With his second home run of the ball game, in a 7-2 victory for the Los Angeles Angels over the Washington Nationals, Albert Pujols hit the 499th and 500th home runs of his major league baseball career earlier this week. Albert Pujols has been mashing baseballs since my early 20s, while I was still in college. My love of the Cardinals grew exponentially during my 20s and very early 30s - in large part because watching Albert Pujols was such an absolute joy. Despite him leaving the Cardinals for new found (ridiculous gobs and gobs of) money in Los Angeles, his swing - when correct, as it has been to start 2014 - is one of the prettiest sights in baseball. For reference, just watch the video in this link:
That's the story to his 500th homer at MLB.com
Back in 2007, Barry Bonds was still hitting home runs at a prodigious rate at the age of 42. Albert just turned 34 in January, FYI. In fact, Bonds had 54 home runs in 2006-2007 in 970 plate appearances. The reason he didn't have more? He got walked 247 times due to being so much better than everyone else at the time (81 of those intentional walks). In any case, after the 2007 season, Bonds ended his career with 762 home runs, 7 ahead of the previous home run king, Henry Aaron. His record of 762 career homers still stands 6+ years later and Albert Pujols likely has the best chance out of anyone in baseball to break it.
How would Albert go about doing that?
Pujols sits at 500 home runs after 1,979 games played in his 14th season (with around 140 games to go this year.) Another relevant fact is that his contract runs for 7 more seasons after this year ends. He will be 41 years old in his last season of his current contract.
Albert Pujols needs 263 more home runs to break the record and, if he plays out his contract and doesn't retire early, he will have approximately 1,150 games to do it - figuring 15-ish games off per season - he's averaged 11 games missed per season in his career, but 45.5 the last two years.
Let's get some perspective before we go any further. There are 8 players who had 600+ homers in their career (the 26 that have hit 500 is too much work for me to do tonight - and face it, you'd all lose interest after 10 or so anyway, right? RIGHT?) To make it an even 10, I'll add two more notables at the bottom:
Barry Bonds had 762 HR in 22 seasons and 12,606 PA. That's 34.6 HR/season and 16.54 PA/HR.
Hank Aaron had 755 HR in 23 seasons and 13,941 PA. That's 32.8 HR/season and 18.46 PA/HR.
Babe Ruth had 714 HR in 22 seasons and 10,622 PA. That's 32.5 HR/season and 14.88 PA/HR.
Willie Mays had 660 HR in 22 seasons and 12,496 PA. That's 30 HR/season and 18.93 PA/HR.
*Alex Rodriguez has 654 HR in 20 seasons and 11,334 PA. That's 32.7 HR/season and 17.33 PA/HR.
Ken Griffey Jr had 630 HR in 22 seasons and 11,304 PA. That's 28.6 HR/season and 17.94 PA/HR.
Jim Thome had 612 HR in 22 seasons and 10,313 PA. That's 27.8 HR/season and 16.85 PA/HR.
Sammy Sosa had 609 HR in 18 seasons and 9,896 PA. That's 33.8 HR/season and 16.25 PA/HR.
**Ryan Howard has 316 HR in 11 seasons and 5,112 PA. That's 28.7 HR/season and 16.18 PA/HR.
**Mark McGwire had 583 HR in 16 seasons and 7,660 PA. That's 36.4 HR/season and 13.14 PA/HR!
*Note: Alex Rodriguez is the only player on this list that is currently listed as active. It is unknown if he will come back after his season long suspension in 2014 at this time.
**Ryan Howard (from STL) and Mark McGwire (played for STL) rank #3 and #1 (respectively) on average games it has taken them in their career to hit a HR and average plate appearances it has taken them in their career to hit a HR.
Thus far in his career, Albert Pujols has 500 HR in 13+ (13.1296) seasons and 8,643 PA. That's 38.1 HR/season and 17.29 PA/HR. Out of the list of 10 players above, Pujols would rank first in HR/season and 7th in PA/HR. He is fitting in quite well. As mentioned earlier, Albert Pujols is 34 this season. Those other 10 players (minus Howard) played well into their careers after 34. In fact, the 9 others averaged 806 more games after they turned 34. Since Albert has only played 21 games since turning 34, I think that's a good point to start. Albert already has 8 homers in 21 games and 97 PA after turning 34.
Also after turning 34 years old, the other players averaged:
(the aforementioned) 806 more games
3,284 more plate appearances
199 more home runs
a 4.05 G/HR - which translates to around 37.04 HR/season (figuring 150 games played)
16.50 PA/HR - which translates to around 36.34 HR/season (figuring 600 plate appearances)
Either way, those players averaged about 36-37 home runs a year - which is just below what Albert has averaged.
Albert needs 263 homers and has 7.8704 seasons remaining on his contract. He would need to hit 33.42 HR per season to break the MLB record for career HR if he finishes out his contract and retires. Assuming the same, plus only 150 games a year and 600 plate appearances a season, Albert had 1,179 games and 4,703 PA to go in his career.
Albert would have to hit one home run every 17.88 PA for the rest of his career - or a homer every 4.48 games - in order to break the record. It is doable, Albert. It's doable. Good luck; however, I hope none of them come against the Cardinals.