Albert Pujols joined an exclusive club yesterday, when he slugged his 499th and 500th home run in the Angels 7-2 win over the Washington Nationals. This feat just adds to his already impressive Cooperstown resume.
Pujols is the first player to hit 499 and 500 in the same game. He’s also the 3rd youngest to get to 500 hundred, behind Alex Rodriguez and Jimmie Foxx.
Of the 25 others to get to 500, 16 are in the Hall of Fame; the number used to be an automatic induction until the current “steroid era” players began to be eligible. Gary Sheffield, Manny Ramirez, Rafael Palmeiro, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Barry Bonds have all been tied to PEDs, while Ken Griffey, Jr. and Jim Thome are guilty by association; Pujols would probably be grouped with Griffey and Thome. Some now think that 500 threshold will not be enough alone to get in for players of this era.
The slugger still has a chance at 762; if he averages 34 homers for the remaining 8 years of his contract, he’ll be at 772. Since becoming an Angel, Pujols has averaged 24. According to the Bill James Handbook 2014, he has only a 3% change of getting to 700 and no chance of breaking the record.
Pujols should be in good shape though; he’s 700 hits away from the other magic number of 3000. The Bill James Handbook 2014 gives him a 44% chance of achieving this; it would seem higher since he only needs to average 82 hits per season and he’s been averaging 137 as an Angel. The only player with 500 homers and 3000 hits that is not in Cooperstown is Palmeiro, who has been one of the biggest names to fail a PED test.
Pujols matches up well with the other Hall of Fame first basemen. The average HOF 1B has 2401 hits, 298 homers, 1467 RBIs, and a WAR of 65.4. Pujols has exceeded all of those numbers but hits: prior to the season he had 2347 hits, 492 homer, 1498 RBIs, and a WAR of 93.0. The thing to remember is that these are counting stats (other than WAR) and will only increase over the span of his career. The average HOF 1B has slash stats of .308/.387/.505/.892; Pujols is at .321/.410/.599/.1.009. Even at his current rate of decline, he’ll be close to or exceeding the average.
Even with the decline in numbers since the start of 2011, Pujols’ average season is still greater than most players could dream of. He’s averaged 110 runs, 181 hits, 38 homers and 115 RBIs. Not only that, he averages more walks (82) than strikeouts (64).
Pujols also averages more counting stats per at bat than most Hall of Fame first basemen. HOF first basemen would record a hit in 29-31% of their at bats; Pujols does in 32% of his at bats. The HOFers would get a double in 5-6% of at bats and homers in 0-5%; Pujols doubles in 7% and homers in 7%. HOFers drive in a run in 14-19% of at bats; Pujols does in 20%. These rates will definitely decrease as his production slows down, but will probably stay within the ranges of the Hall of Famers.
Looking at the numbers, Pujols should be a Cardinal when he’s inducted into the Hall of Fame; no other player had the same numbers over the first 10 years of their career. Of course Tony LaRussa should have gone in as a Cardinal and Greg Maddux as a Brave, but both declined to have a team on their plaque.