Albert Pujols was voted by a panel of ESPN MLB writers, analysts and contributors as the best player in Major League Baseball heading into the 2012 season.
Wondering why those who are in the top 10 were picked in those spots? Here are some numbers to know about each of the top 10 players in the ESPN 500.
Albert Pujols –- Pujols is in very elite company. He’s one of six players to hit 400 career home runs and bat at least .325. The other five: Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams, Lou Gehrig and Stan Musial. Pujols’ 445 home runs through his first 11 seasons are the most all-time through a player’s initial 11 years in the majors.
Roy Halladay -- Halladay has 170 wins and a 2.97 ERA, averaging almost 210 innings per year over the last 10 seasons. The last pitcher to average 17 wins and 200 innings a season, over a 10-season span, and do so with a sub-3.00 ERA was Greg Maddux from 1995 to 2004.
Miguel Cabrera -- Cabrera has led the American League in at least two significant offensive categories in three of the last four seasons. Cabrera’s .977 OPS over the last six seasons trails only Albert Pujols in that span.
Justin Verlander -– Verlander won both the AL MVP and Cy Young awards in 2011, the first pitcher to win both since Oakland’s Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and the first starter to do so since Roger Clemens in 1986. Over the last three seasons, Verlander leads the majors in wins (61) and strikeouts (738) and is third in opponents BA (.221).
Felix Hernandez -- Hernandez and Roy Halladay are the only two pitchers to average 240 innings per season over the last three seasons, and his ERA, when adjusted for ballpark, ranks second to Halladay in that span as well.
Ryan Braun –- Braun has led all major league outfielders in batting average (.318), RBI (328), runs (323) and doubles (122) over the last three seasons. The 2007 NL Rookie the Year and 2011 NL MVP has hit 161 HR in his first five seasons, the 10th-most by a player in his first five seasons.
Clayton Kershaw –- Kershaw is second to Roy Halladay among National League starters in both wins and ERA, but leads in strikeouts and opponent batting average over the last two seasons.
Troy Tulowitzki -- Over the last three seasons, Tulowitzki has 89 home runs, 34 more than any other player whose primary position is shortstop. His OPS+ of 134 also tops all shortstops in that span. Tulowitzki also ranks third among shortstops over the last three seasons in Defensive Runs Saved.
Tim Lincecum –- Since making his debut in May of 2007, Lincecum has struck out at least 10 batters in a game 31 times, the most in the majors over that span. His 977 strikeouts over the last four years is tops among all pitchers.
Robinson Cano -- Cano has led major-league second baseman in both slugging percentage and OPS in each of the last two seasons. This season, he will likely break the Yankees record for career home runs as a second baseman, a mark currently held by Tony Lazzeri (147- eight more than Cano) that has stood for more than half a century.