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Jose Alberto Pujols
(Prince Albert, Phat Albert, The Machine, or El Hombre)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 3", Weight 210-230 lb.
- School Maple Woods Community College
- High School Fort Osage High School
- Debut April 2, 2001
"The man is good at every little thing he does." - Mike Easler
"When that ball flew over our heads, I turned to Mike Mason, our bullpen coach, and said, 'That's why they pay that guy a hundred million bucks.' "— Ray King, watching in the bullpen when Albert Pujols hit a key post-season home run in 2005
Albert Pujols was quite possibly the best player of the 2000-2009 decade. Based on the similarity scores method, the most similar player to Pujols, at ages 21-27, was Joe DiMaggio. At ages 28-30, it was Jimmie Foxx. The second-most similar player to Pujols, in 2010, was Frank Robinson.
Pujols won the National League MVP award in 2005, 2008 and 2009, but that shouldn't obscure the fact that he was also in the top four in the MVP Award voting in each of 2001-2004 and 2006. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2001.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Pujols moved to the United States in the early 1990s. He briefly attended a Missouri community college and in 1999 was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round. The scout was Dave Karaff.
The year 2000 was his only one in the minors. At age 20, he played most of the season for Peoria in the Class A Midwest League, posting a batting line of .324/.389/.565 with 17 home runs. He was the league's MVP. His teammate Ben Johnson hit 13 home runs, but with a much lower batting average. Pujols then spent 21 games with Potomac in the Carolina League and 3 games with Memphis in the Pacific Coast League to finish out 2000. He hit a walk-off home run to win the PCL Championship Series for Memphis.
He started his major league career with a bang: in April of 2001, he set a rookie record for most RBIs in the month with 27; the record held until shattered by José Abreu in 2014. His major league seasons from 2001-2009 were uniformly excellent. The lowest batting average he posted was .314, his lowest home run total was 32, and his lowest RBI total was 103. He even stole 16 bases in 18 attempts in 2005.
There is no way to know what the future will bring, but after his first nine years, Pujols had the fourth highest slugging percentage in the history of the game, behind Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, and Lou Gehrig, and ahead of Barry Bonds. Of course, those players did it over the course of a career, while Pujols still has many years to play.
If anything negative could be said about his play, it's that his range defensively early in his career could have been better. However, he is a multi-position player, having appeared in left field, right field, third base, and first base during his career, and even once apiece at shortstop in 2002 and second base in 2008. He switched largely to first base in 2004-2006, and won a Gold Glove at the position in 2006. In 2009, he set a record for assists by a first baseman.
2006 was a typical season offensively for Pujols, except his slugging was a bit better than usual. He played on the 2006 World Series-winning Cardinal team, and while he hit only .200, it was a low-hitting series, with the Cardinals as a team hitting .228 and the Detroit Tigers hitting .199. In 2006, Albert Pujols reached 2,000 career total bases in just 854 games, making him the quickest player ever to achieve that mark. The record had been 869 games by Nomar Garciaparra. He lost the 2006 NL MVP race to Ryan Howard, 388 points to 347. The Dominican Republic sports ministry arranged a news conference for Pujols, where he vented that a player from a non-playoff team should not win the MVP. It should be pointed out that Howard's team won two more games than Pujols' team and only missed the playoffs because they played in a tougher division.
Pujols hit his 300th home run on July 4, 2008. It made him the 5th-youngest player to hit 300 as he was 28 years and 170 days old, one day younger than Mel Ott. Alex Rodriguez, Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey Jr. and Andruw Jones had reached 300 at younger ages than Pujols.
In 2009, Pujols broke Bill Buckner's major league record of 184 assists by a first baseman. Mark Grace had held the NL mark. Even though he was not yet 30 years old at the end of 2009, he already ranked # 31 on the all-time list for points as determined by the Hall of Fame Monitor. The scale is such that 130 points "is a virtual cinch" to get into the Hall, while Pujols already had 226 points. That year, Pujols reached 100 RBI, just like his 8 prior seasons; that broke a tie with Ted Williams for the second-longest stretch to open a career. Only Al Simmons (11 years) had a longer run of 100-RBI seasons to begin a career.
Pujols hit his 400th career home run on August 26, 2010, off Jordan Zimmermann. He became the 47th major leaguer to reach that figure and the third-youngest after Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. In June 2011, Pujols hit game-winning, game-ending, extra-inning homers in consecutive games; no major leaguer had done that since Albert Belle in 1995 and no National Leaguer since Ron Santo in 1966. However, he finished the season with the worst offensive numbers of his career: a .299 batting average (his first time under .300), 37 homers and 99 RBI (his first time below 100). For all that, he was still one of the top offensive forces in the major leagues.
After struggling in the first two games of the 2011 World Series, Pujols set or tied four records in Game 3. He went deep 3 times, drove in six runs, had 5 hits and 14 total bases. He tied the home run record held by Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson (Pablo Sandoval would join them in 2012), the RBI record held by Bobby Richardson and Hideki Matsui and the hit mark held by Paul Molitor. He set a new total bases record, breaking the record of 12 shared by Ruth and Jackson. He may not have done much the rest of the Series, but his one-game performance was of utmost importance in helping the Cardinals win a tightly-fought 7-game series over the Texas Rangers, giving him a second Championship ring.
Shortly after the 2011 World Series, Pujols became a free agent. The Cardinals wanted to retain his services, but they were far from the only serious suitors, and had to drop out of the bidding when they were reluctant to go over $200 million or 9 years. On December 8th, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim announced they had won the sweepstakes, signing Albert to a 10-year contract worth $254 million - the second largest contract of all time after Alex Rodriguez's extension signed after the 2008 season. The signing immediately led to speculation in Southern California that the Angels would dump various players or move them to other positions in order to accommodate Pujols' salary and need to play either DH or first base. It was in fact veteran OF Bobby Abreu who paid the price, being released before the end of April, 2012. However, it was not because Albert pushed him out, because his performance over his first few weeks in the American League was so poor as to become the talk of Major League Baseball. By May 5th, he was hitting only .194 and had yet to homer, and he was being booed at home while the Angels were struggling to a 10-17 record. After suffering back-to-back shutouts to the Toronto Blue Jays, manager Mike Scioscia took the rare decision of benching Pujols for that day's game. The message seemed to work as in his next game, on May 6th, Pujols finally hit his first AL homer, connecting off the Jays' Drew Hutchison with a man on in the 5th inning to send the Angels to a 4-3 win. By the end of July, he had raised his average to .284 and had hit 20 homers; not surprisingly, the Angels were back in the thick of the playoff race. On July 31st and August 1st, Albert had back-to-back two homer games against the Angels' main rivals, the Texas Rangers. The first day's output led to a 6-2 win, but in the second, the Rangers managed to storm back from a 10-7 deficit in the 10th inning to prevent Los Angeles from moving within 2 games of the AL West lead, and their momentum cooled off after that. On September 23rd, Albert collected his 100th and 101st RBI in a 4-1 win over the Chicago White Sox, hitting triple digits for the 11th time in 12 seasons in spite of his slow start. He finished the year at .285/.343/.516 with 30 homers and 105 RBI in 154 games, very respectable numbers given his slow start, but the Angels finished well out of the postseason picture.
After the 2012 season, Pujols underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee. He was hoping to play for the Dominican Republic in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and was named on the team's initial roster, but had to withdraw on the advice of doctors, although he still hoped to be available for the later stages of the tournament, were the Dominican Republic national team still involved, but in the end the D.R. won the tournament without his contribution. He was having his poorest season in 2013 when he went down with a foot injury in late July. His batting average was only .258 after 99 games - his .285 the previous season had been his lowest batting average until then - and he had only hit 17 homers, although his total of 64 RBIs was still respectable. But the problems went deeper: at .330, his OBP was not only the lowest of his career but a full 80 points below his career average, as pitchers were increasingly willing to challenge him given his lack of results; his slugging percentage of .437 was also miles below his career norms. The injury was a torn plantar fascia and had bothered him in some form since the start of the season until he aggravated it running the bases on July 26th. When he was placed on the DL two days later, the Angels were glum about his chances of returning before the end of the season, and wondering whether his long-term contract was not already a huge white elephant. Indeed, on August 19th, the team confirmed that Pujols was done for the year. Pujols hit 50 doubles on the season, becoming the fifth player in major league history with at least three seasons of 50 or more doubles, following Tris Speaker, Paul Waner, Stan Musial and Brian Roberts.
When the 2014 season started, however, there was renewed interest in Pujols as he started the season with 492 homers, making his joining the 500 home run club in the early part of the year an almost foregone conclusion. In spite of the evidence of declining production in his first two seasons as a member of the Angels, a number of writers singled him out in their pre-season picks as a potential Comeback Player of the Year or MVP, on the basis that he was bound to drive in a ton of runs if he stayed healthy and hit between Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton all season. On April 22nd, he hit homers #499 and 500 in a game against the Washington Nationals to join the 500 Home Run Club as its 26th member. He was the first to hit #500 as his second homer of the game, and was the first new member of the fraternity since Gary Sheffield had joined in 2009. The day before the game, he had gone 0 for 5 but told reporters that he would hit the two homers required for the milestone the next day. He made good on his promise, connecting off Taylor Jordan in the 1st and again in the 5th to lead the Angels to a 7-2 win. He picked up two other milestone on September 6th, with his 2,500th career hit and 1,500th run, both coming in an 8-5 win over the Minnesota Twins. He also hit his 25th homer of the year in that game. He ended up hitting .272 with 37 doubles, 28 homers and 105 RBIs in 159 games, a marked improvement over the previous season, even if well below his numbers with the Cards (in St. Louis, his average OPS+ was 170, while the season was good for 126). In the Division Series against the Kansas City Royals, he went 2 for 12 with as homer as the Angels were swept in three games.
Pujols was back hitting with full power in 2015, as by the middle of June, he was leading the American League in home runs. He was named the league's Player of the Month for June on the strength of a .303 average with 13 homers and a .737 slugging percentage. He returned to the All-Star Game for the first time in five years, taking over as the AL's starting first baseman in place of the injured Miguel Cabrera. He ended the year with 40 homers and 95 RBIs in 157 games and an OPS+ of 118, brought down by a batting average of only .244 and an OBP of .307, both well below his career norms. He finished 5th in the AL in home runs. However, the Angels missed the postseason and pain in his foot limited him to the role of DH for the final month of the season. He underwent surgery in November, but was ready for the start of the 2016 season. He played 152 games and hit .268 with 31 homers and 119 RBIs. He played mainly DH, then after the season, he underwent foot surgery again.
On June 3, 2017, he became the 9th member of the 600 Home Run Club when he connected for a grand slam off Ervin Santana of the Minnesota Twins in the 4th inning of a 7-2 win. At 37, he was the fourth youngest player to reach the milestone, following Alex Rodriguez, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth, and the first since Jim Thome in 2011. He was also the third player with 600 homers and 600 doubles, after Aaron and Barry Bonds. On August 4th, he became the all-time leader for grounded into double play with 351, passing the career total of Cal Ripken (he finished the season at 362). On August 18th, he hit home run #609 of his career, tying Sammy Sosa for 8th place on the all-time list, and also for most by a player born outside the United States. He passed him with his next homer on August 22nd. By registering his 100th RBI on September 26th, he joined Alex Rodriguez as the only two players to have 14 100-RBI seasons. He finished the year at .241 in 149 games, the lowest average of his career, but still hit 23 homers and drove in 101 runs. Another sign that he was reaching the end of the line was that his K/W ratio had deteriorated significantly, as he had walked just 37 times, while striking out 93 times, matching his career high set as a rookie.
In 2018, an another factor of uncertainty came into play when the Angels signed Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani with the intention of using him as the designated hitter on certain days when he would not be the pitcher. Given that by now Pujols was practically a full-time DH (he had played just 6 games at first base the previous season), this was going to impact his usage. There was an opportunity to play first given that C.J. Cron, the man who had taken over the position the last couple of years was now gone, but the question was whether Albert could still handle the job at the age of 38. The Angels also signed Chris Carter to fill in at first base; he at least had recent experience at the position even if no one considered him a defensive whiz.
One of the reasons Pujols has hit into so many double plays in his career is that he is one of the best hitters ever at making contact. Of all active players at the start of the 2018 season, Pujols was the only one with more walks than strikeouts, except for a pair of players who had made their debut the previous year and had accumulated very few plate appearances. In an age when seasons of 150+ strikeouts were the norm for sluggers, he had never even struck out 100 times in a season.
- 2000 MVP Midwest League Peoria Chiefs
- 2001 NL Rookie of the Year Award
- 2001 Topps All-Star Rookie Team
- 10-time All-Star (2001, 2003-2010 & 2015)
- 3-time NL MVP (2005, 2008 & 2009)
- 2004 NLCS MVP
- 2-time NL Gold Glove Winner (2006/1B & 2010/1B)
- 6-time NL Silver Slugger Award Winner (2001/3B, 2003/OF, 2004/1B & 2008-2010/1B)
- NL Batting Average Leader (2003)
- NL On-Base Percentage Leader (2009)
- 3-time NL Slugging Percentage Leader (2006, 2008 & 2009)
- 3-time NL OPS Leader (2006, 2008 & 2009)
- 5-time NL Runs Scored Leader (2003-2005, 2009 & 2010)
- NL Hits Leader (2003)
- 4-time NL Total Bases Leader (2003, 2004, 2008 & 2009)
- NL Doubles Leader (2003)
- 2-time NL Home Runs Leader (2009 & 2010)
- NL RBI Leader (2010)
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 16 (2001-2012 & 2014-2017)
- 30-Home Run Seasons: 14 (2001-2012 & 2015, 2016)
- 40-Home Run Seasons: 7 (2003-2006, 2009, 2010 & 2015)
- 100 RBI Seasons: 14 (2001-2010, 2012, 2014, 2016 & 2017)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 10 (2001-2006 & 2008-2011)
- 200 Hits Seasons: 1 (2003)
- Won two World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2006 and 2011
|Barry Bonds||Albert Pujols||Ryan Howard|
|Jimmy Rollins||Albert Pujols||Albert Pujols|
|Albert Pujols||Albert Pujols||Joey Votto|
|NL Rookie of the Year|
|Rafael Furcal||Albert Pujols||Jason Jennings|
- Grounded into double plays, career: 362
- Most RBI by an NL rookie, 130, 2001
- Most Extra Base Hits by a rookie, 83, 2001
- Assists, first baseman, season, 185, 2009
- Consecutive seasons of 30 or more home runs, from start of career, 12
- Consecutive seasons of 30 home runs, 100 RBI and .300 batting average from start of career, 10
- Most home runs in first 3 seasons, 114, 2001-2003 (tied with Ralph Kiner)
- Most home runs in first 9 seasons, 366, 2001-2009
- Most home runs in first 10 seasons, 408, 2001-2010
- Most home runs in first 16 seasons, 591, 2001-2016
- Most RBI in April in NL history: 32, 2006 (tied with Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire; Juan Gonzalez had 35 in the AL in 1998)
- Most home runs in April: 14, 2006 (tied with Alex Rodriguez)
- Most home runs hit in the 1st inning, 141
- Most consecutive seasons leading the league in runs: 3, 2003-2005 (tied with 10 other players; Babe Ruth achieved it twice)
- Most consecutive seasons with 100 or more RBI by an NL player: 10, 2001-2010 (Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Alex Rodriguez had 13 in the AL; Al Simmons had 11 in the AL; Miguel Cabrera had 11 in the ML)
- Most seasons with 100 or more RBI: 14, 2001-2010, 2012, 2014, 2016-2017 (tied with Alex Rodriguez)
- Ted Berg: "9 times Albert Pujols was superhuman", "For the Win!", USA Today Sports, June 3, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "Mike Trout-Albert Pujols stokes comparisons to Mickey Mantle-Roger Maris", USA Today Sports, August 5, 2015. 
- Bob Nightengale: "MLB legends Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols out to prove age is no burden", USA Today Sports, May 16, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "For Albert Pujols, 700 - or more - home runs would bring spotlight 600 didn't", USA Today Sports, June 4, 2017. 
- Bob Nightengale: "As Shohei Ohtani attempts to make history, a hand from Albert Pujols would help", USA Today Sports, March 4, 2018. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Spring surprise: Pujols wouldn't be denied in 2001: Slugger emerged from obscurity to earn spot on Cardinals' Opening Day roster", mlb.com, February 8, 2017. 
- Joe Posnanski: "Pujols' one unbreakable record: Halos slugger racking up remarkable number of GIDPs", mlb.com, February 7, 2018.