Alex Rodriguez vs. Albert Pujols: Which Slugger is Tops?

Thursday March 29th, 2012

Bryan Sheehan (MLB Reports Intern): There is no doubt that Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez are the most prolific sluggers in the MLB right now. Pitchers fear them, teammates love them and opposing fans hate them. Both have tremendous power, huge career numbers and legions of fans that argue who is more dominant. Pujols supporters argue that his career .328 batting average, 445 home runs and two gold gloves make him the most elite in the game, while fans of A-Rod counter with 629 home runs (the most of any active player), 104.6 WAR (the third best of all time) and 1,893 RBIs; beat that Albert.

Both players make a poignant case. Rodriguez is probably the most famous, or infamous depending on your fanhood, baseball players in the last few decades, and at age 35- he’s closing in on a few huge milestones. First, there’s 700 home runs, a feat accomplished by only Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and, I hate saying this, Barry Bonds. A-Rod is only 69 dingers, or two seasons based on his 162 game career averages, from the milestone. Although he had the worst year of his career in 2011 because of injury, early Spring results indicate that he’s somewhat back to his normal self. The other landmark he’s approaching is 3,000 hits, just 225 away from joining a club that features Cal Ripken Jr., Hank Aaron and Yankees teammate Derek Jeter. Entry into this club also will ordinarily insure a first ballot, golden ticket entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

But Rodriguez’s career may be forever smudged by the dark spot that is performance enhancing drugs. In 2009, he admitted to using PEDs from 2001 to 2003, while playing for the Texas Rangers. During this time, he averaged 52 home runs a year, added three Silver Slugger awards to his trophy case and won the AL MVP. Baseball as a whole does not take kindly to cheaters, gamblers or liars. If he did only take steroids from 2001-2003, and his numbers from those years were somehow erased from the record books, he would still have close to 500 home runs, another assurance for the Hall of Fame, albeit not always on the first ballot. Unlike others such as Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco (who falsely announced to Twitter that Al Gore was dead), “steroids” isn’t the first word that A-Rod is associated with, at least in my mind. What does instantly come to mind, though, is power.  A career ISO of .265, not to mention a .567 career slugging percentage speaks to that.

If there is one name that speaks power as much as A-Rod, it’s Albert Pujols. The Machine has an ISO of .288 and a slugging percentage of .617, not to mention 445 home runs in just ten years of play. At age 32 he has shown no signs of slowing down, and is on track to hit over 800 home runs if he plays until 2021, the last year of his new contract with the Angels. Unlike Rodriguez, Pujols has never been linked to steroids. His consistency is a huge testament to an amazing career, but that doesn’t mean his play won’t tail off with age… like many other players before him. In the past three seasons, Albert’s slugging percentage his dropped each year by about 50 points, reaching a career low of .541 in his 31-year-old campaign of 2011. When Rodriguez was 31, his slugging was over 100 points higher than Albert’s, and remained higher in each season until 2010, when he slugged .506 at age 34. Pujols will also likely reach 3,000 hits, though he broke 2,000 just last year. Being unattached to the Mitchell Report and steroid scandal as a whole will be an extreme boost to Prince Albert, who will be a first ballot Hall of Famer (if he isn’t- I’ll go out to buy and then eat a hat).

But the debate over who is better is impossible to decide. Both have had amazing careers, with Albert’s being just half over, and both are the epitome of the 21st century slugger. Based on the past and present, Alex Rodriguez may gain an edge, but based on the future (as well as some negative aspects of Rodriguez’s past), Pujols could push him aside. Fans in New York will always say A-Rod, and fans in St. Louis (yes, I know Pujols plays for the Angels) will always side with Phat Albert; it’s a matter of opinion.

 

Today’s feature was prepared by our Intern, Bryan Sheehan.  You can follow Bryan on Twitter (@BaseballHipster), read his interviews with Phillies’ minor league prospects at PhightingOn.com, and catch him writing the occasional article for ThroughTheFenceBaseball.com. Tweet him about this article and give him a follow and he will follow you back!

 

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Posted on March 29, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Pujols definitely wins here because there’s not a single shred of evidence that he used steroids.

    With Arod, I doubt he only used three years. Why should he be given the benefit of the doubt anyway, when he’s lied in the past.

    Back in 2007 he denied ever taking steroids, and in 2009 we learned that was a lie. Who is to say he isn’t lying again.

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