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.