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Projecting Albert Pujols' Career

Posted by Andy
Albert Pujols is already 31 and has completed 11 major-league seasons, and thus it's a little easier to project his career totals than Prince Fielder's.

Let's see what his comps look like:

I chose to look at Pujols' last 4 seasons and see who performed similarly. Here are all the guys to produce an OPS+ between 171 and 181 (which is +/- 5 from Pujols' 176) over their 4 seasons from Age 28 through Age 31, minimum 2000 plate appearances:

Player OPS+ PA From To Age G AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
Jason Giambi 177 2719 1999 2002 28-31 619 2165 705 146 5 155 502 .326 .452 .612 1.064
Willie McCovey 177 2358 1966 1969 28-31 582 1972 584 85 16 148 418 .296 .401 .581 .982
Albert Pujols 176 2692 2008 2011 28-31 614 2258 729 157 2 163 468 .323 .421 .611 1.032
Nap Lajoie 176 2045 1903 1906 28-31 482 1889 671 150 37 14 327 .355 .393 .496 .889
Frank Robinson 173 2579 1964 1967 28-31 596 2205 677 128 20 141 425 .307 .399 .575 .974
Stan Musial 173 2720 1949 1952 28-31 609 2323 798 154 38 117 431 .344 .439 .594 1.033
Manny Ramirez 171 2349 2000 2003 28-31 534 1973 653 134 5 149 458 .331 .433 .631 1.063
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 11/12/2011.

First off, Nap Lajoie seems to be a pretty poor comp since his 176 OPS+ was in a much lower offensive era (note his OPS was .889 as compared to Pujols' 1.032).

I'm also disinclined to include Giambi since his career isn't finished.

Let's see what the other guys did in their careers after the age of 31:
  • Willie McCovey: played until his Age 42 season, accumulating 4,467 more plate appearances with a 134 OPS+
  • Frank Robinson: played until his Age 40 season, accumulating 4,091 more plate appearances with a 149 OPS+
  • Stan Musial: played until his Age 42 season, accumulating 5,966 more plate appearances with a 144 OPS+
  • Manny Ramirez: played until his Age 39 season, accumulating 3,862 more plate appearances with a 150 OPS+
Whew--those are some pretty awesome late-career performances. Manny's career was cut short by his premature retirement, which resulted in a smaller number of PAs and also (probably) a higher OPS+, especially given how poor things were going in 2011 when he called it quits.

Anyway, those 4 guys averaged 4,596 plate appearances from Age 32 until the end, with a weighted average OPS+ of 144.

Pujols has yet to post a season with an OPS+ as low as 144 (wow!) with 2011 his worst at 150. This past season he posted 0.057 HR per plate appearance and 0.152 RBI per plate appearance. Let's downgrade those slightly for a 144 OPS+ to 0.056 HR and 0.146 RBI per PA. If he has 4,596 more plate appearances coming his way, that's another 253 homers and 671 RBI.

After 2011, Pujols' career totals are 445 homers and 1,329 RBI. Add in the projected numbers and the totals are 699 homers and precisely 2,000 RBI.

Those 699 homers would be good for 4th all-time behind just Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth, and the 2,000 RBI would be 4th as well, just ahead of Bonds and behind Aaron, Ruth, and Cap Anson.

And let's face it...nobody is going to finish with 699 homers. You get that far, you hang on for 1 more...let's call it an even 700 HR and 2,000 RBI for Phat Albert.

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