Since Bobby Cox suggested that Albert Pujols is worth double that of Ryan Howard, I thought I’d see how insane that might be by looking at the numbers.
Both players are winners, having been in a couple of World Series, winning one each and both play in the National League at first base. Both seem like decent guys – though Pujols probably has a bit more of a “do good” reputation than Howard. It’s not like Howard isn’t a good guy, but Pujols has a reputation for being near sainthood.
As a hitter, Ryan Howard was devastating in 2006 when he hit 58 homers, drove in 149, and batted .313. That year, however, Albert Pujols hit .331, had a higher slugging percentage and a slightly higher on base percentage. And, of course, Pujols was a far better fielder – saving his team about 26.3 runs while Howard cost his team about 15.6.
Since then, Howard actually went into a decline for two years before coming out of it in 2009. He has, to his credit, become a better fielder – but Pujols is arguably the best first baseman with the glove in the National League. And, Pujols, despite having an elbow on the verge of needing surgery, continued to hit. He declined a bit in 2007, but rebounded with two more years that were better than Howard’s first. Pujols has three years that were more productive than Howard’s best year, and his worst season of the last four would be better than all of Ryan Howard’s seasons save 2006.
Let’s get to the raw numbers:
By my count, Ryan Howard has generated about 519 runs for his team offensively, which is an impressive number – nearly 130 runs a year, which is about 50 more than the average player. Defensively, I show Howard has saved his team another 5.7 runs. So – the net is about 525 total runs.
Albert Pujols has generated 645 runs with his bat. He may not have Howard’s raw home run numbers, but he has a better batting average, slugging percentage, on base percentage, steals bases from time to time, and strikes out one third as often. (Howard might be slightly better stealing bases – 10 for 12 in the last four seasons and 8 for 9 in 2009 where Pujols is 32 of 47. Pujols was 2 for 8 in 2007, but has been better in the other three years, including going 16 for 20 last year.) Defensively, Pujols has saved his team 141.4 runs – so the net is about 786 runs. If Howard is 50 runs per year better than the average player, Pujols is about 115 runs better than the average player every year.
If you go by flat contribution, Albert Pujols is 50% more productive than Ryan Howard (196 runs per year to 131) – so give him 37.5 million a year for a few years… If you grade by distance above the norm, Pujols is twice as valuable as Howard.
Bobby Cox wasn’t exaggerating by too much.