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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Thursday, January 03, 2002
The Race to 756
While Santa was checking his lists for the second time, Don was busy compiling a few HR lists.
Some Home Run Lists
OK, it?s a new year, and since most everyone?s resolution seems to be to forget as much of the old year as possible, I thought I should oblige by steering us away from all that nasty talk of ?spin? and ?contraction.? Enough with the labor pains already?let?s talk about the game for a change.
And what better place to do so than to dash off a few home run lists that can orient us in what this column somewhat breathlessly calls ?the race to 756?, or the pursuit of Hank Aaron?s all-time record for homers.
Now that Mark McGwire has retired, we?re down to two candidates with imminent opportunity to challenge Bad Henry. (I?ll leave it to those of you who enjoy such things to provide ?Favorite Toy? probabilisms that add the presence of someone like Alex Rodriguez to the candidate list; I?m only interested in looking at players whose chance of taking a run at Aaron is something we?ll see in the next 4-7 years.)
And that means we?re looking at Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey, Jr.
As I said, I leave it to others to provide the Favorite Toy data for these two. I?m simply going to run some lists at you, make a few speculative remarks, and then take my red cape and step aside.
Let?s start with Bonds. We know that Barry is now safely ensconced in the Top Ten of all-time homer hitters, thanks in large part to his amazing 2001 season. A better context for Barry?s position relative to what his future final HR total might be, however, would be to look at a list of Most Home Runs Hit by Players Through the Age of 36:
As we can see, Barry looks more like a contender on this list. However, with 189 HRs to go in order to catch Aaron, he?s going to have to hit 26 more HRs after the age of 36 than Hank did. The average number of homers hit after age 36 by the players on this list is 55. Barry?s almost certainly going to exceed that, but how many more he can likely hit is clearly lower than either the number he needs to catch Aaron or the number Aaron hit from age 37 on.
Which brings us to another relevant home run list. Here?s the Most Home Runs Hit by Players Aged 37 and Older:
So if Bonds cracks this list, he?ll at least wind up #3 all-time in HRs. That certainly seems to be the likely minimum, barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Now let?s turn to Junior. Moving to Cincinnati has apparently put a damper on the Griffey juggernaut, but going into 2002, Junior still ranks second on the list of Most Home Runs Hit by Players Through the Age of 31:
Of course only one guy on this list actually hit more HRs after the age of 31 than he did through the age of 31. (Yes, that?s the Babe, and he just barely did it, with 358. We?ll see the top ten list for that in a minute or so.)
One more quick digression: Bonds ranks fourteenth on this list, with 334 HRs through age 31.
The average number of homers hit by the players on this list over the balance of their careers is 177. If Junior hit that average on the nose, it would mean two things: first, that average would likely whimper with pain; second, Junior?s lifetime HR total would wind up at 637.
Seriously, home run hitters don?t tend to age well. Beefy they may well be, but they?re more like chardonnay than cabernet sauvignon. However, there?s any number of guys who?ve hit more than 200 homers after the age of 31. (Well, it?s not any number; it?s actually eighteen.) Here?s the list of Most Home Runs Hit by Players Aged 32 and Older:
If Junior cracks this list, he?ll have at least 662 HRs, which would put him past Willie Mays. He?d still be ~90 short of Aaron, however.
If Bonds matches Aaron and Ruth in post age-31 HRs, he?ll add about 125 HRs to his current total, which brings him in somewhere in the low 690s. In order to break Aaron?s mark, he?ll have to hit 422 HRs from age 32 on.
If he does that, he?ll join Ruth as the only player with 300+ HRs by age 31 to hit more homers after age 32. In order to get to that point, he has to hit another 102 HRs from here on out.
As I said, I?ll step aside and let the readers provide Favorite Toy projections for this (and feel free to include them for any intermediate steps, such as matching Mays? 660 or the Babe?s 714 should that seem sufficiently interesting). What these lists appear to tell us, however, is that it?s far likelier that Bonds and Griffey will catch Mays than they will Aaron (and, for that matter, the Babe).
One last list, as a small hommage to Mark McGwire. Here are the Most Homers Hit by Players Aged 32-36:
What an amazing run, eh? Notice, though, that Bonds pulled himself up to #3 on this list. And it will be interesting to see if Junior cracks it, because that will tell us more about his eventual place on the all-time list. And there?s one more slugger to keep an eye on: Sammy Sosa, with 64 homers last year and a five-year total of 279. To show you what a daunting task is ahead of even Sammy, however, consider that he has to hit 214 HRs in the next four years to pass McGwire on this list. That?s more than 53 HRs a season for the next four years. You number crunchers might want to calculate the odds on that, too, while you?re at it.
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