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Is Albert Pujols the greatest right-handed hitter of all time?

Aug 27, 2010, 5:40 PM EDT

Albert Pujols smacking his 400th career homer last night got me thinking about where he ranks among the greatest right-handed hitters in baseball history.
My favorite stat for across-era comparisons is adjusted OPS+, which puts a hitter’s production into the context of the leagues, ballparks, and run-scoring environments he played in. In other words, a .300 batting average, 25 homers, and an .850 OPS were a lot more impressive at Dodger Stadium in 1968 than at Coors Field in 2010.
Here are the all-time leaders in adjusted OPS+ among right-handed batters with at least 5,000 career plate appearances:

Rogers Hornsby      175
Albert Pujols       172
Jimmie Foxx         163
Mark McGwire        162
Hank Greenberg      158
Frank Thomas        156
Dick Allen          156
Hank Aaron          155
Willie Mays         155
Manny Ramirez       155
Joe DiMaggio        155
Frank Robinson      154

Based on that list you can certainly make an argument for Pujols as the greatest right-handed hitter of all time, but looking at career totals isn’t quite fair to all the retired guys because Pujols is still in his prime and has yet to experience a late-career decline that will likely bring his numbers down a bit.
So instead of career totals let’s take a look at adjusted OPS+ through Pujols’ current age, 30:

Rogers Hornsby      175
Frank Thomas        174
Albert Pujols       172
Jimmie Foxx         169
Dick Allen          164
Hank Greenberg      160
Jeff Bagwell        159
Joe DiMaggio        159
Willie Mays         158
Hank Aaron          157
Manny Ramirez       156
Mike Piazza         156

That paints a similar picture, although this time Pujols is slightly behind both Rogers Hornsby and Frank Thomas (which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who read my piece earlier this season touting Thomas as the most underrated hitter in baseball history). So, is Pujols the greatest right-handed hitter of all time? It’s probably too early to give him that crown, but that’s the path he’s definitely on.

  1. Spudchukar - Aug 27, 2010 at 5:57 PM

    Being a Cardinal fan, the analysis is intriguing. But Frank Thomas is not the most underrated right-hand hitter, Roger Hornsby is. Where is his statue at Busch stadium? Granted he was traded for Frankie Frisch and spent 6-7 years away from St. Louis before he returned for the last couple of years. But here is an amazing statistic. He made 50+ errors for St. Louis in his heyday and 30-40 many times. Maybe they were tougher on infielders in those days, but the stats are startling.

  2. tiger prez - Aug 27, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    Talk about underrated, looking at that list, it sure seems like Dick Allen has a Hall of Fame case. I know he was a jerk and all, but no one really seems to talk about him at all anymore.

  3. Bokosse - Aug 27, 2010 at 6:18 PM

    So underrated is RogerS Hornsby, apparently, that even Cardinal fans can’t get his name right.

  4. Paper Lions - Aug 27, 2010 at 6:28 PM

    Of course he is the best RHH ever. Pitchers are better than they ever have been, higher velocity, more pitches, better understanding of batter tendencies, more refined approaches to pitching. Whoever is the best RHH right now, is the best all time. Perhaps not the best compared to his peers, but the best in an absolute sense.

  5. Utley's hair - Aug 27, 2010 at 6:33 PM

    Damn, Aaron! What’s with all the stuff about Albert and the right today?

  6. kevinapps - Aug 27, 2010 at 11:15 PM

    I love Frank Thomas. He was one of my favorite non-Pirates when he was active.
    And Pujols is tremendous.
    But Hornsby is #1. And will likely remain #1 for a long time.
    Pujols looks like he’s in the Top 5…..but Hornsby’s stats are overwhelming.

  7. Spudchukar - Aug 27, 2010 at 11:18 PM

    Bokosse, you should get a job as an editor/proof-reader. Oops, my bad on the misspelling, however is this really how you spend your days? Whatever blows your hair back. I’m all for writing accuracy and all, but really shouldn’t your attention be focused on content, and allow for an occasional error. Persnickety, Parsimonious, and Pedantic. And lets face it, his nickname has always been the Rajah, without the S. It can happen.

  8. ken - Aug 28, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    The greatest hitter of all time was Ted Williams. He took his last breath of life knowing that no one had hit over 400 since he did it in 1941

  9. john j pileggi - Aug 28, 2010 at 10:49 PM

    He is a magnificent hitter, but he is not Aaron or Mays. It is a different game now.

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