Much has been written today about how much long-term skill retention to expect of Albert Pujols. Pujols signed a 10-year contract for many dollars today. Pujols will be 32 years old at the start of the 2012 season, with a chance to to be 41 at the start of the 2021 baseball season.
What might the future hold for the Los Angeles Angels and their new first basemen? The chart below hints at a couple possible futures, depending on how you read charts.
I tacked Pujols' career ratings to the hitter aging curve discussed in the last post. I shifted Pujols' ratings down so that his age-21 rating is 1500. This shows how his ratings have changed over time in direct comparison with the average rating changes of established hitters.
Click image for larger version.
Pujols' career arc loosely follows the overall hitters' arc. For any one player there will be a lot of noise, which is seen in the spikiness of the Pujols line. Despite that, the late-20s peak is still visible, as is a decline in recent seasons. Some might stop there with a sigh of disappointment, pondering only the implied descent of Pujols towards mediocrity.
This way of looking at the graph focuses on end points and slopes. What we might want to know is what can we expect of Pujols cumulatively over the next ten years. If we go by the data feeding the hitter aging curve for a player who plays from age 21 to age 41, and we split his career into two sections such that age 32 is the first season of the second section, we gain a rosier outlook. The player's average rating for his age 32 to 41 seasons likely will be about 30 rating points lower than his average rating for seasons spanning ages 21 to 31. Pujols RVL right now is 86. The curve then suggests his next tens years will average out to an RVL of 56. Here are some players whose career average RVLs were near 56: Mike Piazza, Al Kaline, Brian Giles, and Joe Morgan. That doesn't seem so bad, does it?