Two days after Los Angeles Angels slugger, Albert Pujols made headlines for becoming the 32nd player to register 3,000 hits in the MLB, Red Sox closer, Craig Kimbrel reached a significant milestone of his own when he became the 29th pitcher to enter the 300-save club. But, what makes each player so great?
Beginning with Pujols, his single last Friday night made him only the 4th player in league history with both 3,000 hits and 600 home runs. Joining him on this short list, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, and Alex Rodriguez make the cut; putting Pujols with extremely elite company. For Pujols, this further increased the likelihood he is the greatest player born outside the United States in MLB history.
Currently, Pujols sits at 620 Home Runs and 1,938 RBI’s, giving him the number 1 spot among all foreign-born players who’ve participated in the MLB. Adding to this, Pujols currently sits only 10 homers away from 6th on the all-time home run list; while 58 more RBI’s will put him 5th in that category.
Considering Pujols has averaged 112.8 RBI’s per year and has not hit less than 95 since 2013, it is likely he will do so before this current campaign ends. To end with Pujols’ hitting accolades, the Dominican is also one of only 5 players to record at least three seasons of 50 or more doubles and is one of three individuals with both 600 home runs and 600 doubles. Although the long list of accomplishments for Pujols is significantly longer, his two gold gloves and single-season record for assists by a first baseman in 2009 solidified that Pujols was a multi-dimensional stud throughout his career as well.
Craig Kimbrel managed to reach a monumental milestone in baseball when he recorded save number 300 on May 6th of the 2018 season. Typically, accomplishing this is impressive, but it doesn’t necessarily guarantee one hall-of-fame status. For Kimbrel however, it should.
First, Kimbrel is not only the youngest player to accomplish the feat, but additionally, he did so in the fewest amount of games played. Furthering this, Kimbrel registered only 32 blown saves over this time, the lowest number by any pitcher in the 300-save club. For those still sceptical of Kimbrel being a hall-of-fame calibre player, it should also be kept in mind that Kimbrel’s 1.78 era and 0.91 WHIP over his career are the lowest amongst any of his 28 peers. At the moment, Kimbrel sits just under 500 innings pitched and is likely about halfway done his career. In spite of his relative youth, both Trevor Hoffman and Francisco Rodriguez (perhaps the two greatest closers in history) combined for fewer saves by their 30th birthday than Kimbrel currently has on his own. Lastly, his 14.7 strikeouts per 9 innings would be the greatest of all-time should he maintain it for another 500 innings. The task is unquestionably a hefty one, but at this pace, there’s no reason to believe Kimbrel cannot accomplish it.
Overall, both Kimbrel and Pujols should already be considered two of the greatest players at their respected positions.