As of July 9, the Albert Pujols farewell tour had been a dud. He was hitting .198 with a .624 OPS.
But over the last six weeks, the Cardinals designated hitter and occasional first baseman has looked much more like he did in his prime.
Since July 10, he’s hitting .393 with 10 home runs and 20 RBI in 84 at-bats entering Thursday’s game with the Cubs. Pujols has been particularly destructive against left-handed pitching. He’s 14-for-23 (.609) with 7 home runs against lefties since August 10.
What Pujols has done over the last six weeks is reminiscent of what David Ortiz did in his final MLB season in 2016 (1.021 OPS, 127 RBI). Ortiz and Ted Williams in 1960 (1.096 OPS, 29 home runs) are the standard setters for farewell seasons.
Pujols’ 10 home runs came in a 25-game span. Since 1901 (as far back as public play-by-play data allows us to search), Pujols and Barry Bonds are the only two players to hit that many home runs in that number of games after turning 42.
As Pujols’ career enters its final weeks, here’s where he stands on baseball’s all-time lists.
- 693 home runs (5th)
- 2,188 RBI (2nd)
- 3,359 hits (9th)
- 6,153 total bases (2nd)
The only question left among his statistical accomplishments is whether he has enough time to reach 700 home runs. He could catch Alex Rodriguez, whose 696 home runs stand 4th all-time. Pujols is also the rare player who can say his top comparable in Similarity Scores is … Willie Mays.
As far as accolades go: Pujols has won 3 MVP awards and two World Series titles. He’s also won MLB awards named for Hank Aaron (best hitter), Roberto Clemente (sportsmanship and community involvement), and Lou Gehrig (representing Gehrig’s character and integrity).
And as we look ahead to Pujols’ final games, we can look back too. We should remember that one reason that Pujols was able to accumulate such numbers was because of a hamstring injury that Bobby Bonilla suffered prior to the start of the 2001 season, which put him on the injured list. That allowed Pujols to make the Opening Day roster. He never played in the minor leagues again.
Bonilla often gets celebrated in baseball circles because of the contractual agreement he had with the Mets that has him paid annually long after he retired. Perhaps he should be heralded for his role in Pujols’ career too.
Lastly, you know how much we love defensive excellence here, so we do have to tip our cap to how Pujols played first base. Pujols has 137 Defensive Runs Saved at the position since we started tracking the stat in 2003. Mark Teixeira ranks 2nd with 92. Anthony Rizzo is the nearest active player there with 68.
As has often been the case with Pujols, there’s nobody close to doing what he could do.