At first glance, I’m sure this sounds absurd. That is, until you begin to look at the numbers. Pujols has been steadily going about his business ever since he broke into the league in 2001. Ever since then, Pujols has been one of the top contributors in the offensive category year in and year out. And unlike Aaron, Pujols now has the chance to transition into more of a DH role, and there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to make the most of it. Sure, the offensive output off the bat of Pujols has slowed down since his days in St. Louis, but what can you expect? He’s 36 years old. Despite that, he’s still putting up numbers most of the other guys in the league would love to put up.
Let’s look at the numbers.
Firstly, we all know Hank Aaron finished his tremendous career with a total of 755 home runs, which stood as the most all time until Barry Bonds came along and broke the record. As of today, Pujols has currently belted 589 long balls. When considering Pujols’ chances of catching Aaron, and even surpassing him, it’s certainly going to take a cohesive instrument to achieve such a task. But Pujols is nicknamed The Machine, isn’t he? From where I’m standing, if any current player is going to make some noise in the all-time home run leader department, then it’s going to be Pujols. Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols have been fairly similar players in that they both are very consistent for most of their careers; neither of them have ever posted a 50 or 60 home run season. There’s a lot of 30, 35, 40, and then some 40+ (but under 50) home run seasons, but nothing totaling 50 or more.
Through the same number of seasons, which is 16, Aaron knocked 554 home runs. Through 16 seasons, which is his entire career to this point, Pujols has 589. I’m certain the first question you ask might be something like, “well who has more at-bats?” Surprisingly to me, it was actually Hank Aaron. Aaron logged 9,436 at-bats over the course of those 16 seasons, whereas Pujols enters play with 9,066. With less than a month in the season, Pujols will enter the offseason with less career at-bats at this point in his career than Aaron did at the same point. After that, Aaron did post a couple 40+ home run seasons, which is noteworthy when considering Pujols chance to catch him. But at this point, Aaron hit a home run roughly every 17.032 at-bats, whereas Pujols has a home run every 15.392 at-bats. Obviously, that home run every 1.5 at bats sooner has turned into a +35 home run margin for Pujols.
So, what does Pujols have to do in order to catch Aaron? That math is simple. Pujols has to hit 166 more home runs in order to catch Aaron, and then 167 to pass him. Pujols signed a 10-year contract in 2012, meaning he’s in his fifth year with the Angels; he’s likely to finish out his contract, by which time he’ll be 40. There’s no doubt that Pujols is going to have to put together some stellar seasons, perhaps even a couple 40 home run campaigns. If he retires after four years, then he’ll need to hit 42 (rounded) per year, which just won’t happen. He’ll likely have to play a couple more seasons in order to catch Aaron, but if that is in his sight, then he might be able to sign elsewhere in the American League (or even with the Angels again) where he can continue his pursuit. If he adds two more years onto the back end of his Major League career, which would bring him to 22 seasons, which is the same number as Aaron played, then he’ll need to hit 28 (rounded) home runs per season in order to surpass Aaron, which is attainable for the big man.
Again, I’m not saying that this is a sure thing, and I’m not saying he’s going to accomplish this, but it will be an interesting thing to keep an on. Regardless of what he does, there’s a pretty good shot that he will enter the 700 club, which is one of the most exclusive clubs in all of baseball, consisting of Barry Bonds (762), Hank Aaron (755), and Babe Ruth (714). It’s hard to say when we might see someone else challenge the likes of the three aforementioned mighty sluggers, so this might be our best chance to witness history for awhile. Personally, I will be rooting for him.