Over the past 20 years, there have been some remarkable hitters to come up to bat, but one triumphs over them all. The Machine, Albert Pujols, has not only been the most consistent and reliable hitter since he made his debut in 2001, but he has been able to combine hitting for power and average like no one else has in a while.
Pujols is the current leader in doubles (563), slugging percentage (.588), OPS (.991) and intentional walks (286) among active players. He has slugged 522 home runs to date (18th all time and second among active players behind A-Rod), driven in 1606 runs, walked 1120 times and stuck out only 909 times, which means that he not only puts the ball in play, but hits it hard when he does. Aside from all of the power numbers, Pujols’ career batting average is .317 and OBP is .403. Many people can make a case for Miguel Cabrera or Ken Griffey Jr., but their numbers don’t add up. Miggy has Pujols beat in average, (.321 to .317) but Albert has the edge by over 100 home runs and 300+ RBI’s. Cabrera also has 400 more strikeouts and 300 fewer walks than Pujols.
Compared to The Kid, Pujols has an average 30 points better than Griffey, has tallied more doubles, has a higher OBP, slugging, and OPS, and only has 100 fewer home runs and 200 fewer hits, despite only being in the league for 15 years compared to Griffey’s 22. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pujols have higher numbers at the end of his career.
But this list isn’t just about numbers; it’s also about winning. Pujols has led his team to the postseason in eight of his 14 full seasons, three World Series, and two Championships with the Cardinals in 2006 and 2011. Cabrera and Griffey led their teams to a combined eight appearances in 35 full seasons, with two World Series appearances (both by Cabrera) and a championship in 2003 with the Florida Marlins. Pujols has only shined brighter on the biggest stage, batting .323 with 19 home runs and 54 RBI in postseason play.
If you don’t believe the numbers or the rings, some more hardware might indicate his dominance. Pujols has been a nine-time All Star, won three NL MVP awards during his time in St. Louis, was the 2001 NL Rookie of the Year, six silver slugger awards, two gold gloves and a NLCS MVP award. Pujols has been a pitcher’s worst nightmare whenever he steps in the box, because they know their ERA will probably skyrocket when they are done facing him. A future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Pujols will continue to be a force at the plate and a role model for kids everywhere because of how hard and classy he plays the game. Baseballs everywhere will be thrilled when they eventually hear Pujols retires because they know they wont be hit into another zip code when they are used in a game against him.