Of course, one could also look to very recent history to find a hitter as good as Pujols was through his age-30 season:
- Albert Pujols: .331/.426/.624/ 172 OPS+ (408 HR/1230 RBI)
- Frank Thomas: .321/.443/.584/ 174 OPS+ (286 HR/963 RBI)
If the differential in counting stats is wider than you might expect, keep in mind that Pujols started younger and didn't miss time due to labor disputes, so he played in about 300 additional games.
Frank Thomas was a first-ballot HOFer, but in some respects he might be modestly underrated as a hitter. I suspect it's because Thomas, like Pujols, endured an extended decline phase that began after his last truly great season (at age 32). But unlike Pujols, Thomas was actually a very good hitter deep into his 30s:
After age-30 season:
- Pujols (through age-36): .271/.332/.435/127 OPS+ (178 HR/571 RBI)
- Thomas (through age-40): .277/.390/.521/135 OPS+ (235 HR/741 RBI)
The gap between the two is more pronounced than the lines suggest: The comps above account for The Big Hurt's age 36-40 seasons (130 OPS+); Pujols is currently slogging through his age-36 season (111 OPS+; 118 OPS+ ages 33-36), and unless he experiences an extraordinary renaissance over the next few years, his production is going to continue to plummet. Pujols, currently 14th all-time in career OPS+ (since 1901), will likely drop out of the top-20 before he decides to call it a career (Thomas currently sits at 17th).
Our intent is not to pile on Albert Pujols: He's an inner-circle HOFer, one of the best ever at what he does, and, by all accounts, a generous and considerate person (and he was a much better all-around player than Thomas). Rather, we look to his decline as a way to appreciate the greatness of Thomas as a hitter -- and to appreciate how difficult it is for even the best hitters to maintain elite production into the second half of their careers. Thomas was excellent into his dotage, but he doesn't come close to making the "best old hitters ever" list (Hornsby and Mantle didn't accumulate enough PA after turning 31 to make both lists):
Speaking of Frank Thomas: The Big Hurt is Marketing a Beer, and it's Called "Big Hurt Beer"
This is old news. Really old news. But its news to Plate Coverage (which is confounding in and of itself; we love baseball at Plate Coverage, and we love beer at Plate Coverage). Frank Thomas, HOF slugger, is brewing beer. Described on its website as a "crisp, refreshing Lager... that combines All-Star taste with a smooth finish."
For what it's worth, this reviewer called it "not poison," and "not vomit."
OK, so it's not Pliny the Younger -- it's still Big Hurt Beer by the Big Hurt, which is super fun to say. If you've tried it, let us know what you think of it.