Albert Pujols smacking his 400th career homer last night got me thinking about where he ranks among the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history.
My favorite stat for across-era comparisons is adjusted OPS+, which puts a hitter’s production into the context of the leagues, ballparks, and run-scoring environments he played in. In other words, a .300 batting average, 25 homers, and an .850 OPS were a lot more impressive at Dodger Stadium in 1968 than at Coors Field in 2010.
Here are the all-time leaders in adjusted OPS+ among right-handed batters with at least 5,000 career plate appearances:
Rogers Hornsby 175
Albert Pujols 172
Jimmie Foxx 163
Mark McGwire 162
Hank Greenberg 158
Frank Thomas 156
Dick Allen 156
Hank Aaron 155
Willie Mays 155
Manny Ramirez 155
Joe DiMaggio 155
Frank Robinson 154
Based on that list you can certainly make an argument for Pujols as the greatest right-handed hitter of all time, but looking at career totals isn’t quite fair to all the retired guys because Pujols is still in his prime and has yet to experience a late-career decline that will likely bring his numbers down a bit.
So instead of career totals let’s take a look at adjusted OPS+ through Pujols’ current age, 30:
Rogers Hornsby 175
Frank Thomas 174
Albert Pujols 172
Jimmie Foxx 169
Dick Allen 164
Hank Greenberg 160
Jeff Bagwell 159
Joe DiMaggio 159
Willie Mays 158
Hank Aaron 157
Manny Ramirez 156
Mike Piazza 156
That paints a similar picture, although this time Pujols is slightly behind both Rogers Hornsby and Frank Thomas (which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who read my piece earlier this season touting Thomas as the most underrated hitter in baseball history). So, is Pujols the greatest right-handed hitter of all time? It’s probably too early to give him that crown, but that’s the path he’s definitely on.
Dodgers 19-year-old rookie Julio Urias is coming back to the majors and Alex Wood is headed to the 15-day disabled list with left elbow soreness, Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times reports. Urias will likely start Saturday against the Braves, which will mark his debut in front of the home crowd.
Urias made his major league debut on Friday against the Mets at Citi Field, but lasted only 2 2/3 innings. He yielded three runs on five hits and four walks with three strikeouts.
Urias came into the season rated as the Dodgers’ #1 prospect and the #2 overall prospect in baseball. Prior to his promotion, he had compiled a 1.10 ERA with 44 strikeouts and eight walks over 41 innings with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The Red Sox seem to have hit the jackpot on all of their young players so far this year. Jackie Bradley, Jr. just had a 29-game hitting streak snapped. Xander Bogaerts extended his hitting streak to 24 games on Tuesday night. And Mookie Betts has been quite productive batting leadoff for the Red Sox this year, entering Tuesday with an even .800 OPS.
Betts, 23, hit 18 home runs in his first full season last year. With a three-homer night against the Orioles on Tuesday, he’s already up to 12 in 2016 with four months of season left. The first was of the solo variety, a line drive to center field off of Kevin Gausman in the first inning. Betts followed up in the third with a liner to left field for a three-run dinger off of Gausman. He made it three in the seventh, drilling a Dylan Bundy offering to right field.
Here’s video of homer number two:
Betts finished 3-for-5 as the Red Sox won 6-2 at Camden Yards.
Last week at ESPN Sweetspot’s Inside the Zona, Ryan Morrison looked into the data and found that the Pirates stand out among the rest when it comes to throwing “headhunter” pitches. Those are defined as fastballs 3.2 feet or higher and 1.2 feet towards the batter from the center of the plate.
The research was prompted because Diamondbacks second baseman Jean Segura was hit in the helmet by Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero last Tuesday in the seventh inning. The next inning, Caminero hit shortstop Nick Ahmed in the jaw with a pitch and was instantly ejected.
Morrison illustrated the data in a nice chart, which you should check out. The Pirates have thrown 93 of those pitches, which is way more than any other team. The next closest team is the Reds at 68 pitches. The major league average is approximately 48 pitches.
The Pirates have had an organizational philosophy of pitching inside since at least 2013, as MLB.com’s Tom Singer quoted manager Clint Hurdle as saying, “We’re not trying to hurt people, just staying in with conviction.”
Morrison goes on to suggest that the Diamondbacks should have forfeited last Wednesday and Thursday’s games against the Pirates in protest, out of concern for their players’ safety. As it happened, the D-Backs lost both games anyway, suffering a series sweep. The two clubs don’t meet again this season.
D-Backs manager Chip Hale said after last Tuesday’s game that Caminero “shouldn’t be at this level”. Caminero responded to those comments today, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. “I’m actually glad you asked me about that,” Caminero said. “The only thing I’ve got to say about (Hale) is that he is a perfect manager. And he was a perfect player, too. That’s it. I know what I did wasn’t good, but it happens in baseball. I wasn’t trying to hit anyone.”
I realize I’m late on pointing out Morrison’s terrific article and the whole debacle between the two teams, but I felt it was worth highlighting.
Also included in a recent report on Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista by Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated — along with his belief that Rougned Odor was the only bad guy in the May 15 debacle — was the slugger’s desire to remain a Blue Jay. Per Verducci, Bautista said, “I love the city. I’d be stupid to leave” Toronto.
Bautista, 35, is in the final year of a five-year, $65 million extension signed in February 2011. Back in November, the Jays exercised their 2016 club option for $14 million. Bautista isn’t willing to discuss contract details during the season, so the two sides will have to wait until at least October to come to an agreement.
Entering Tuesday’s game against the Yankees, Bautista is hitting .237/.371/.489 with 11 home runs, 37 RBI, and 40 walks, the latter of which leads the American League.