Seriously. Give this some thought. Albert Pujols is currently 45th on the all-time hr list with 408. Alex Rodriguez is currently 6th with 613. Albert will play his age 31 season in 2011, and A-Rod will play his age 35 season at the same time. By the time Albert retires, do you think that he’ll have more career home runs than A-Rod?
There are a lot of different ways to estimate or “model” performance decline as a function of time. You may use computational algorithms, simple linear charts, or WAGs (wild ass guesses). While the crack statistical modeling staff here at PH8 is well-versed in the use of Eigenvalue algorithms for estimating such things, you may have already guessed that I prefer the WAG method. It’s not that I have anything against mathematics (I do), but I see no reason to waste cpu cycles on something that’s going to be forgotten two months from now anyway. Thus, I give to you the WAG approach to “guesstimating” final hr totals for A-Rod and AP.
A-Rod enters his age 35 season with 613 career home runs, and he’s signed through his age 41 season. By my rough count, that gives him another 7 seasons to tack onto his hr total. Looking at only his last 3 seasons, he’s hit 35 (2008), 30 (2009), and 30 (2010). Even if I base my WAG on that sampling and assume a steady decline, I estimate something like 28, 26, 25, 23, 22, 21, 19, 18 for A-Rod’s last 7 seasons. That’s still 182 home runs, and that would land A-Rod at a grand total of 795. For those of you keeping score at home, that would push him past Bonds by 33 for 1st place on the all-time list. How reasonable is my WAG? Probably not very reasonable at all, actually. If Jim Thome can hit 30+ hrs in his mid 30’s, then I’m fairly certain that A-Rod has the potential to do it as well. Heck, Thome hit 25 in just 340 plate appearances in 2010, so he’s actually learned to become even more efficient at hitting the long ball as he’s gotten older. On the other hand, Albert’s already over halfway to 800, so…..
What are the chances that Albert can cover the other half? He’s hit 408 in 10 seasons, so let’s be fair and give him through the same age 41 season that A-Rod is signed through. For AP, that would mean another 11 seasons (hopefully in the Gateway City). To reach 800 home runs, he’d need to average about 36 home runs for each of those 11 seasons. When you look at it that way, it doesn’t seem too likely. To make help tilt the odds a bit, Albert would probably need to have another monster season or two while still in his prime. He hit 47 in 2009 and 42 in 2010, so two more similar seasons would put him over 500 prior to the start of his age 33 season. Fast forward to that point. Would you think that he could hit 300 hrs in 9 seasons from his age 33 season through his age 41 season? That’s a lot different story, isn’t it?
Obviously, a lot of other factors will come into play. I can’t account for health, labor negotiations, contract issues, and any potential tabloid run-ins that might cause A-Rod to go on an absolute hr rampage. However, it’s quite the interesting home run race that could unfold over the next several years. For those who insist that Albert isn’t a home run hitter, please take your message elsewhere. The oft repeated nonsense that “he’s just a line drive hitter who happens to hit home runs” rings a bit hollow with me. So, what does that make Willie Mays (660 career home runs, .302 avg)? Babe Ruth (714 career home runs, .342 avg)? Were those guys home run hitters who just happened to hit a few balls that tragically stayed in the park? Whatever. Like Mays and Ruth, Pujols hits for both power and average. Unlike Mays and Ruth, he plays in a modern ballpark and not something Tiger Woods would struggle to hit a 9-iron out of.
Regardless of how things turn out for A-Rod and Pujols over the next decade, I look forward to both giving chase to Bonds’ record. Actually, I’d like to see both eclipse it. While the “homer” in my would like to see AP finish on top, the pragmatist in me has to give A-Rod the nod. Having the DH to fall back on has already given A-Rod a slight longevity advantage, and AP has at least another year in the NL. While I still see health as the ultimate determining factor, I think that AP is starting to show signs of wear that were not evident even 2 years ago. If the home run record were of personal interest to Albert, I think he’d be looking to move to an AL club, but that just doesn’t seem to be his style.
TIDBIT: If the Cardinals open 2011 with Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman as starters, they may be the only team in MLB with 2 starting position players in the top 100 all-time HR list. Pujols is currently 45th, and Berkman is currently 99th with 327 hrs.
TIDBIT PT 2: Troy Glaus is 105th on the hr list at 320. To secure a place in the top 100 for even a short period, he’ll probably have to get to 328 and tie Shawn Green and Mo Vaughn. I’m rooting for him to land somewhere for 2011 and get those 8 hrs (or more).
DISCLAIMER: Absolutely nothing remotely resembling science or sophisticated math was used in this blog. Do not confuse the WAG method with anything you might use in practical, everyday life unless you really don’t enjoy gainful employment or have a gambling problem. If you do have a gambling problem and live in Missouri, call 1-800-BETS-OFF. No, I don’t know why, but I did see a commercial instructing me to do so, and I always do what commercials instruct me to do.