Milestones have always mattered in baseball, and one milestone that’s proven to be especially revered over the years is 700 career home runs. Only four players have passed that hallowed threshold in the past century and a half, although a fifth member could soon be admitted if Albert Pujols continues to clear the fences.
The three-time MVP is just seven dingers short of the mark in his 22nd — and final — year in Major League Baseball. Pujols insists he isn’t focused on joining his sport's most exclusive club, but bookmakers certainly are. Caesars has emerged as one of many sportsbooks offering odds on whether the St. Louis Cardinals slugger will hit his 700th homer before hanging up his cleats.
Albert Pujols career home runs at end of 2022
|Total Career Home Runs||Odds|
Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook on August 24, 2022.
So, can Pujols smash his way into the history books? Let’s examine his recent performance and crunch the numbers.
Pujols has been locked in lately
Pujols’ final season was expected to be little more than a victory lap, but the 11-time All-Star is playing some of the best ball in the twilight of his career. Far from an afterthought, “The Machine” is hitting .438 with eight home runs and 17 RBI over the past 28 days — including a pair of multi-homer games and a grand slam. That’s extraordinary production for any player, let alone one who tuned 42 way back in January.
ALBERT PUJOLS GRAND SLAM HE’S 10 AWAY FROM 700 pic.twitter.com/6pkuy29KKe— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) August 18, 2022
Pujols says he isn’t surprised by his performance, despite his advanced age. “This is what I expect of myself,” he recently told reporters. “I’m telling you, I feel like I can still play this game, and if I couldn’t, I wouldn’t still be here. When you put in the work and with the blessing of the Lord, you’re going to have success, and that’s what I’m feeling.”
It's a feeling that has extended throughout the clubhouse, as the Cards have won nine of their last 10 games to put a stranglehold on first place in the NL Central.
Pujols isn’t pressing
Another reason Pujols may top 700 homers — beyond his unshakeable confidence, of course — is the fact that he’s not fixated on achieving baseball immortality. Unlike some players who obsess over milestones, Pujols is just going about his business, focusing on quality at bats rather than ticker tape parades.
“I don’t get caught up in numbers,” he told USA Today. “If you were going to tell me 22 years ago that I would be this close, I would have told you that you’re freakin’ crazy. My career has been amazing.’’
That humble, workmanlike attitude has led to an eye-popping .514/.553/1.171 slash line over the past 14 days as he’s truly begun to catch fire.
Crunching the numbers
Pujols needs just seven more home runs over his final 39 regular season games to finish with 700. Assuming he plays in every game down the stretch, that’s one homer in every 5.5 games. Or, to think about it another way, one home run for every 22 at bats. That's an achievable mark for a player who, over the past month, has hit a tater in every 2.3 games and once in every six at bats.
It would have seemed unthinkable back in spring training, but Pujols is now poised to finish his 2022 campaign with 709 career homers if he can maintain his current pace.
Albert Pujols you are incredible! pic.twitter.com/wesDiK67ws— Cards Nation (@CardsNation13) August 21, 2022
Even if he cools off slightly, 700 or 701 home runs is still within reach. After all, we’re not talking about an undersized journeyman who’s suddenly found the zone. We're talking about Albert Freakin’ Pujols, a larger-than-life superhero who has hit 40 or more home runs in a season seven times, and has averaged a homer every 16 at bats over the course of his career.
Pujols is also well known for going into overdrive in August, when he has historically hit more home runs (133) than in any other month.
Pujols and the Cardinals will also benefit from a soft schedule during the final month of the season as St. Louis’ final 39 games include a combined 17 matchups against the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds, and Chicago Cubs. That's notable since the three clubs rank 1-2-3 in home runs surrendered this season.
With little to play for down the stretch, all three franchises may trot out a number of young, inexperienced hurlers who will be getting their first taste of big league ball.
Pujols’ sudden return to form has been one of baseball’s best feel-good stories in 2022. The two-time World Series champ has been an incredible ambassador for the game over the past two decades and it seems only fitting he should finish his career with the same fanfare with which it began in 2001.
Expect Pujols to finish the year on a high note with Over 701 home runs.