Albert Pujols’ 500th career homerun was received and delivered just as his career has been, with low fanfare and quite grace.  Pujols has never been in the media and headlines much.  His hitting is what he is known for and not his words or other actions.  This makes me ponder: is the baseball world is truly taking in the greatness that is Albert Pujols OR is he just not all time great?

Pujols’ first 12 seasons were unprecedented in the game of baseball.  His triple slash line (batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage) was .325/.414/.608 and he averaged 40 homeruns, 120 RBIs, 86 walks, 65 strikeouts and had a 1.022 OPS.  So you are not a stats person.  Let’s put that into easy words and context.  To start, he had a .325 batting average.  If he had stopped then it would put him at 37 all time for batting average in the 143 years of professional baseball.  Next is on base percentage which measures how often a player gets on by either a hit, a walk or a hit by pitch.  A .414 means he got on base more than 41% of the times he got to the plate, which would be good for 26th all time. Slugging percentage is a measure of how many bases a player hits for per at bat.  Basically for every official at bat, how many bases did the player earn by a single, double, triple or homerun.  At .608, Pujols would have ranked fifth all time.  OPS is on base percentage plus slugging percentage and measures how many bases a player got for every time he went up to the plate, not official at bats.  On average, every time Pujols stepped up to the plate he got to first base somehow.  Of course he got out some times, it’s baseball.  To average reaching a base for every at bat is unthinkable.  Maybe the most impressive statistic is the fact that Pujols would earn a walk more often than he struck out.  Most players look to achieve a three strikeouts to one walk ratio.  Pujols is on the other side of that.

A player that gets on base that often does not typically have much power.  This is where Pujols separates himself within a historical context.  His 40 homerun per year average is only behind PED-linked Alex Rodriguez and Babe Ruth.  The only player in the history of the game to outshine Pujols in multiple categories through their first 12 seasons is Babe Ruth; that is the best company to be in.

Over the past two seasons, Pujols’ injuries and poor performance, relative to his standard greatness, and the meteoric rise of Miguel Cabrera has mislead fans to underappreciate the accomplishments of Pujols.  To keep reference, Cabrera’s first 11 seasons reads as .324/.403/.573 with an average of 35 homeruns, 120 RBIs, 77 walks, 112 strikeouts per year and .976 OPS.  I won’t bore you with more explaining, you can see the numbers.  I will emphasize dominance in slugging percentage and that Cabrera’s strikeout to walk ratio, while excellent, is on the wrong side of a one to one ratio.  I would be remised if I did not mention the fact that Pujols is not recognized for his solid defense which has earned him two gold gloves.  Cabrera is the current hot talk about the baseball world, and he deserves to be talked about.  Pujols will fly under the media radar and continue putting up numbers that only compare to the players that have their faces immortalized in bronze in Cooperstown, NY.

I consider myself a good mixture of a baseball purist that likes to just “watch the game” and a new school, Sabermetrics type of fan that says “the numbers never lie.”  Either way you look at the game, Albert Pujols has that special place in history as one of the best ever.  Make sure you properly take in history in the making.  You probably will not get another chance.

Written by Nic Amanno

Follow Nic on Twitter @ChicoAlum

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