One of the really interesting phenomenas of the 2011 Hot Stove League for Major League Baseball are the widely distributed comparisons between Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Let’s get something straight: Prince Fielder is not meaningfully comparable to Albert Pujols. Sure, they both play first base in the National League for pretty great teams. They’re also some of the best power hitters in Major League Baseball. They are free agents with teams throwing money their way as well. But, that’s where the comparisons end.
Pujols has been in the league for 11 seasons while Fielder has seven under his (very large) belt. Pujols has averaged 42 home runs per season and has a career batting average of .328. Fielder averages a very respectable 37 home runs each season and has a career average of .282.
Surprisingly, Prince Fielder made more money than Albert Pujols during the 2011 season — $15.5 million for Fielder and $14.5 million for Pujols. Of course, this is due to the one-year contract Fielder signed with the Brewers. His 2010 salary was just $11 million while Pujols brought in $14.6 million. Career-wise, Pujols has deposited $104 million into the bank while Fielder is part of the other 99% with a lowly $34.9 million. OK, maybe he’s not part of the 99%.
The best way to understand how much better Albert is than Prince is to take a look at Bill James’ similarity scores for both players. If you don’t know similarity scores, you should. It’s a simple metric that compares players’ careers. Perfectly similar players get a 1,000. Very similar players get a 900. Dissimilar players score in the 700 range and below. Read all about them at Baseball-Reference.com
When looking at Prince Fielder’s Similarity Scores, one can tell that he’s a pretty darn good player. He compares highly with Eddy Murray, Mark Teixeira, Darryl Strawberry, Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Howard, Jim Rice, and Kent Hrbeck.
Now, when looking at Albert Pujols’ Similarity Scores, it tells a completely different story. Hank Aaron, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Lou Gehrig, and Joe DiMaggio.
Fielder compares pretty highly with some great All-Stars and a few Hall of Famers and future Hall of Famers. Pujols compares to some of the greatest players to ever play Major League Baseball.
These GMs should not be fooled by cheaper generic substitutes for Albert Pujols. Fielder is a great player that will be an All Star in most years and will surely get a ring one day. But, comparing the talents of Fielder to Pujols — who already has two World Series rings and will go down as one of the 10 best players ever — is just silly.