Albert’s Magical Farewell Season

For his final season, Albert Pujols returned to his home state from his high school and college days and to the team for which he enjoyed his greatest successes. Probably both Pujols and the Cardinals expected his season to be largely a farewell tour, at most platooning at DH, giving first sacker Paul Goldschmidt an occasional day off his feet, and providing a bat off the bench when a pinch-hitter was needed. It turns out that Pujols must have taken a side trip to St. Augustine FL en route to St. Louis, as his season has become much more than he or the Cardinals might have expected, turning in one of the better seasons ever at his age, with some of the best rate stats of the back half of his career. More after the jump.

Pujols started his season in “farewell tour” mode, appearing in only 42 of the Cardinals’ first 81 games, and starting only three games in the field in that span. But, things changed after an eventful All-Star break at Dodger Stadium, where Pujols spent the better part of last season, contributing enough to earn a spot on the Dodger post-season roster. Pujols credits that Dodger experience with rejuvenating him, and it seems he got another jolt of rejuvenation at the All-Star break, making a surprising entry in the home run derby and, even more surprisingly, besting likely NL home run champ Kyle Schwarber in that competition.

Since the All-Star break, Pujols has been on fire, with second half ranks (min. 150 PA) including 2nd in the majors in SLG, OPS and OPS+ (behind you-know-who), and 3rd in HR. With that level of production, Pujols has become a fixture in the St. Louis lineup, playing (as of Sep 25) in 28 of the Cardinals’ last 29 games, including 20 starts over that period. Pujols’s season SLG, OPS and OPS+ are his best in more than a decade, since the final season of his first stint in St. Louis. His 1.6 season WAR is his best since 2015, and better than his 2016 to 2021 seasons combined (thus becoming the first player with positive WAR in an age 40+ final season that exceeds combined WAR over 1500+ PA for the 6 prior seasons).

For historical comparison, here are the best WAR seasons by players aged 42 or older (min. 50 games and 100 PA).

Rk Player WAR PA Season Age Team G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB Pos
1Luke Appling5.1619194942CHW1426194928214821555812124.301.439.394.833125194*6/H
2Carlton Fisk4.9521199042CHW1375214526512921018656173.285.378.451.829134204*2DH
3Barry Bonds3.4477200742SFG1264773407594140286613254.276.480.5651.045169192*7H/D
4Honus Wagner2.6485191642PIT123485432451241591393436.287.350.370.72112116063/H4
5Carlton Fisk1.9501199143CHW1345014604211125018743286.241.299.413.712971902HD3
6Sam Rice1.8324193242WSH1063242885893167134326.323.391.438.8281161269H87
7Tony Pérez1.7207198543CIN722071832560806332222.328.396.470.866138863H
8Albert Pujols1.6333202242STL103333292357713021582553.264.336.524.860145153DH3/1
9Ichiro Suzuki1.6365201642MIA14336532748951551223042.291.354.376.730102123H978/D
10Stan Musial1.3379196342STL124379337348610212583543.255.325.404.7281011367H
11Carl Yastrzemski1.3523198242BOS1315234595312622116725950.275.358.431.789111198DH3/8
12Julio Franco1.1361200445ATL12536132037991836573668.309.378.441.8181111413H/D
13Andrés Galarraga1.0293200342SFG110293272368215012421961.301.352.489.8411181333H/D
14Pete Rose1.0421198443CIN,MON121421374431071520344027.286.359.337.696991263H7
15Omar Vizquel0.9195200942TEX621951771747721141327.266.316.345.6607161654/H
16Enos Slaughter0.9160195842NYY771601382142414192116.304.396.435.83113360H97
17Deacon McGuire0.8159190642NYY511591441143500141217.299.365.333.698110482/3H
18Julio Franco0.7383200243ATL12538333851961316303975.284.357.382.739941293H/D
19Jack Saltzgaver0.7126194542PIT5212611720385301088.325.368.419.787115494H/5
20Sam Rice0.6367193444CLE973673354898191133289.293.351.364.715841229H7
Provided by Stathead.com: View Stathead Tool Used
Generated 9/26/2022.

Among this group of seasons, Pujols trails only Bonds in HR, SLG and OPS+, and ranks 5th in XBH and 8th in TB. With his second half power surge, Pujols joins Ted Williams as players with 20+ home runs in the first and last seasons of a career. (Quiz: which other two retired players have done this? Hint: both were active within the past decade). Pujols has had no fewer than four multi-HR games this season, twice as many as any other age 42+ player (before this season, there had been a total of only 9 such games, by 7 players). Pujols also becomes the oldest player with a final season including three multi-HR games in his team’s last 50 games of the season (Quiz: whose record did Pujols break? Hint: the previous record holder retired before age 35). With his 21st season with at least 17 home runs (missing only in the abbreviated 2020 season) Pujols passes Barry Bonds for the most such seasons.

With his surprising success in his final season, Pujols has reached a number of notable career milestones.

  • 100 WAR – now ranks 30th among all players, and 20th among non-pitchers
  • 3000 Games – has moved up 8 spots this season to rank 5th, and should pass Rickey Henderson for 4th
  • 13000 PA – has moved up 4 spots this season to rank 6th
  • 700 HR – passed Alex Rodriguez this season to rank 4th
  • 1400 XBH – passed Stan Musial this season to rank 3rd
  • 2200 RBI – maintained 3rd place ranking; needs 6 more to tie Babe Ruth for 2nd
  • 1900 R – passed Tris Speaker and Lou Gehrig this season to rank 12th
  • No milestones this season, but here are Pujols’s rankings for some other metrics.

While Pujols’ final regular season is drawing to a close, a final post-season awaits. Among 96 players with 50+ post-season games, Pujols ranks 1st in OBP, 2nd in BA and OPS, 3rd in SLG, 5th in HR, XBH and TB, 7th in R and RBI, and 8th in H and BB. Don’t bet against some more post-season heroics to come.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

30 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Richard Chester
Richard Chester
1 month ago

Sam Rice and Luke Appling are the only age 40 players to have more than 1 qualifying season with a .300+ PA. They each had 3 such seasons.

Mark
Mark
1 month ago

I’m intrigued by the quiz question but admittedly confused by the wording — there are two other players who have done “this,” meaning…20+ HR in first and last career seasons? Are Williams and Pujols not the only ones?

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

Williams and Pujols are the only players with 20+ HR in the first and last seasons of a 3000+ PA career. But, two others have done this in shorter careers of more than one season.

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug, is Kyle Seager one of the two?

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Not Seager. Only 3 HR in his debut season. But, 20 HR in every full season after that.

Haven’t checked but Seager may be the only player with career highs in HR and RBI in the final season of a career of any length.

The two players you’re looking for both have career PA under 3000.

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks for reiterating the criteria of under 3000 PA, as I glossed right over that the first time I read it.

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

How about Tommy Joseph?

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Did some checking on career best HR and RBI totals in final season. Unsurprisingly, some Black Sox players had such seasons, including Joe Jackson and Happy Felsch. But, only other player I could find who did this in a 3000 PA career was outfielder Doc Gessler, with a team-leading 4 HR and 78 RBI for the 1911 Senators (and also posting career highs in BB and OBP that year). Gessler also led the 1908 Red Sox with 3 HR and 63 RBI. There may be others, but Gessler is the first I could find to match Seager’s feat. According to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Mark
Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks, Doug, for the clarification. This one has continued to challenge me, and through a couple different paths of sleuthing, I think I stumbled on one:

Evan Gattis

It sure is an interesting profile of a player — 20 HR in a rookie season alone isn’t terribly common, and then for a player to achieve that but not have an eventual career last longer than 3000 PA…

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

Good teamwork Mark and Tuna,

Gattis and Joseph are the correct answers.

I’ve added a second quiz question, if you’re up to a serious challenge.

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

And that’s not the most interesting thing about Gattis’ career.
He had 1 triple in 2014, 11 in 2015, none the rest of his career.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UHordUNEyao

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Serious challenge, indeed. The only headway I’ve made so far has been confirming my guesses are wrong.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Few more hints.
– He had a career of more than 1000 games
– more than 25% of his career HR came in multi-HR games
– two-thirds of the multi-HR games in his career came in the last 50 games of a season (so his final season was true to form)
– he never had a 3 or 4 HR game
Troy O’Leary, Jay Payton and Orlando Merced are recent players on his B-R Most Similar list.

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

All those hints, and I still feel clueless. Fairly sure I’ve checked every player listed in the similarity score sections for O’Leary, Payton, and Merced, along with a few dozen others. What stands out to me after doing so is how rare it is for a player to end his career while still productive – particularly before age 35, as Seager did.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Indeed.

I just picked some numbers, and ran a search for players with 30 HR, 80 RBI and 120 OPS+ in the second-to-last season of a career.

  • Only 12 players on the list
  • Only one matched those totals in his final season
  • Only six of the 12 had qualifying PA in his final season
Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Albert Belle had over 100 rbi each of his last 9 years.
Joe Jackson’s only 100 rbi season came in his last year.

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Finally found the answer: Stan Spence. That was a good question, Doug.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Scary Tuna

Stan Spence is correct, with three multi-HR games for the Browns at age 34 in Aug and Sep 1949, his final season. It was surprising to me that it would take almost 75 years to find another player as old with that feat in his final season. Spence posted a career 125 OPS+ and was a 4-time All-Star in 5 seasons with the Senators. The always cash-strapped Browns had acquired Spence from the Red Sox together with the enticing sum of $100,000. The catch was St. Louis had to send rising start Al Zarilla, a 1948 All-Star with .871 OPS,… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Mark
Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks to you both, this was fun, the stuff for which I still keep in-tune with the HHS world here. May I ask how…either of you landed on Spence (Doug in the first place, and Tuna finally sleuthing it out)? I admit I’m not a Stathead subscriber, but I do love to see the formulas y’all come up with, and their fruits.

(For a moment, I thought Doug’s 30HR/80RBI/120OPS+ query was another clue to the quiz question! Ortiz was one first name I thought of and checked for the first quiz, before I realized the 3000 PA limitation.)

Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

Mark, I thought the same thing about Doug’s list before realizing it was data to back up my point of how seldom players retire as highly productive hitters. I believe the key to efficiently finding answers to some of these quiz questions is performing multiple Stathead queries, putting the results of each into a spreadsheet, and comparing. But as I didn’t do that, it took my a long time. My typical process refined over the years goes like this: Hunt and peck. Give up in frustration. Wait for Doug to post more clues. Repeat. Maybe Stan Spence could have been… Read more »

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Mark

Mark, I’m just blown away by Pujols’s revival this season. Nothing in his past 6 years would have suggested that a season like this was in the offing. Of course, most of his notable accomplishments came in the second half of the season, so possibly you might regard this simply as an extended hot streak (though it is a very extended streak, particularly as he finished the season as hot as he was). Anyway, I just noticed that Albert has those three multi-HR games near the end of the season and thought that that probably doesn’t happen much in a… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Mark
Mark
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks once more to you both for indulging me this much further! Tuna, I especially loved your “typical process” steps, ha! And Doug, thanks for that “behind the scenes” glimpse, really cool sequence of queries and such. Just reading today about Pujols contemplating retirement mid-season but then apparently tweaking how he was holding the bat, and then, boom — he should come back next year now! But of course we do get to see the ageless trio give it one more shot it the playoffs. Gosh I can’t believe I was still in college when I first heard of this… Read more »

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

Apropos of nothing in particular, in Toronto’s 10-0 whitewash of the Red Sox on Saturday, Blue Jay shortstop Bo Bichette posted a 4-0-4-0 box score line. Eighth such game this season (2nd by a player on the winning team) and 495th since 1901 (136th by a player on the winning team), but first of those games by a player whose team scored 10+ runs.

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Scary Tuna
Scary Tuna
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

How unlikely is that! Four for four, your team scores ten runs, and you neither score nor drive in a run. Even more odd, George Springer led off, reaching base on three singles and fielder’s choice in four appearances. Bichette batted second, advancing Springer to either second or third (twice each) through four singles in his four PA. Springer eventually scored once, but like Bichette didn’t drive in a run.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago

As I write this on Sunday, Pujols has upped his season HR total to 23, with his second blast of the weekend series against the Pirates. Also of note today is the last regular season game with a Wainwright/Molina starting battery, the most prolific in major league history. Pujols started this game at 1B, making it the first ML game with players aged 40+ starting at P, C and 1B.

Paul E
Paul E
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Doug,
I’ve got to believe that three 40+ year-old starters at any positions would be hard to find. The 1928 Phila A’s did start Cobb, Speaker and Jack Quinn on occasion but coming up with others off the top of one’s head isn’t easy….i.e – the 1983 Philadelphia Geezers had Perez and Rose but Joe Morgan wasn’t quite there, nor was Carlton.

Doug
Doug
1 month ago
Reply to  Paul E

You’re quite right. These are the ones that B-R finds. 1927 A’s – Cobb, Collins, Quinn, 6 games 1928 A’s – Cobb, Speaker, Quinn, 7 games 2006 Giants – Bonds, Alou, Finley, 14 games 2007 Mets – Alou, Conine, Glavine, 2 games 2007 Mets – Alou, Conine, Hernandez, 1 game 2007 Mets – Alomar, Conine, Hernandez, 1 game 2007 Mets – Alomar, Alou, Glavine, 1 game 2022 Cardinals – Wainwright, Molina, Pujols, 6 games (5 with Pujols as DH) Those 2007 Mets had a sixth age 40+ player, 48 year-old Julio Franco who started 7 times in his 40 games… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Doug
Paul E
Paul E
1 month ago
Reply to  Doug

Thanks !