OpinionMarch 8, 2007


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The Future Home Run King
A look at which players are on track to break Hank Aaron's all-time home run record.

By Ryan Thwaites

Make note – 2007 might be the year that we see the all-time Major League home run record broken. Barry Bonds only needs 22 more long balls to break Henry Aaron’s record of 755 career home runs. Regardless of whether he deserves the crown or not, the record will more than likely be broken this year or next (pending health). It’s only a matter of time before we see a new home run king after Bonds breaks the record, given the powerful offensive era at present. The big question is: Who will it be?

In a thread last year, some of the Cafe members posed this question. Members speculated players like Ryan Howard, David Ortiz, Alex Rodriguez, and Albert Pujols to name a few. What the members didn’t do before speculating, was look at the numbers.

I tabulated a small sample of sluggers who are currently playing in the big leagues, with a running total of their career home runs from year to year. I was mainly interested in the player’s career home run total at each age, as the biggest factor in accumulating home runs is longevity. Players usually do not posses the ability to play at the elite level past the age of 40 (just ask Julio Franco) – and even not that long for some. It seems only fitting that age be the base for comparison.

The number in parentheses next to the player’s name is the age that the player will be in 2007. All totals are inclusive of the 2006 season.

 

AgeRodriguez (32)Pujols (27)Ortiz (32)Griffey Jr (38)Bonds (43)Dunn (28)A. Jones (30)Howard (28)Aaron (42)
18---------
195-----5--
205--16--23--
214137-38--54-13
226471160161979-40
2310611410874145115-66
24148160101326572149-110
2518920120172841181842140
262412503818911715822024179
27298-5823814219824982219
28345-89294176-300-253
29381-130350222-341-298
30429-177398259---342
31464-229438292---366
32---460334---398
33---468374---442
34---481411---481
35---501445---510
36---536494---554
37----567---592
38----613---639
39----658---673
40----703---713
41----708---733
42----734---745
43--------755

 

As suspected, players like Ryan Howard and David Ortiz are already significantly behind the eight ball, as they broke into the league too late. Unless their home run rates increase drastically, there is little chance that they will be able to break Aaron’s (or soon to be Bonds’) record. Howard has a grand total of 82 career home runs at the age of 27 this year – Aaron passed 82 during his age 24 season and ended that year on 110. Ortiz at the age of 31 has roughly the same amount of home runs that Aaron had when he was four years younger.

Ken Griffey Jr. is an interesting case. His whole career, Griffey has been ahead of Aaron, in terms of career home runs at each age. Injuries have been the biggest concern for Griffey Jr., as his playing time (and opportunities to hit home runs) has taken a turn for the worse. At age 34, he was even with Aaron. His lack of production recently has seen him fall behind Aaron’s totals.

As one may have expected, Alex Rodriguez is well on his way to breaking the record. The rate at which he is accumulating home runs is astounding. Rodriguez broke into the league before he could legally gamble at the age of 19 and started mashing. In 2006 at the age of 31, Rodriguez has 98 more home runs than Aaron had at the same age. That total is 26 more than Griffey Jr., and 172 more than Bonds.

Albert Pujols, although not as established as Rodriguez, is actually ahead of Rodriguez’s career total at the same age. His current total of 250 at the age of 26 is the fastest for any player his age – 9 ahead of Rodriguez when he was 26. There is no doubting Pujols’ ability, therefore it will be interesting to see how he maintains his current pace in the years to come, and whether he can maintain the level of durability that Rodriguez has.

The real dark horse in this race is Andruw Jones. When I was putting together this analysis, I didn’t even think to include Jones until I noted his career total. He completely slipped under the radar. Jones broke in at the same age as Rodriguez, and currently is 40 home runs behind Rodriguez’s total at the age of 29 – he was actually ahead of him in the early stage of his career. Jones’ recent power surges have certainly helped his cause. He is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Well there you have it. When you start to read about Bonds’ home run chase in the coming months, don’t get too comfortable with the thought of a new home run champ. Another could be on the horizon, and it may not be the player you expected it to be.

 
Ryan Thwaites is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Ryan in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of RynMan.
 
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