Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Pujols vs. Howard

The Baseball world was abuzz yesterday with the presumed leak of a possible trade between the National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals. Though rumors of trades between teams are a common practice, the players involved in the trade are the reason for the excitement. The proposed trade would sent St. Louis Cardinal first-baseman and current league MVP Albert Pujols to the Philadelphia Philles for his defensive counterpart, Ryan Howard. Whether or not this deal is real or not is irrelevant (well except to Pujols, Howard and their respective organizations), for arguments sake, let's look at both players and see which one would be the better deal.

1. Age
Both players are 30 years old, with Howard being a few months older than Pujols. Edge=Even

2. Offense
Both players are MVP caliber players, though Pujols has the edge on Howard with 3 MVP awards to 1. Both players are offensive dynamos who can change a game with a simple swing of the bat. But it is in the areas of batting average, walks and strikeouts that separate Pujols from Howard.

Pujols' and Howard's Career Statistics

Now the career numbers are tilted towards Pujols' favor since he has played for 9 seasons while Howard has played for 6. Here are the average numbers for both players.

Pujols' and Howard's Yearly Average Statistics

Comparing the yearly average statistics for both Pujols and Howard, you can see that Pujols is the more domninating and efficient player. Where Howard is the prototypical power hitter who hits massive amounts of homers (49) while striking out more than he walks (194/90). Pujols is quite the opposite. While he also hits many homers (42), he is much more efficient at the plate in terms of his strikeouts to walks (94/66). Pujols also has a better batting average and OPS compared to Howard (Pujols' .334 BA to Howard's .279 BA/Pujols' 1.055 OPS to Howard's .961 OPS). Edge=Pujols

3. Defense
Both play first-base and though not in the same league defensively as Mark Teixeira of the New York Yankees both are very good first-basemen. The edge would go to Pujols here since he has the same amount of errors at first as Howard but with 3 more years on the bag (64). Pujols also has a slight edge on fielding percentage over Howard (.994 to .990). Edge=Pujols.

4. Meaning to Their Team
Both Pujols and Howard are extremely important to their teams, though I think that Pujols plays a more pivotal role to the Cardinals than Howard does to the Phillies. If you took Howard out of the Phillies lineup, they still have a team that is capable to win many games. Their lineup has the 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Jason Werth and Shane Victorino. Plus the Phillies have the luxury of throwing Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels on the mound every 5th day. On the other hand, if you took Pujols out of the Cardinals' lineup, you 'd be left with Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, Ryan Ludwick and Skip Schumaker with Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright on the mound. Not really the same effect. Edge=Pujols

5. Potential Free-agency
Both players are signed for a few more years with their respective teams. Pujols signed a 7-year $100 million dollar deal in 2004. Howard signed a 3-year $54 million dollar extension in 2009. Both players are currently making about $15 million per year but with free-agency looming large on the horizon for Pujols, it seems as if he will garner a contract similar (if not larger) than Alex Rodriguez's 10-year $275 million dollar deal. It remains to be seen if Pujols would take a hometown discount to stay with the Cardinals. Pujols had the following comments about his contract status with the Cardinals this past January:

“When that time comes, if it’s taking a discount to make this organization better, I want to have a great organization to be in the playoffs every year if we can,” he said.

“Right now I still have a couple of years,” he said. “That’s something that I don’t need to worry about right now. When my time comes, I’ll deal with that. Right now, my job is to let my agent do the talking and I’ll go and prepare for baseball. We’re open. We’re open to talk about it. I can tell you one thing, when the season starts we ain’t talking anything about it. Because my focus is to help this organization to win, and that’s it.

“If it comes to that [free agency], then that’s fine. That’s the decision that they decide to make, and that’s it. Do I want to become a free agent? No, but if it happens, then I have to deal with it. I want to play baseball, so I have to deal with my free agency and go play either here or somewhere else.”

After having signed Matt Holliday to a 7-year $120 million dollar contract this past offseason, will the Cardinals be willing to break the bank to sign Pujols? I think the thought of trading for Howard would mean a lesser contract to be given to Howard when he would be eligible for free-agency over the one that would be given to Pujols. On the flip side, would the Phillies be able to afford a contract of the size that Pujols would garner on the open market? Edge=Even.

As I told Pete yesterday after he notified me of the news of the trade rumor, both Pujols and Howard should be lifers with their teams as Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken and (hopefully) Derek Jeter are. A player of Pujols' caliber comes along once a generation if a franchise is lucky and since he wants to play in St. Louis, the Cardinals should make every effort to sign their franchise player for the long term. The price they pay will me made back with ease as Pujols continues to climb and knockdown record after record on his way to Cooperstown. On the other hand, Howard is no slouch by any stretch and I believe when it is all said and done, he will be mentioned in the same breath as Pujols and Teixeira as the premier first-basemen of this generation. Both players are adored in their home markets and should be the subject of adoration of hometown fans for years to come.

But if I was Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., the lure of being able to acquire the game's best player may be too much to ignore. Sorry Pete, I make the deal with no hesitation. What do you guys and gals think. Let me know.


For Further Reading
- An Article from StLouistoday.com on Pujols and LaRussa thoughts on the trade comments
- An Article from the Philadelphia Daily News about Buster Olney defending his comments on the trade rumors
- The article from ESPN.com by Buster Olney that announced the trade rumor and comments from Pujols and Howard
- A column from the Albert Pujols Fan Club page on his status with the Cardinals and looming free-agency


  1. Wholeheartedly agree. Ryan Howard is a beast, but El Hombre is probably the best player of this generation.

  2. Thanks Ruby. Funny you refer to Pujols as El Hombre. It is a nickname that he doesn't want have since he believes there is only one person in St. Louis who deserves to be called "El Hombre" and that is Stan "The Man" Musial. Check out this link for more info: http://www.albertpujolsclub.com/albert-pujols-news/call-albert-pujols-el-hombre/

  3. Just wanted to add this little article to the mix of players (aside from Howard) that teams may be willing to trade to get Pujols. What do you think: