December 15, 2017

2012 Milestones (And Beyond): Home Runs

January 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Depending on which camp you’re in, 2012 will either tickle you pink or make you throw up in your mouth.  With 629 home runs already under his belt, Alex Rodriguez is only one away from tying former teammate Ken Griffey Jr. at 630 and 31 away from catching Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time list.  There used to be a time when 600 home runs in a career was unfathomable even after Babe Ruth proved that it could be done when he belted #600 on August 21, 1931.  Mays joined Ruth in the 600-homer club on September 22, 1969—of course, by then Ruth was all alone in the 700-homer club—then Hank Aaron followed on April 27, 1971.  Aaron reached 700 in July 1973, and it took another 31 years before Barry Bonds became the third member of the 700-homer club.

So 40 years after The Bambino reached 600 dingers, that club still numbered only three.  Over the last 40 years, however, five more members have joined—Barry Bonds, Griffey, A-Rod, Sammy Sosa and Jim Thome—Manny Ramirez probably would have joined if not for his suspensions and lack of passion; and Albert Pujols is a lock to join, barring any major injuries.  In other words, 600 homers ain’t what they used to be, and when A-Rod hits his 700th that club’s members will have doubled in less than 10 years.  With Pujols expected to reach 700 sometime around 2017, that would give the club it’s third new member in less than 15 years.  I can taste the bile as I write this.

Rodriguez will catch and pass Griffey with his eyes closed, but might not reach the “Say Hey Kid” until 2013 if his last three years are any indicator.  He’s averaged 25 homers a year since 2009 and 28 since 2008.  You have to go back to 2007 to find an average greater than what he needs to catch Mays.  On the other hand, he enjoyed back-to-back 30-homer seasons in 2009 and 2010 and with a little luck in the health department—A-Rod underwent some procedure called Orthokine on his right knee and left shoulder at the suggestion of Kobe Bryant—there’s no reason to believe he can’t hit 31 or 32 in 2012.  Regardless, let’s take a look at Rodriguez’s chances of reaching the next handful of home run milestones.

Player
Age
3-Yr Avg
To Date
Proj. Car. 660 700 714 755 762 MAX (1%)
Alex Rodriguez 35 27.7 629 725 97% 86% 64% 27% 23% 820

As you can see, Rodriguez is projected to land between Ruth and Aaron in his pursuit of the all-time home run crown, but he also has a nearly one-in-four shot at catching Bonds, a 22% chance of passing him and a 1% chance of reaching the insane total of 820 home runs.  Of course, news that Rodriguez also used PED’s takes all the excitement out of his pursuit of immortality, in my humble opinion, but I digress.  Based on the numbers above, he looks to be a shoe-in to eventually pass Ruth and if it happens, it happens.

Player
Age
3-Yr Avg
To Date
Proj. Car. 660 700 714 755 762 MAX (1%)
Albert Pujols 31 43.7 445 685 62% 44% 39% 27% 26% 920

At only 31, Albert Pujols already ranks 37th on the all-time home run list and will soon be joining elite company. Pujols has been a full-time regular since his rookie year when he was only 21, and he’s never hit fewer than 32 homers in a season. He’s averaged 40 homers a year in his 11 seasons and 43 per 162 games and, despite a handful of injuries, played in 96% of the Cardinals’ games, missing only 77 in more than a decade of action. He’s an American Leaguer now and will need to get used to new pitchers, but I seriously doubt that will be an issue. He’s also moving to a home park that doesn’t treat right-handed home run hitters well—Angel Stadium has had RH HR factors of 79, 84, 127, 97, 95, 85 and 97 over the last seven years—but it’s a far sight more accommodating than Busch Stadium III, which hasn’t had a RH HR factor over 88 in its brief history.

It’s interesting to note that his chances of catching Mays and Ruth are slimmer than A-rod’s, but he has the same chance (27%) of catching Aaron and a better chance of catching Bonds. He also has a 1% shot at the cartoon-like total of 920. It’s a bit ironic that he’d need to hit 475 more home runs to reach that total, the same number of homers hit by the man Pujols might have replaced in St. Louis’ pantheon had he stayed in the Mound City—Stan Musial.

Needing only 31 homers to pass Musial, it’s really too bad Pujols will be doing it in an Angels uniform.

Player
Age
3-Yr Avg
To Date
Proj. Car. 630 660 700 714 755 MAX (1%)
Jim Thome 40 22.3 604 637 79% 10% 0% 0% 0% 670

After bouncing around MLB for a few years Thome will begin the 2012 season in Philadelphia, where he won his only home run crown back in 2003.  He’s 41 and will be 42 before the end of this next campaign, and there’s no telling how much he has left in his tank or how much playing time he’ll get in the National League.  He’s only five circuit clouts shy of Sammy Sosa’s 609. I’m going to assume he’ll pass Sosa, and I’m also going to assume that A-Rod won’t get hit by a bus before the season starts and will keep climbing the list, which puts Griffey next in Thome’s sights.

Even though he needs 26 homers to catch Junior and 27 to pass, a total he hasn’t reached since 2008, The Favorite Toy gives him a 79% chance to do exactly that.  He also has a 10% shot at Mays, but no shot at 700, Ruth, Aaron or Bonds.  Based on his age, declining skill set and the fact that he’s in a league that doesn’t use the DH, I’ll be shocked if he catches Griffey.

Player
Age
3-Yr Avg
To Date
Proj. Car. 500 MAX (1%)
Chipper Jones 39 15.3 454 477 0% 499

Once upon a time Chipper Jones was a reliable dude who could be penciled into the lineup 150 times a year and produce 30 homers, 100 ribbies and 100 runs.  With an average of 31 round-trippers a year in his first decade of play, he would have reached 500 sometime in year 17.  But he’s going into year 19 and is still 46 dingers short of the coveted 500 mark, thanks mostly to injuries that have limited him to an average of 121 games and 21 home runs per annum since 2005.  According to The Favorite Toy, Jones has no chance of hitting 500 homers, although he has a very slim 1% shot at 499.  One has to think if he gets that close he’d stick around long enough to hit one more, but who knows if his body will hold up?  If he reaches his projected total of 477, he’ll pass Musial and Willie Stargell on the all-time list.

Player
Age
3-Yr Avg
To Date
Proj. Car. 500 548 563 MAX (1%)
Vlad Guerrero 36 19.3 449 507 64% 9% 1% 563

At only 36, Guerrero should be a lock to reach 500 homers and The Favorite Toy gives him a 64% chance to do just that, with a 9% chance of catching Mike Schmidt and a 1% chance of tying Reggie Jackson for 13th on the all-time list.  On the other hand, he’s without a team for now and he’s looking like an old 36 (he’ll be 37 next month).  He hit only 13 homers in 145 games with Baltimore last year after averaging 35 long balls in 150 games from 1998-2008, and he’s averaged only 19 per season since 2009, and that’s inflated by his 29-homer campaign in Texas in 2010.  His days as an outfielder are over, leaving him little choice but to stay in the American League where he can DH, but if he signs on with a new team and can maintain his three-year average he’ll reach the 500 mark sometime in 2014.  In 2012, he should land somewhere between Dave Winfield (465) and Carlos Delgado (473).

Others of Note: When Andruw Jones came upon the scene in 1996, the then 19-year-old captivated the baseball world by homering three times in the postseason, two of which came in his first two World Series at-bats of his career.  In 1997 he split time between right and center field before becoming the Braves’ full-time center fielder in 1998.  He blasted 31 dingers as a 21-year-old, then followed that up with four 30+ homer seasons, a 50-homer season and a 40-homer season in the next eight years.  By age 27, he was exactly halfway to 500 career home runs and had a 53% chance of reaching that total.  By age 29, he was a virtual lock to join the 500-homer club with a 97% chance of reaching 500 and a projected total of 591.

But something funny happened on his way to the Hall of Fame—he turned 30.  His home runs dropped from 41 in 2006 to “only” 26 in 2007, but he still had a 97% chance at 500 and a projected total of 629.  Then he went to the Dodgers and hit only three home runs in 75 games and his odds of reaching 500 began to drop.  A 17-homer season with the Rangers in 2009 dropped his odds even more and he was no longer projected to reach 500, let alone surpass it.  He hit his 400th career homer while playing for the White Sox in 2010 and finished the year with 407, but by then his chances of hitting 500 were nil and he was expected to finish his career just north of Carl Yastrzemski.  Thirteen homers for the Yankees last year gave Jones 420 at age 34 and new life in his pursuit of 500.

With only 80 to go, he has a 35% chance of reaching 500 and a projected total (488) that puts him in Musial, Stargell, Fred McGriff, Lou Gehrig territory.  He’s a free agent who no longer plays the outfield like he once did, but he hits lefties well and is a more-than-serviceable power option as a platoon DH, pinch hitter and extra outfielder.  I don’t know if that equates to 80 more homers, but it does if he manages an average of 16 over the next five years.

Paul Konerko is only four shy of 400 and if last year is an indicator, he’ll reach that in mid-April.  Since becoming a regular with the White Sox in 1999, Konerko has averaged 30 homers a year and 34 per 162 games, and those have actually climbed in his last three seasons to 33 and 36.  At that pace, he’ll be knocking on Cal Ripken’s door by the end of the 2012 campaign.  He has a 58% chance at 500 with a projected total (508) that puts him in the neighborhood of Eddie Murray, Gary Sheffield, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks.  Not too shabby.  He also has a 5% chance of reaching 600, but by the time he does, it’ll no longer be as impressive as it once was.

David Ortiz needs only 22 four-baggers to reach 400, and considering he hasn’t hit fewer than 23 since joining the Red Sox in 2003, I’m confident he’ll celebrate his 400th career home run in 2012.  Big Papi is projected to finish his career with 481 career dingers with a 35% chance at 500 and no chance at 600.  He also has a 22% chance at 522, one more than Red Sox legend Ted Williams.  Fortunately Williams will still be number one in Boston’s record book since Ortiz hit 58 of his 378 homers with the Twins.  If he can manage 133 more home runs while wearing the carmine hose, he’ll pass Yaz at #2 on Boston’s all-time home run list.

With a return to form, Adam Dunn could also reach the 400-homer mark in 2012.  At 365, he’s only 35 shy of 400 and considering he averaged 40 taters a year from 2004-2010—in fact, he hit exactly 40 per annum from 2005-2008—only a fool wouldn’t pencil him in to the 400 club this year.  But he suffered through one of the worst declines ever witnessed on a ball field last year and only time will tell whether that was an aberration or a sign of things to come.  After consecutive 38-homer seasons in 2009 and ’10 (is this guy the epitome of consistency or what?), Dunn hit only 11 in 122 games in his first year with the White Sox, and his OPS plummeted from .892 in 2010 to .569 last year.

Still, he’s projected to finish his career with 549, one more than Mike Schmidt, and has an 86% chance at 500, a 28% chance at 600 and a 5% chance at 700.  He might even catch Ruth, but has no chance of catching Aaron.

Wild Card: Rumor has it that Manny Ramirez wants to come back to Major League Baseball.  Even if a team takes a chance on him it’s going to be difficult to predict how many more homers he has in him.  He’ll have to serve a 50-game suspension, reduced from 100 games, for testing positive for PED’s before he abruptly retired last year, and he has only nine long balls in his last 107 games, dating back to the end of 2009.  Based on his age, home run total and last three years, Man-Ram is projected to hit another 21 homers before he calls it quits (again).  That’s expecting a lot from a guy who can’t stay clean and who quit on his last three teams.  If he does reach 576 homers, he’ll pass Harmon Killebrew, a class act who deserves better.

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