While his overall production looked much different during the latter portion of his career, Albert Pujols home runs will always be fun to watch. It helps that he’s a generational talent and a surefire first-ballot Hall of Famer. Thanks to 24 dingers in 2022, Pujols finished his career fourth all-time on the all-time home run list with 703.
With that in mind, it’s not shocking that he’s also second all-time in Cardinals history. The slugger has given us many opportunities to gawk over his performance since debuting in 2001, so why not do it more by revisiting some milestone Albert Pujols home runs, shall we?
Milestone Albert Pujols Home Runs
What we’ll do here is go through some of the big milestone home runs in Pujols’ soon-to-be Hall of Fame career. This will include his first dinger followed by his 100th, 200th, 300th, 400th, 500th, and 600th. We’ll also briefly discuss no.’s 660 and 661, which helped him pass Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list. Then, we’ll highlight him passing Alex Rodriguez for fourth before reliving his 700th homer and the final dinger of his career.
To finish things off, we’ll take a quick peek at a couple of memorable postseason performances that included him hitting tanks.
April 6, 2001: Home Run #1 vs. Diamondbacks
Through his first nine big-league plate appearances, Pujols collected just one single and was slashing .111/.111/.111. Then the calendar flipped to April 6th. He went 3-for-5 with the above home run, a double, three RBI, and two runs scored. From there, the rest is history.
Through 676 plate appearances as a rookie, Pujols slashed .329/.403/.610 with 37 home runs, 130 RBI, and 112 runs scored. That led to a 159 wRC+ and a 7.2 fWAR. He took home a Silver Slugger, appeared in the All-Star Game, finished fourth in National League MVP voting, and he absolutely ran away with NL Rookie of the Year honors. This was also one of the most powerful seasons by a rookie.
And so began one of the most ridiculous 11-year stretches by a player in MLB history.
July 20, 2003: Home Run #100 vs. Dodgers
The 2003 season was the second of five consecutive top-three finishes in NL MVP voting for Pujols while he was with the Cardinals, but he didn’t win the award this year. He came in second to some guy named Barry Bonds. That doesn’t mean Pujols didn’t put together a memorable year for the Cardinals, though. With a .359 batting average, he took him his first – and at this point, likely his only – batting title.
In addition to hitting 43 home runs with 124 plate appearances, he also led the league in runs scored (137), hits (212), doubles (51), and total bases (394).
September 30, 2005: Home Run #200 vs. Reds
When you hit your 200th career home run within your first five seasons in the majors, you know you’re on a historic track. That’s exactly what Pujols did in 2005, and he put the finishing touches on his first MVP campaign, finally breaking Bonds’ four-year streak. And since Jeff Kent won the award in 2000, Pujols was the first non-San Francisco Giant to win an NL MVP in the new millennium.
His 129 runs scored led the league for the third consecutive year, and he slashed .330/.430/.609 in 700 plate appearances. It was his fifth straight season of at least 30 homers and 100 RBI, but with another 41 dingers in this year, it was his third straight campaign with at least 40. It was also the fourth time he eclipsed 7.0 fWAR since debuting in 2001. Not bad.
July 4, 2008: Home Run #300 vs. Cubs
There have been three times in Pujols’ career when he produced a wRC+ of at least 180 in a season. The first one came in 2003 when he won the batting title, and the next two came in 2008 and 2009. The 184 wRC+ he put up in 2008 tied his 2003 mark for the highest of his career.
He finished the year with 8.7 fWAR, which was the third time he eclipsed 8.0…and he was just in his age-28 season. Unsurprisingly, 2008 was another MVP performance for Pujols, and he’d win it again the following year. In this campaign, he slashed .357/.462/.653 with 37 homers and 116 RBI. That slugging percentage and his 1.114 OPS both led the league.
August 26, 2010: Home Run #400 vs. Nationals
Slugging 400 career home runs by your age-30 season doesn’t happen all that often, but it did for Pujols. He finished a distant second in NL MVP voting to Joey Votto, but The Machine had himself a typically dominant year. He hit .312/.414/.596 with 42 homers, 118 RBI, and 115 runs scored. He led the league in all three of those counting stats.
In addition to taking home his sixth (and as of right now, final) Silver Slugger award, Pujols also nabbed his second career Gold Glove award at first base. Not too shabby for someone who is only really known for what he does with the bat.
April 22, 2014: Home Run #500 vs. Nationals
Pujols was already viewed as a generational talent by this time in his career, but there’s just something special about entering the 500-homer club, right? At the time he crossed the threshold, he became the 26th member to join, just cementing his place in baseball history even more than before.
In his age-34 season, this was the time when Pujols’ ridiculous yearly pace began to slow, but there was something to be proud about for his 2014 performance. Between 2001 and 2012, he had accumulated at least 30 homers and 99 RBI each time, and possibly more impressive, Pujols never played fewer than 143 games in a single season.
The 2013 season was the first time he didn’t reach that benchmark, appearing in just 99 games for Los Angeles. In 2014, he bounced back by playing 159 games. His production was a far cry from his St. Louis days, but he still put together a 123 wRC+ and 2.7 fWAR with a .272/.324/.466 line, 28 homers, and 105 RBI. He even earned some down-ballot AL MVP votes, finishing 17th.
June 3, 2017: Home Run #600 vs. Twins
By the time 2017 rolls around, Pujols’ overall decline was in full effect, but he was still holding strong in the counting stat categories. His .672 OPS through 636 plate appearances were easily the lowest of his career to that point, but he did slug 23 homers with 101 RBI. It will likely go down as the last time he’ll surpass both of those numbers in a single season, which was also the 14th time overall in his career.
In his age-37 campaign, the Angels probably expected this kind of thing to happen. However, they were likely wishing they would’ve reached the playoffs more than once before his performance came up this short compared to his paycheck.
When a player becomes the ninth player to ever hit 600 home runs, though, it doesn’t matter for that moment – it’s incredibly cool.
September 13, 2020: Home Run #660 vs. Rockies
The pandemic-shortened 2020 season made Pujols wait that much longer to pass Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time home run list. Through 163 plate appearances, he slashed .224/.270/.395 and hit just six dingers, but a couple of them were monumental in the grand scope of MLB history.
He took full advantage of being in the thin air at Coors Field, and it was a meaningful homer as well, giving Los Angeles an eighth-inning lead. It’s a shame that the pandemic prevented fans from seeing this moment in person.
September 18, 2020: Home Run #661 vs. Rangers
Again, it’s a shame nobody could be at the stadium to witness history, but it obviously didn’t matter to Pujols at that moment (nor should it have). Any time you see your name get pushed ahead of someone like Willie Mays, it’s hard not to be in awe of the work you put in to reach that point.
Thankfully for The Machine, he only had to wait five days to get himself past the Say Hey Kid. Imagine if he got stuck on 660 for the entire offseason? That would’ve been low-key excruciating, I think. Before he was released in the middle of the 2021 season, Pujols racked up a total of 222 home runs with the franchise, giving him a spot on the Los Angeles Angels’ all-time home run list for now.
September 11, 2022: Home Run #697 vs. Pirates
The Machine cranks out no. 697 for the lead in the 9th!!! pic.twitter.com/bVQXckoAdz
— MLB (@MLB) September 11, 2022
Pujols entered his final year in the big leagues with 679 home runs. That’s more dingers just about everyone in baseball history, but he still had an uphill battle to pass Alex Rodriguez for fourth place all-time. Well, The Machine is turning the clock back in the second half to get the job done.
After slugging just six homers with a .676 OPS in 173 plate appearances prior to the All-Star break, he’s gone off since returning from the midsummer classic. At the date of his 697th home run, Pujols had collected 11 homers with a 1.137 OPS in just 110 plate appearances for the Cardinals.
September 23, 2022: Home Run #700 vs. Dodgers
— MLB (@MLB) September 24, 2022
Pujols certainly knows how to enter an exclusive club in style, right? He came into this game against the Dodgers sitting on 698 home runs. In an 11-0 Cardinals rout, The Machine launched not one, but two homers to make history.
Every time I watch this, I can’t help but get goosebumps. Who knows when we’ll get to see something like this again? The pure joy on his face while going around the bases was wonderful, too. The best thing he probably said regarding all this was about the baseball (quote via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register):
“Souvenirs are for the fans. I don’t have any problem if they want to keep it…If they want to give it back, that’s great. But at the end of the day, I don’t focus on material stuff.”
October 3, 2022: Home Run #703 vs. Pirates
Talk about finishing your career with a flourish, right? After those six homers prior to the All-Star break, Pujols slugged 18 dingers with a .323/.388/.715 triple slash in 178 second-half plate appearances. Between April and July, he didn’t hit more than three homers in a month. This included no homers at all in 13 June games.
In August and September, though, Pujols didn’t hit fewer than eight in a month. It’s interesting how much better he was on the road compared to playing at home in 2022, as well. In St. Louis, the right-handed slugger collected 10 homers while slashing .245/.343/.490. As a visiting player, he hit 14 homers along with posting a .293/.346/.604 line. His .950 road OPS was more than 100 points better than it was at home (.833).
October 22, 2011: Three Home Runs in Game 3 of World Series
Although he hasn’t experienced much playoff baseball in the past decade, Pujols made several stops in the postseason during his tenure with the Cardinals. His 19 postseason home runs are among the most in MLB history, and while St. Louis beat the Texas Rangers to take home the 2011 World Series title, Pujols didn’t dominate like we were used to seeing.
The first home run in the above video was his first one of that specific Fall Classic, and he enjoyed doing it so much that he hit two more before the 27th out was recorded. Those accounted for half of his total hits during this matchup, as he slashed .240/.424/.640 in 33 plate appearances.
October 17, 2005: Taking Brad Lidge’s Soul in Game 5 of NLCS
Sure, the Houston Astros ended up winning the NL pennant, but whenever I think of Albert Pujols home runs, this is of the first ones that come to mind. This was part of a two-year stretch where he completely tortured Houston pitching in October. These teams met in the 2004 NLCS, as well. Pujols was named series MVP after hitting .500/.563/1.000 with four homers and nine RBI in 32 plate appearances. His performance was a little more normal in 2005 but still dominant – he slashed .304/.320/.565 with two homers and six RBI. This specific home run briefly took Brad Lidge’s soul out of his body.
Through the hurler’s first four MLB seasons, he owned a 2.71 ERA in 259 innings of work. In 2006, that number jumped up to 5.28 in 75 innings. He recovered a bit in 2007 with a 3.36 ERA but was a perfect 41-for-41 in save opportunities with a 1.95 ERA through 69.1 innings for the World Champion Phillies in 2008.
But, still, this home run did something to him, and it’s possible it hasn’t landed yet. Check out all of his October dingers, as he’s currently one of the players on our most home runs in postseason history leaderboard.