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Tuesday, June 3
 
Historical similarity: Pujols much like DiMaggio

ESPN.com

Albert Pujols has been an offensive machine through his first two-plus seasons in the major leagues. In fact, hitting has almost come too easily for the Cardinals' slugger, who has produced huge numbers since he entered the league as a rookie in 2001.

Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio was a three-time All-Star and World Series champion at age 23.
So let's look at Pujols' numbers from a historical perspective. To judge how brilliant Pujols has been, who in major-league history does his young career compare most favorably to so far?

Bill James devised a statistical method called Similarity Scores in which one could compare players throughout history at the same age (looking at similarities in games played, at-bats, runs scored, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, RBI, walks, strikeouts, stolen bases, batting average and slugging percentage). The comparisons are made once a player has completed a season at a particular age.

Based on Similarity Scores, below are the Hall of Famers whose careers matched up the best with Pujols after last season, when he was 22.

However, now that Pujols is in the midst of his season at age 23, we've included the players' numbers after their 23-year-old seasons.

First, here are Pujols' career numbers through Tuesday:

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG OPS
365 1,418 287 469 111 6 89 313 169 186 .331 .406 .606 1.012

And here are the top five Hall of Fame comparisons to Pujols, with their numbers through their seasons played primarily as 23-year-olds:

1. Joe DiMaggio
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG OPS
434 1,857 412 615 111 43 107 432 147 97 .331 .380 .610 .990
All it takes is one glance at the stats to see how eerily similar Pujols' numbers are compared to DiMaggio's -- the same batting average and nearly the same slugging and on-base percentages. Coming to the Yankees fresh from the San Francisco Seals, DiMaggio hit the ground running as a major-league rookie in 1936. As a 23-year-old in 1938, DiMaggio was still a year away from his first of three MVP seasons, but he had already established himself as one of the majors' most dangerous hitters.

2. Joe Medwick
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG OPS
477 1,955 347 641 138 42 61 342 79 208 .328 .355 .535 .890
By the time he was 23, Medwick had already been part of one of most unusual occurrences in World Series history -- his removal, for his own safety, from Game 7 in 1934. The Tigers fans threw garbage at him when he took his place in left field after he had hit a triple and slid hard into third baseman Marv Owen. As a hitter, though, Medwick was anything but garbage. A notorious bad-ball hitter, he was the top offensive force of the Cardinals' "Gas House Gang" and eventually won the NL's last Triple Crown in 1937.

3. Hank Aaron
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG OPS
579 2.294 387 718 125 35 110 399 171 212 .313 .358 .541 .899
Life at age 23 couldn't have been better for "Hammerin' Hank." Why? Because it was 1957, the year Aaron became a baseball superstar. Although he won his first batting title the previous year, he won his one and only NL MVP award in 1957, leading the league in home runs, RBI, runs and total bases, and leading the Braves to their first World Series championship since 1914.

4. Stan Musial
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG OPS
455 1,699 315 584 135 44 36 254 226 72 .344 .419 .538 .957
At age 23, Stan was already "The Man." He ascended to "Man"-hood as a 22-year-old, in 1943, when he won his first of three MVP awards, leading the NL in batting, slugging, on-base percentage, hits, total bases and doubles. However, he had yet to develop into a significant power threat. He didn't start hitting home runs on a regular basis until 1948, when he hit a career-high 39 home runs. He proceeded to hit 30 or more home runs in six out of eight seasons and finished with 475.

5. Jimmie Foxx
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K BA OBP SLG OPS
493 2,165 461 710 126 48 116 498 344 281 .328 .413 .591 1.004
Because he debuted in the major leagues at 17, "Double X" was a veteran by the time he was 23. His best years were still to come, but the prelude wasn't too bad -- three straight 30-homer, 100-plus RBI seasons. He and Al Simmons formed one of the AL's top offensive duos and led the formidable Philadelphia A's to three straight World Series appearances, including titles in 1929 and 1930.






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