May 10, 2014

Looking at Albert Pujols' long-term future — he could be an all-time leader

Now that Pujols appears to be over most of his plantar fasciitis problems, and hitting like something near the 2011 version of Pujols (sorry, Arte Moreno and Mike Scioscia, you're not getting the 2008 version or whatever back), where will he wind up in terms of career numbers? I'm noting that, with Josh Hamilton back by the end of this month, and hopefully batting reasonably well for the 3.5 years he has remaining with the Haloes, and Mike Trout there for years to come, this is based on a modest-to-moderate normal career decline arc through 2016, gaining some speed in 2017-2018, and arcing downward more for his last three seasons, albeit offset by playing more at DH.

So, here's some tentative predictions as to where he'll finish on some counting, and sabermetric, numbers in relation to Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and others, whether great classic figures of the past or people with some "help" in more recent years.

That includes noting that he has an outside shot at becoming the all-time leader on at least one counting stat.

First, slugging percentage. Pujols is currently seventh. I expect him to fall no lower than No. 11, staying ahead of current No. 12, Miguel Cabrera, and possibly just to ninth, ahead of current No. 10 Joe DiMaggio. That would still leave him above the majority of people on the list above.

Park-adjusted OPS+ is a good all-around measure of a player. Pujols is currently 10th, at 165. Aaron and DiMaggio are among a group tied for 22nd at 155. Cabrera and Joey Votto are among those tied for 25th, one point lower. Ed Dehalanty is 30th at 152. I certainly don't see Pujols going lower than that.

Next? Total bases, where Pujols is No. 50, with just over 4,450. A strong, but not overly aggressive prediction of 1,950 for the rest of his career gives him 6,400, behind only Aaron. Even a conservative estimate of 1,680, or 225 per year, which he's easily done every non-injury year, still puts him ahead of Musial in the No. 2 slot. (And yes, Stan Musial is No. 2 in career total bases; I just wish more semi-casual, but semi-serious, baseball fans would see this and recognize just how damned good he was.)

In RBIs, Pujols is 49th. He's 773 behind Aaron, 690 behind Ruth and 651 551 behind No. 3 Cap Anson. An output of 90 RBIs per season for the rest of this year and the next 7 full seasons left on his contract would put him past Ruth.  With 85 or so ribbies, he's past Anson, at least. We'll put him there, with a shot at Ruth. He can get just under 70 per year and pass Bonds into No. 4, which seems it should be no problem. (Per the commenter, thanks for the catch on the math on Anson. It still will be somewhat of a sled to catch Anson.)

And, finally, Pujols has a semi-reasonable shot at becoming the career leader on one list. That's if he can get about 430 more total extra base hits.

As of early May, he was 25th on the career list, 428 behind Aaron and 391 behind Bonds. If he has 58 extra base hits the rest of this year, for 76 on the season, that leaves 360 in the next seven years. Just 52 extra-base hits a year puts him past Aaron.

Possible? Yes, but not easy. For obvious reasons, I'm not going to look at Bonds.

A few others:
Aaron had 318 extra base hits his last seven years
Musial: 291
Mays: 275
Ruth (not counting his partial year in 1935): 495.

However, especially with not counting 1935, Ruth's career ended three years earlier than those other gents. For his last four full seasons, he had 240 extra-base hits. But, 47 a year over three more extrapolated years would put him at the 380 mark.

So, it's possible. And, just 46 extra-base hits per year after this year puts him after Bonds.


Anonymous said...

i think you have a typo on cap anson-hof reference has him w 2,075 rbi which puts pujols within 551 rbis at time of your entry. which makes no 3 on rbi list for pujols quite a bit more likely.

Gadfly said...

Good catch and fixed.