Checking in at a milestone: How does Albert Pujols enter the HOF?

The LA Angels held a 1-0 lead Friday night when Angels first baseman/DH Albert Pujols slapped a two-out single to right field for his 3,000th career hit. Pujols is the 32nd member of the 3,000-hit club and continues to add to his Baseball Hall of Fame resume. But with the numbers he has posted with both the Angels and St. Louis Cardinals, which hat will Pujols wear when he enters the Hall? Let’s take a look at the numbers for Pujols on each team. Quite honestly, it’s not even close.

St. Louis Cardinals

In addition to patrolling the one bag his rookie season in 2001, Pujols was a primarily a third baseman with additional time spent in the outfield. Looking at The Machine now, you would never have pictured him as an outfielder. However, Pujols made the All-Star team, finished fourth in National League MVP voting, won the NL Rookie of the Year, and hit .329 in 161 games. Quite the start to a career in St. Louis.

During his 11 years with St. Louis, Pujols hit for an average of .328 with 2,073 hits, was named to nine All-Star teams, drove in 1,329 runs, never finished outside of the top-10 in NL MVP voting, and amassed a plethora of accolades, including six Silver Sluggers, two Gold Gloves, and three MVPs. To cap it all off, Pujols was a two-time World Series champ with the Cardinals.

LA Angels

Unfortunately for the Angels, Pujols was past his prime by the time he reached Anaheim. Longevity and his St. Louis years have proven to be the primers for Pujols reaching such milestones with the Angels as 3,000 hits and 600 homers. Though it looks like he’s been running on glass since 2013, Pujols failed to reach the 100-game threshold in only the the 2013 season. Aside from one injury-plagued season, Pujols has been a reliable everyday player. He has also spent an increasing amount of time as the designated hitter, with the exception of this season with the arrival of pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani. The DH position has been the key to lengthening Pujols’ career with in Anaheim.

However, during his time with the Angels, Pujols has been but a shadow of the MVP-caliber player he was with St. Louis. He’s hit just .262 with 175 dingers and had one All-Star appearance with the Angels. His power has greatly diminished with age as the Angels have seen just three 30-plus home run seasons, compared to all 11 seasons with the Cardinals at 30-plus longballs. His RBIs are down as well with 0.78 RBIs per game in St. Louis and 0.67 RBIs per game with the Angels. This number surprised me the most, because I would expect more RBIs with center fielder Mike Trout hitting .307 in front of him for nearly his entire tenure.

With his peak years coming in a Cardinals’ uniform, it’s very likely Pujols will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame matching hats with all-time Cardinal greats Stan Musial, Lou Brock, and Ozzie Smith.

Photo by Brigham Berthold

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