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TeamBoone
05-26-2006, 02:02 PM
05/25/2006

How many? Everyone wonders
By Derrick Goold / ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH


The only thing as scarce as Barry Bonds' comments to the media who've been on his trail has been his home runs in the weeks he's spent pursuing and tying Babe Ruth. But as he emerged from the San Francisco Giants' dugout for batting practice earlier this week, a subject shouted from the crowd pierced his protective bubble.

The question was about Albert Pujols and his pace to take a run at Bonds' single-season home run record of 73.

"I love it," Bonds bellowed. "I hope he shatters it."

The harmonic intersection at AT&T Park this week of the Cardinals' burgeoning star and the Giants' withering slugger offered a reason to calculate output, to speculate whether Bonds' 73 was in jeopardy. But, in May, it's an impulsive stretch to expect any such shattering. Yet, with the first five seasons Pujols has had and his record-setting start to 2006, it's possible that 10, 12 years from now he'll be pulling up alongside the Babe with an eye on Bonds ... and beyond.

"Hank Aaron (the all-time leader at 755 homers) had his consistency, and the more you go out into the future the harder it is to predict that," said Nate Silver, an author for Baseball Prospectus and the creator of the PECOTA measure that helps predict a player's production. "Pujols is a fantastic offensive player and a fantastic player at 26. He'll likely be a fantastic player at 30. But Hank Aaron was one at 38, 39. ... If you say Pujols will hit 45 home runs a year for the next 15 years, well it's not that simple.

"But there is an argument that Albert Pujols might just do that."

Entering tonight's series opener at San Diego, Pujols has 23 home runs in his team's first 47 games. Although on pace to break the record, Pujols is slightly off the pace Bonds had in 2001 when he broke Mark McGwire's record of 70 home runs in a season. For further reference, Ruth hit his 23rd in late June 1927 on his way to 60. Pujols was the fastest to reach several homer mile markers, including a record 14 homers in April.

When Pujols hit his 22nd home run Sunday - his third in three days at Kansas City - the Cardinals first baseman had twice as many homers as he did strikeouts.

Check his age. Check his steady production.

It doesn't take calculus to spot the 700-club possibility.

"I don't look to pace; I don't look to numbers," Pujols said. He went on to explain his goal is to be the "best player who ever plays baseball," but the numerical accouterments of such a title are things to look back on, not tally daily. "Retirement things," he called it.

"I don't think it's smart and productive for Albert, and it's not productive for our team to get into a discussion about home runs," manager Tony La Russa said. "These numbers happen as the result of doing something right. Play the game. Just play the game, and whatever the numbers are the numbers are. ... (Pujols) is the best I've ever been around at absolutely ignoring the numbers and counting them up at the end of the day."

At the request of Sports Illustrated, Silver did count the homers to give the magazine a view of who might be in the top 10 all time in 2020. Silver's projected top 10 had familiar new members - Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez and Pujols - and perhaps a surprise in Cincinnati's Adam Dunn.

Silver put Pujols' total at 620, behind Griffey (637), Dunn (638) and Rodriguez (678). The only three with 700 or more in Silver's PECOTA-based figures are the three who already have 700.

"We use both favorable and unfavorable comparisons because careers and production can end prematurely," Silver said of using numbers from similar players to help determine career projections. "I would say it's a little conservative, but it's designed to be conservative. One or two injuries and a little bit becomes a lot more missed (homers). But there are also a lot of possible scenarios where realistically he could have 800-plus home runs."

That's the undiscovered country that the Sabermetric bible, Bill James' Handbook, has Pujols ticketed for. With five seasons to use, James' 2006 edition projects for the first time Pujols' career totals, and after the 3,845 hits predicted is an astounding 830 home runs. That's 14 more than James' calculations assign to Rodriguez.

The projections assume health, a dicey leap.

It's why another of James' creations, nicknamed "The Favorite Toy," offers a more tangible measure of Pujols' chance at cracking the 700 Club. The "Toy," using a players' track record and the reality of regression, offers a probability for reaching career milestones. Accordingly, Pujols has a 42 percent likelihood of hitting 600, a 23 percent likelihood of reaching 700 and a 16 percent likelihood of surpassing Aaron's 755.

That was before these 47 games.

Pujols' 23-homer binge to start this season, Silver estimated, added 50 or 60 home runs to his lifetime projection. Jim Henzler of STATS Inc. recalculated the "Toy" percentages and found Pujols has upped those "substantially." If he gets to 60 home runs this season, Henzler says, Pujols' chance at reaching 715 leaps to 45 percent. Hitting 755 rises to 37 percent.

Those are pencil-and-paper musings.

It's the bat-meets-ball math that matters.

"I've been asked how many he could hit, but I don't put any credence in it," Cardinals hitting coach Hal McRae said. "It's fun for the fans, fun to fantasize and visualize and anticipate. But it doesn't sit well with me. It doesn't sit well with him. ... Health means so much when you talk about huge numbers like that. If a guy stays healthy, he's got a shot. I've seen great players just limp in, though, a shell of themselves. Longevity, health and skill - those are the keys.

"I don't like the word 'pace.' I like 'consistency' better. Pace changes. But if he's consistent, the numbers will take care of themselves."

Through his first five seasons in the majors, Pujols has been uncannily consistent. He has cranked out consecutive seasons of at least 115 RBIs, at least 30 home runs and at worst a .314 average. He has 224 career home runs, and with a few average seasons, he'd be halfway to 700 in 2009, an All-Star at the prime age of 29.

McRae said Pujols is swinging the bat better now than at any point in his MVP season of 2005. La Russa daily talks about how Pujols is improved, even from the hitter who hit .359 in 2003. There's the whiff of a triple crown in the rare air of Pujols' statistics so far. Giants manager Felipe Alou lauded Pujols' "level swing" and punctuated his comment with this observation: "That's the way Hank Aaron used to hit."

Hank Aaron, King Consistency.

Heady company. Complete with heady numbers.

"It's not the numbers at the end, but it's how did he arrive at those numbers," McRae said. "Was he there for the team consistently or did he have one or two hot weeks and then a cold two weeks? Or one or two really hot years and then (crawl) to the finish? The numbers might be the same, and they might be big, but was he there consistently?"

By the numbers

Barry Bonds is getting all the attention as he prepares to pass Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time home run list; however, two other current sluggers got off to better career starts and could one day challenge the all-time record.

Player Age career began Home runs at 26 Total home runs Retirement/current age

Hank Aaron 20 219 755 42

Babe Ruth 19 162 714 40

Barry Bonds 21 142 714 41

Alex Rodriguez 18 298 440 30

Albert Pujols 21 x-224 224 26

x-Pujols has not yet completed his age 26 season.

All ages are based on player's age on opening day.
http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/sports/stories.nsf/cardinals/story/2191B23A625B476E8625717A0021A899?OpenDocument

sdwagers
05-26-2006, 03:32 PM
for once I agree with Bonds. I hope Pujols shatters it as well.

...now I must go take a shower to cleanse an communion I've had with Bonds. Ugh.

Tommyjohn25
05-26-2006, 04:38 PM
The Reds fortunes aside, I would love it if Pujols passed him, and Bonds never passed Aaron. That leaves Bonds with no HR records.

TeamBoone
05-27-2006, 11:59 AM
I'm less than thrilled by the little innuendo toward the end of this article.


Saturday, May 27, 2006

McGwire and Sosa didn't save baseball in '98 but fans sure enjoyed it
Bruce Jenkins / San Francisco Chronicle

One of the most relevant tenets of the Barry Bonds-Babe Ruth conversation is that Ruth "saved" the game with his ostentatious power hitting and lifestyle after the Black Sox scandal of 1919. It's pertinent because that's the only time baseball ever needed rescuing. Contrary to modern-day lore, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa didn't save anything in their takedown of Roger Maris' home-run record in 1998.

I know a lot of writers who followed that saga first-hand, and I remember their tales of joy and rapture. Some said they were in tears during the especially poignant moments. A lot of grown men were made to feel like wide-eyed little kids again, and that's wonderful; I don't doubt it for a second.

From a distance, covering the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York that September, I didn't feel any of that. The game didn't need saving in '98, nearly four years after the soul-shattering cancellation of the World Series, just as it didn't need saving in the spring of '95. For those who love the game, it was "back" the moment they started playing again.

Sosa was a likable enough character in the Great Chase, but no more so than Roberto Clemente chasing down a fly ball, Harmon Killebrew taking his country hacks or Pete Rose during his 44-game hitting streak. Sosa had unbridled joy for the game and compassion for his rival, fair enough. The game's history is loaded with players who stood tall before the fans and media in times of high scrutiny.

As for McGwire, I could hardly stand to watch. It had nothing to do with "andro" or whatever steroids he might have pumped into his body. Aside from having grave concerns over the health risk ("I'm tellin' ya, man, you're gonna grow breasts"), I couldn't have cared less about that -- or the fact that deep down, McGwire was a distinctly sour individual in the public light, summoning a happy face for the media because he had no choice.

No, I just couldn't stand to watch him hit. He had the most pathetic stance of any power hitter of the post-World War II era, standing up there pigeon-toed as if to be imitating some two-bit loser he once saw in Double-A. He had a one-armed follow-through, and while that fairly defines greatness today (think Alex Rodriguez or Albert Pujols), that doesn't make it attractive to watch. Give me Reggie Jackson, nearly skewering himself into the ground with the violence of his approach. Give me Mickey Mantle, Ted Williams or the great Ruth himself, to go back into the realm of celluloid. There is nobility in the classic finish. It lends dignity even to the strikeout.

Why should that even matter? It's called style, the most crucial element in the evaluation of entertainment. It's Willie Mays over Curt Flood, Otis Redding over Neil Sedaka, Michael Madsen over Tom Cruise, Rafael Nadal over Mardy Fish. So McGwire hit 70 homers? He looked awful doing it. If that guy saved baseball, then Gary Lewis & the Playboys saved rock n' roll.

In light of what we now call the Steroid Era, everyone seems suddenly nauseated by what happened in '98. People feel they were duped, that they were watching some sort of chemically-enhanced cartoon. One out-of-town columnist, quoted in The Chronicle during spring training, claimed that McGwire, Sosa, Barry Bonds and others "turned baseball into a fraud, made it pro wrestling."

What a crock. You saw it, you loved it; don't spit it out. Sinister in retrospect, yes, but baseball was no more cartoonish in those years than it was in 1920, when Ruth's home-run total jumped from 29 to 54; in the expansion year of 1961, when Maris made the leap from 39 to 61 (and right back to 33 the following year), or in seasons when .393 wasn't necessarily a league-leading average.

Historically, it wasn't a whole lot more strange than foul balls not counting as strikes (the case in 1901, when Nap Lajoie hit .426), pitchers throwing legal spitballs or the handful of early-century World Series reportedly tainted by gambling.

Don't say you didn't know McGwire and Sosa were suspected of steroid use in '98, because they were, intensely, nearly 10 years after the Washington Post's Thomas Boswell wrote his famously public accusation of Jose Canseco. Most people just didn't care to know, that's all, and even the most respected baseball writers were used to looking the other way (believe me, if you intend on hanging around clubhouses for a while, it's the only way).

Come to think of it, how much less cartoonish is the game today? Not that anyone's making any accusations, but there's an awful lot of Sosa and McGwire in the rockets launched by Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard and Richie Sexson, and scrappy middle infielders continue to do amazing things. Ex-Giant Rich Aurilia, now with the Reds, hit a line-drive double to the opposite field in a game last month, except it wasn't a double at all, but a shot that somehow carried over the fence.

Man, that was weird. Strangely entertaining, too. Let's save the world before we get around to baseball.

E-mail Bruce Jenkins at bjenkins@sfchronicle.com.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/05/27/SPGLEJ3K9Q1.DTL

Matt700wlw
05-27-2006, 02:10 PM
for once I agree with Bonds. I hope Pujols shatters it as well.



So do I....make it legit again

OnBaseMachine
05-27-2006, 04:40 PM
I have about as much respect for Pujols as I do Bonds: none. No way I want him to break the record, nor do I think he will. In my mind the record is still 61 anyways.

KySteveH
05-28-2006, 01:23 PM
I have about as much respect for Pujols as I do Bonds: none. No way I want him to break the record, nor do I think he will. In my mind the record is still 61 anyways.
I'm not a big Pujols fan, necessarily, but I certainly don't put him in the same class of loathing as Bonds. Just wondering how come you don't respect him. Maybe there's something you've heard that I haven't.

saboforthird
05-28-2006, 02:05 PM
I'm not a big Pujols fan, necessarily, but I certainly don't put him in the same class of loathing as Bonds. Just wondering how come you don't respect him. Maybe there's something you've heard that I haven't.

Mighty big words there. :p: Nevertheless, Bonds "cheated" (and probably still is) and Pujols misplaced his own birth certificate.

OnBaseMachine
05-28-2006, 02:05 PM
I'm not a big Pujols fan, necessarily, but I certainly don't put him in the same class of loathing as Bonds. Just wondering how come you don't respect him. Maybe there's something you've heard that I haven't.

I hate his arrogant and cocky attitude.

(and the fact that he kills the Reds);)

saboforthird
05-28-2006, 02:18 PM
I have about as much respect for Pujols as I do Bonds: none. No way I want him to break the record, nor do I think he will. In my mind the record is still 61 anyways.

Great minds think alike. I have a feeling that you were lucky enough to see HR #61 by Maris. :D

OnBaseMachine
05-28-2006, 02:27 PM
Great minds think alike. I have a feeling that you were lucky enough to see HR #61 by Maris. :D

I was, like, negative 26 years old when Maris hit #61.:D

KronoRed
05-28-2006, 05:27 PM
I was, like, negative 26 years old when Maris hit #61.:D
That's really no excuse :p: