Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball. Pretty much everyone agrees with that assessment. Oh, you might get a few Votto votes, but Cabrera has pretty much dominated the offensive world for the past three seasons. It was not long ago when that title belonged to Albert Pujols. The run Pujols put together in his first ten seasons rivaled any player that has ever played the game. It seems strange to say that now, doesn't it? Since his last season in St. Louis to his first two years for the Angels, Pujols seems a cut above ordinary. But even the great Miguel Cabrera could not match Pujols at his best.
If you put their first ten years side by side, Pujols comes out on top in just about every category. Pujols had 98 more hits, 40 more doubles, 86 more homers, 205 more walks, 107 more runs driven in and over 200 more runs scored. In some bit of fairness, Pujols had 308 more plate appearances. But even then, there would have been no way for Cabrera to catch up to those numbers.
This is not knocking what Cabrera has done after his first ten years. This exercise is just to show how good Albert Pujols really was. Perhaps you might also argue that Cabrera had all those years with the lowly Marlins to depress his totals. Fair enough. Then just take Cabrera as a Tiger and compare it to Pujols' Cardinal years and he still cannot match what Pujols did.
For example, Cabrera has an amazing 161 OPS+ during his six years with the Tigers. Pujols was at 170 for his ten years with the Cardinals. Cabrera has a .404 on-base percentage with the Tigers. Pujols was at .420 for the Cardinals. Cabrera has a .585 slugging percentage with the Tigers. Pujols slugged .617 with the Cardinals. Heck, Pujols even stole more than 40 bases more than Cabrera in their first ten years as ballplayers in the majors.
About the only thing you can give Cabrera when comparing the two players through their first ten seasons is that he hit into nine less double plays.
The big question for the future is whether Cabrera can keep up the pace of his hitting longer than Pujols did. Since joining the Angels in his Age 32 and Age 33 seasons, Pujols has hit at an .825 OPS pace. That is so far below his career average that it seems like a totally different player. If you look at both players from their Age 27 seasons to their Age 30 seasons, they are too close to call.
Can Cabrera keep up the pace better than Pujols has? Or will he too decline dramatically a couple of seasons from now when he too hits his Age 32 and Age 33 seasons?
The one thing that gives Cabrera fans hope that he can maintain his peak longer than Pujols is that his trend is totally different. Take a look at their two wOBA charts from Fangraphs.com:
The top chart shows not only that Pujols had an amazing peak and hovered around the .400 wOBA mark for years, but also that there has been a sharp decline for four years now. On the bottom graph, or Cabrera's, the trend is up, up and away.
That is not to say that Cabrera will not start to slow down as he goes past thirty like Pujols has. They have similar body types despite Pujols being more of a workout guy with less body fat. Let's just say that Cabrera is trending better and has a chance to stay better.
While it is true that Albert Pujols has been a disappointment since joining the Angels, especially for that contract he signed, the other truth is that this generation of baseball fans has had a chance to see two of the really special careers in the history of baseball. Someday we will look back and reflect on both careers and say, "Man, they were awesome offensive players."