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double duty

if you want to share a thought about kirby puckett, alex fritz has a diary going on the subject.

last april, david pinto pondered albert pujols' chances of breaking the career record for doubles:

The record is 792 by Tris Speaker. Bill James believes a record becomes soft when the yearly leader's total is about 1/18th of the record. For the doubles record that would be 44 a season. Over the first four years of his career, Pujols is averaging 47 doubles a year.

Albert is entering the peak of his career. He's already had two seasons of 50 doubles. If he can put together 250+ doubles over the next five years . . . he'll have a shot at Speaker.

albert had an off-year in the doubles department in 2005, hitting only 38 of them; he had never hit fewer than 40 in any previous season. his career total now stands at 227, and his career average is 45 a year -- still better than the 1/18th standard pinto mentions. even if we just take the last two years (including last year's career low), pujols is averaging 44.5 doubles a season. so this remains a viable enterprise; albert may still be 566 doubles shy of the record, but he has a clean shot at it.

he will be 26 this season; how many players (if any) have ever hit 566 doubles from age 26 going forward? thanks to baseball reference's lists of career records by age, we can look up the answer: two. pete rose (2d on the all-time list with 746 doubles) hit 635 doubles from age 26 on; tris speaker hit 622. couple other guys came close: honus wagner knocked 551, stan musial (history's third-most-prolific doubleist, with 725) 540. one active player may become the third player to join this list: craig biggio, who since age 26 has hit 530 doubles. he hit 40 doubles last year and has averaged 40 a year over the last five; even if he falls off slightly (and who could blame him, he'll be 40 years old this year) biggio will likely cross the 565-since-26 threshold in 2006. he didn't hit for much power in his early 20s; his career total stands at just 604, so he has no shot to catch speaker. but he'll pass paul waner, paul molitor, and henry aaron this year to reach #9 on the all-time chart; he needs 37 doubles to pass honus wagner and get to #8, and 43 to pass yaz and reach #7. biggio may very well crack the top 5 before he hangs `em up, but he's no threat to the record.

pujols is a better hitter than either biggio or rose, so if he's blessed with their health and longevity it would seem with his reach to hit 565 doubles from today forward. let's break this down a little further. baseball prospectus' PECOTA system helpfully provides five-year projections of player performance, and it forecasts pujols to hit 200 more doubles over the next five seasons (ie, 40 a year), which would leave him 365 doubles shy of the record through the age of 30. anybody hit that many doubles after 30? yeah -- six guys done it, and biggio will make it seven this year (he has 359). the others of recent vintage include rose (464), edgar martinez (385), and molitor (365).

the new ballpark may have a major impact on albert's chances in this regard, but last year's low total appears not to have delivered a fatal blow to pujols' opportunity. his greatest obstacle will probably be his feet; plantar fascitis probably does not enhance a player's extra-base-hit total as he ages.