Albert Pujols joined elite company on Saturday night, becoming the 9th member of the 600 home run club. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the 4th inning at Angel Stadium, Pujols lofted a 363 foot fly ball right down the left field line that reached an apex on 141 feet and just snuck it fair past the foul pole. Pujols’ 600th home run was the first in grand slam fashion, further cementing his legacy of accomplishing events in grand style on the baseball field.
Much has been made about Albert Pujols and the disappointing results in an Angels uniform, including a piece from yours truly, but there’s no denying the illustrious all around career he has had. Pujols’ 600 home runs rank 9th all time, sitting only 9 home runs behind fellow Dominican Republican Sammy Sosa. Pujols ranks 26th all time in WAR(90.9) and 28th in wRC+, essentially securing his legacy as a top 30 player in the history of baseball. Pujols is also one of 3 players in baseball history with 3 Most Valuable Player awards and 600+ home runs, joining elite talents such as Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez. You can look at any statistic, traditional or new school, and Pujols ranks very high.
Pujols is a rare breed in baseball history, one who combined all around superb power with the ability to maintain his strike zone. After Saturday night’s affair, Pujols’ career walk total sat at 1229 compared to his 1091 strikeouts. For a hitter whose slugged 600 home runs and owns a career .569 slugging percentage, Pujols has done a remarkable job of maintaining his strike outs and also getting on base. While much will be written about the 600th home run and what that says about his power output, this is a great time to reflect on the all around greatness that Albert Pujols has been.
Of the 9 members of the 600 home run club, Pujols ranks 4th with a 152 wRC+, ranking behind Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth. You might have heard of those guys. Just going by career wRC+, Pujols is tied for 28th with Joe DiMaggio and Miguel Cabrera. There are 27 members of the 500 home run club. Only 3 members of the 500 home run club own a strikeout rate that is lower than Pujols 10.1% mark, including Hank Aaron, Ted Williams and Mel Ott. Aaron is the only member of the 600 home run club with a lower strikeout percentage. Pujols ranks 22nd in walk percentage among the 500 home run club but he’s also only one of 10 members in the club with more walks than strikeouts. Not limited to just home runs, Pujols ranks 12th all time with 608 doubles, showing his power is multi dimensional. Maybe the most telling story of Albert Pujols and his presence in the league is a simple look at his intentional walks. Nobody will ever catch Barry Bonds and his 688 intentional walks but Pujols is very impressive with his 305 intentional walks, which is 2nd in baseball history.
If all of the offensive firepower wasn’t enough, Pujols isn’t just limited to his offensive dominance. Only 14 members of the 500 home runs club stole 100 or more bases in their career, including Albert Pujols at 108. Defensively, Pujols is one of the best gloves to ever play 1st base, ranking 1st in defensive runs saved among first basemen with 138 DRS and 1st in Ultimate Zone Rating with a 72.8 UZR. This stat was developed in the early 2000s so the sample size is limited but Pujols ranking 1st since the statistic became public shows he has provided well above average defensive production at first base. Even now, Pujols still manages to hold his own at first base, which is impressive given his mileage and him being a 37 year old.
The overall value Pujols has accomplished is remarkable. He has ranked top 10 in fWAR 9 different times in his career, including leading baseball in WAR in 2006 and 2008. In Pujols’ Cardinals career from 2001-2011, Pujols was first in WAR over that timeframe, edging out Alex Rodriguez with 81.4 WAR. During that 11 year time frame, Pujols hit .328/.420/.617. His Angels tenure has certainly been different, ranking 117th in WAR among position players since he was signed before the 2012 season, while ranking 72nd in wRC+ in that time frame. In his Angels tenure, “The Machine” has more or less been human, hitting .265/.323/.469, which is still an above average batting line. That reason right there is why Angels fans, myself included, may not fully appreciate what Pujols has done in the game of baseball. Pujols also won 2 titles in St. Louis while taking home MVP honors in 2005, 2008 and 2009, while accomplishing none of those in Anaheim. Regardless of where he accumulated his production, the overall career is awfully impressive.
This is a humongous accomplishment for Albert Pujols and the game of baseball. It may be tough for Angels fans to not look at Albert Pujols without looking at the albatross contract but for just a moment, or a few moments, let’s acknowledge what he has done on the baseball field. He has already cemented himself as a top 30 player and top 5 first baseman in baseball history, with more years to potentially move a little bit higher. Even if Albert Pujols were to retire tomorrow, he’d walk away from the game of baseball accomplishing more than almost every other player in baseball. Pujols is one of the great players of his generation, a class act in the community and a great teammate. Kudos to Mr. Pujols on his major accomplishment and the impact he’s had on the game of baseball.