Perhaps the only thing everyone can agree on when it comes to Albert Pujols leaving St. Louis for the Angels and $250 million is that his Cardinals career was amazing.
Pujols debuted on April 2, 2001 after surprisingly making the team out of spring training as a 21-year-old with just three games of experience above Single-A and performed at an MVP-level for 11 straight seasons.
Based on Baseball-Reference.com’s Wins Above Replacement calculations Pujols was worth 89.1 more wins than a replacement-level first baseman in 11 seasons with the Cardinals, which is the seventh-highest WAR total in baseball history through age 31:
Ty Cobb 112.5 Mickey Mantle 101.1 Rogers Hornsby 100.9 Babe Ruth 96.8 Hank Aaron 90.2 Alex Rodriguez 89.7 ALBERT PUJOLS 89.1 Lou Gehrig 86.9 Willie Mays 86.9 Mel Ott 86.8
Obviously that’s some ridiculously amazing company, but seeing Pujols on that list did make me curious about how those other guys fared after age 31. Here are the Wins Above Replacement totals for those same players from age 32 on:
Babe Ruth 75.2 Willie Mays 67.8 Hank Aaron 51.4 Ty Cobb 46.9 Lou Gehrig 31.5 Rogers Hornsby 26.9 Mel Ott 22.5 Mickey Mantle 19.1 Alex Rodriguez 15.2 ALBERT PUJOLS ????
It’s tough to find too much meaning in those numbers given that most of those careers finished decades ago–and the one recent player, Alex Rodriguez, is still adding to his total–but clearly the odds are stacked against Pujols being worth anywhere near as much from age 32 on as he was from 21-31. In fact, the highest WAR total in MLB history after age 31 belongs to Barry Bonds at 86.5 and even that’s lower than Pujols’ mark through age 31.