Judge, Pujols Hoping to Reach Milestones
Aaron Judge and Albert Pujols have been two of the best stories in baseball over the last few months. Both players are at different stages of their careers. Judge is set to enter free agency this fall with an opportunity to receive one of the largest contracts in league history, while Pujols plans on retiring at the end of the season.
Despite the differences in their seasons and the stages of their careers, both players have played pivotal roles in their teams’ success this season. Each could reach milestones over the course of the next few weeks.
Albert Pujols Hopes to Hit 700th Career Home Run
The best seasons of Albert Pujols’ career undoubtedly came from 2001-2011, when Pujols played for the St. Louis Cardinals. Pujols won the Rookie of the Year Award, three MVP awards, six silver sluggers, two gold gloves, a batting title, and most importantly, two World Series during those seasons.
Pujols reached free agency after the 2011 season and chose to sign a contract with the Los Angeles Angels. Pujols was selected to the All-Star Game during his fourth season in Los Angeles, but the Angels never had significant success in the postseason during his time in LA.
Ultimately, Pujols was designated for assignment and eventually released by the Angels last season. He played most of last season for the Dodgers. Across 109 games last season for both the Angels and Dodgers, Pujols had a .717 OPS while hitting 17 home runs.
When Pujols returned to the Cardinals this offseason, he announced that this season would be his final one in Major League Baseball. Pujols began 2022 with 679 home runs, 21 away from hitting 700 home runs in his career; a feat accomplished by only three other players; Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, and Babe Ruth.
Pujols will likely join two of those players in the Hall of Fame after he retires, and he will almost certainly be considered one of the best right-handed hitters in the history of the MLB in the future. However, this season, the focus surrounding Pujols is the pursuit of his 700th home run.
At the start of the season, it seemed unlikely Pujols would be able to reach 700 career home runs. The Cardinals planned to use him as a designated hitter, primarily against left-handed pitchers. While it wasn’t clear whether or not Pujols would be a part of the Cardinals’ everyday lineup at the start of the season, during the course of the year, he has become one of the main reasons St. Louis will likely win the National League Central.
Pujols has been phenomenal this year. Across 99 games, Pujols has hit .262/.338/.513 in addition to 1.3 WAR, which means he now has 100.8 WAR throughout his career. Most importantly, Pujols has hit 19 home runs, and is now just two home runs away from 700 home runs during his career.
There are 11 games remaining in the Cardinals season; two games against the Brewers, three games against the Dodgers, and six games against the Pirates.
It is worth noting that Pujols’ best career games have come against the Pirates; across 193 career games against Pittsburgh Pujols has hit 54 home runs, the third most he has hit against any opponent in his career; his career OPS against the Pirates, 1.098, is his best against any opponent. Pujols could make baseball history over the next few weeks, and finish his career with another incredible achievement.
Aaron Judge Aims to Make American League, MLB History
In the American League, Aaron Judge is also hoping to reach a milestone. Judge has hit 60 home runs this season, he is only one home run away from both Yankee and American League history, as he hopes to tie Roger Maris’ 61 home runs.
Judge has been the favorite to win the American League MVP award for almost the entire season. This year he has hit 27 doubles in addition to his 60 home runs while adding 128 RBI, more than 160 hits, and an OPS of 1.126. New York almost certainly would not be leading the AL East or have the second-best record in the American League without him this season.
As a result, Judge could win the American League Triple Crown, something Pujols’ teammate, Paul Goldschmidt, is hoping to achieve in the National League this season. Judge would be the first player to win the Triple Crown since Miguel Cabrera did so in 2013, a season in which Cabrera also won the MVP award.
Over the past several seasons, Judge has been one of the best players in the MLB. In his most recent two seasons in which he played more than 140 games, 2017 and 2021, Judge hit 52 and 39 home runs respectively, and finished in the top five in votes for the MVP award in each season.
Judge has the opportunity to establish himself as one of the most important players in the history of the New York Yankees, even if he departs the organization during free agency this offseason. His opportunity to reach Maris’ record is unique, and one of the most memorable storylines of any recent MLB season.
In 2022, baseball has returned to headlines and similar emotions to the summer of 1998 and Barry Bonds’ 73 home run season. Over the next few weeks, two players, a few weeks away from an opportunity to win the World Series, are hoping to become a part of baseball history.