The Aughts are nearly over (unless you believe that the new decade doesn’t begin until Jan. 1, 2011…but that’s an entirely different topic).
Sporting News has put out the first of what figures to be a bunch of All-Decade teams, naming Albert Pujols as the player of the decade. Ichiro is in the outfield along with Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez.
It’s hard to argue with Pujols, as even Ichiro zealots would have to agree. It so happened that Ichiro and Pujols both made their major-league debut on the exact same day: April 2, 2001. Pujols (starting in left field) went 1-for-3 against Colorado. Ichiro went 2-for-5 against Oakland.
From those humble beginnings, both have had historic performances this decade. Ichiro has had 200 hits every year. Pujols has hit .300 with at least 30 homers and 100 RBI every year. In fact, he has averaged well above those marks (.334-43-129 is his typical season).
Ichiro has virtually the same lifetime average as Pujols at .333 (one point below Pujols’s .334). But when you put juxtapose their career stats, it’s just amazing what Pujols has accomplished even in comparison to as accomplished a hitter as Ichiro. Yes, I know they are completely different types of hitters, but I believe it’s impossible to argue that Pujols hasn’t been the superior player (even when you throw in defense, where Pujols is no slouch). No shame in losing a head-to-head comparison to Pujols, of course:
Pujols: 1,390 games, 6,042 plate appearances, 5,112 at-bats, 1,067 runs, 1,707 hits, 384 doubles, 14 triples, 366 home runs, 1,106 RBIs, 59 stolen bases, 30 caught stealing, 806 walks, 567 strikeouts, .334 batting average, .427 on-base percentage, .629 slugging percentage, 1.057 OPS, 172 OPS plus.
Ichiro: 1,416 games, 6,565 plate appearances, 6,060 ab-bats, 969 runs, 2,108 hits, 228 doubles, 67 triples, 84 home runs, 515 RBIs, 341 stolen bases, 79 caught stealing, 411 walks, 591 strikeouts, .333 batting average, .378 on-base percentage, .434 slugging percentage, .812 OPS, 118 OPS plus.
A couple of things jumped out at me: In 523 fewer plate appearances, Pujols has nearly twice as many walks as Ichiro — 806 to 411. That led to a 49-point advantage in on-base percentage for Pujosl, .427 to .378. And one thing that’s always puzzled me about Ichiro is his relative lack of doubles. You’d think a guy with his speed would get more, but this year, with 31, is the first time he’s exceeded 30 since getting 34 in 2001, his rookie year.
The other guy in the discussion for player of the decade would have to be our old friend Alex Rodriguez. Here are his stats (keeping in mind that unlike Pujols and Ichiro, he played in 2000):
1,517 games, 6,741 plate appearances, 5,708 at-bats, 1,184 runs, 1,732 hits, 284 doubles, 16 triples, 432 home runs, 1,232 RBIs, 176 stolen bases, 37 caught stealing, 847 walks, 1,238 strikeouts, .303 batting average, .401 on-base percentage, .586 slugging percentage, .987 OPS, 154 OPS-plus.
If you throw out 2000, and match A-Rod head-to-head for 2001-09, here’s what you get:
1,369 games, 6,069 plate appearances, 5,154 at-bats, 1,050 runs, 1,557 hits, 250 doubles, 14 triples, 391 homers, 1,100 RBI, 161 stolen bases, 33 caught stealing, 747 walks, 1,117 strikeouts, .302 batting average, .399 on-base percentage, .584 slugging percentage, .983 OPS, 153 OPS-plus.
Interesting to see the power numbers so close: 391 homers and 1,100 RBI for A-Rod, 366 homers and 1,106 RBI for Pujols. Look at the totality of the numbers, however,and the edge still belongs to Pujols.
Finally, there’s one more guy that has to be mentioned, of course, Keep in mind he played only eight seasons in the decade:
986 games, 4,072 plate appearances, 2,871 at-bats, 772 runs, 925 hits, 178 doubles, 12 triples, 317 home runs, 697 RBIs, 54 stolen bases, 9 caught stealing, 1,128 walks, 427 strikeouts, .322 batting average, .517 on-base percentage, .724 slugging percentage, 1.241 OPS, 221 OPS-plus.
in case you haven’t guess, this is the stat line of Barry Lamar Bonds, whose performance from 2001-04 is absolutely unreal (ahem). Definitely the best stretch of four seasons in baseball history, Babe Ruth included. You could definitely make a strong case for Bonds as the Player of the Decade, if you overlook the baggage and the fact he didn’t play in 2008 or 2009 (and managed just 14 games in 2005).
Here is the Sporting News All-Decade team, as well as other decade honors chosen by them:
C Joe Mauer
1B Albert Pujols
2B Jeff Kent
SS Derek Jeter
3B Alex Rodriguez
OF Barry Bonds
OF Ichiro Suzuki
OF Manny Ramirez
DH David Ortiz
SP Randy Johnson
RP Mariano Rivera
(Photos by Associated Press)