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Friday, August 21, 2009

Pujols’ 5,000 At-Bats into History

Five thousand at-bats into his career, baseball great Babe Ruth had already shattered home run records and set the gobsmacking standard with his 60 homers in 1927. He had also been a two-time 20-game winner as a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox.

Five thousand at-bats into his career, the Splendid Splinter Ted Williams had his .406-average season and two Triple Crowns. Five thousand at-bats into their careers, Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg had three seasons with at least 150 RBIs and Iron Horse Lou Gehrig had started his famous streak and had three seasons with at least 170 RBIs.

Otherwise, 5,000 at-bats into his career … Albert Pujols is right there with them.

The St. Louis Cardinals first baseman and reigning National League MVP had the 5,000th at-bat of his career in the first inning of Thursday’s victory. He grounded into a double play. But what he has done in the previous 4,999 at-bats of his career puts him in elite company. He walks with giants like Williams, Gehrig and Greenberg — all of whom share something that Pujols does not: They played their careers in the American League. What could arguably be the best 5,000 at-bats to start a career in the National League is where today’s 10@10 begins …

1. Pujols’ 744 extra-base hits in his first 5,000 at-bats rank fourth all time, and are the most ever by an NL player in his first 5,000 ABs. Last night, on MLB Network they ran down the top five extra-base totals in baseball history through the first 5,000 ABs in any career:

* Babe Ruth … 863 XB hits
* Hank Greenberg … 762 XB hits
* Lou Gehrig … 761 XB hits
* Albert Pujols … 744 XB hits
* Ted Williams … 743 XB hits

2. Attempted to run the numbers on each of the above hitters and what they had when they reached their 5,000th at-bat. Easier said than done in one morning. So, here’s what I did: I got their totals as close to 5,000 AB as possible. Greenberg, for example, had a career total of 5,193 at-bats. The others had natural breaks relatively close to 5,000 ABs. For context, then, here are where the above five hitters were across the back of their baseball cards as close to 5,000 ABs as possible with the numbers I had handy this morning (and remember slash lines go BA/OBP/SLG):

Ruth … 4,958 AB … .349/.480/.709 … 416 HR … 1,269 RBI

Greenberg … 5,193 AB … .313/.412/.605 … 331 HR … 1,276 RBI

Gehrig … 5,135 AB … .342/.442/.636 … 299 HR … 1,285 RBI

Pujols … 5,003 AB … .333/.426/.628 … 358 HR … 1,082 RBI

Williams … 5,096 AB … .347/.484/.634 … 324 HR … 1,264 RBI

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