

WAR? Pujols is at 88.7, with Babe Ruth leading at 172.0. That's 83.4 to pass over 10 years. Less likely than HRs or RBIs, and the only realistic way is if Pujols gets a lot of games in the field at 1B well into his career. But, just maybe doable.

I don't see him joining Cobb and Pete Rose in the 4,000 hit club, but, he should pass Stan Musial into fourth and may pass Aaron into third. And, he has a reasonable shot at passing Aaron as the career leader in total bases and extra-base hits.

1 comment:

michael Sullivan said...

It seems very unlikely that he'll challenge the Babe's career WAR total. He'd have to generate about as much WAR in the rest of his career as he has already. Hardly anybody has done that at 32. Even guys with legendary longevity and productive into their 40s didn't do that. Hank Aaron had 90 WAR after his age 31 season, finished with 130. That sounds like a reasonable expectation for Pujols.

I would put his chances at the HR and RBI records lower than you do, but I think they are realistic if he plays deep into his 40s, maybe a 10-20% shot. I'd say TB is a similar likelihood. He's roughly on Aaron's track, just needs to decline as slowly as Hank.

I don't think the WAR record is realistic. one in ten thousand at best.