- Dan Szymborski, ESPN Insider
Albert Pujols made history Tuesday night, becoming the 26th member of thr 500 Home Run Club. While it represents an impressive career achievement for the future Hall of Famer, any excitement around Pujols' 500th homer is a bit muted, given that it's a milestone eclipsed repeatedly in recent years.
And in the case of Pujols, it comes at a point in his career at which most of the coverage surrounding him has focused on his transformation from Albert Pujols, perennial MVP candidate, to Albert Pujols, ordinary first baseman. We should try and enjoy this one, however, as the decreased offense across the league is already having an impact on the offensive milestones we can expect to see over the next decade.
For Pujols, 500 was simply supposed to be a highlight on the way to challenging Ruth, Aaron and Bonds in that rareified air of legends with 700-plus HRs. His decline along with the decrease in offense throughout baseball has made this now a longshot candidacy. After the 2009 season, the ZiPS projection system had the mean expectation for the end of his career at 681 home runs. A year later, after the first season in what is now clearly a pitchers' era, that dropped to 673.
That number has continued to drop every season since, and was down to 626 before the start of the 2014 season. Pujols still has decent odds of hitting one more homer milestone at 600, but even with an excellent start to the 2014 season, it's highly unlikely that he'll see 700 on his future plaque. The lack of offensive milestones going forward won't just be limited to Pujols, however.
Here's a look at which current players have a chance at hitting some of baseball's most notable milestones.
500 home runs
The home run rate in baseball is now down nearly 15 percent from the 1999-2004 peak of 1.11 home runs per team per game. There's still an occasional 50-homer season, with Chris Davis and Jose Bautista both putting up such years in 2013 and 2011, respectively, but in the new reality, those types of figures are outliers. Go back a decade and the 10th-place home run hitters were around 40 a season; since 2010, Jay Bruce's 34 dingers is the most for a player finishing 10th in home runs.