Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hitting 10+ home runs by the end of April... Where does it take you?

April baseball concludes tonight. Among the notable accomplishments from the month are the 10 home runs apiece hit by Nelson Cruz of the Mariners and Hanley Ramirez of the Red Sox. How many players have ever tallied 10 home runs by the end of April? Cruz and Ramirez make for a total of 42 players, a group that's managed the accomplishment a total of 53 times.

What I'm really wondering about this evening is what kind of home run totals those players went on to put up  in those 53 seasons. What does history say about Cruz and Ramirez's chances of reaching 30, 40, or 50 home runs?

The record for most home runs by the end of April is 14, set by Albert Pujols in 2006 and tied by Alex Rodriguez in 2007, though if you want to talk about the most impressive home run display in April, I might go with Mike Schmidt in 1976, who hit 11 dingers in just 14 games*.

*I realize that there's a big catch in looking at these figures, which is that not every player gets the same number of games before the end of April. Generally speaking, the farther back into baseball history you go, the later the season started, which is part of the reason there's no season earlier than 1969 on this list. It also means you're making uneven comparisons when talking about how many home runs each player went on to hit in their respective season(s). I could have just gone with 10+ home runs in the season's first 22 games, but that doesn't seem like as much fun.

Ken Griffey and Luis Gonzalez each had a year when they hit 13 by the end of April, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton each reached 12 once. After them you've got a collection of players at 11 and 10.

The players who reached double figures more than once: Barry Bonds (four times); Mark McGwire  and Gary Sheffield (three times each); Lance Berkman, Andres Galarraga, Ken Griffey, and Larry Walker (twice each)

The first player ever to reach double figures by April's end was Frank Robinson, back in 1969. It then happened five times in the 1970s, just once during the 1980s (Dave Kingman in 1984), then 16 times during the 1990s, 22 times during the 00s (including a staggering eight players in 2006 alone), and now 8 times so far in the 2010s.

Here are the full-season home run totals for each of the 53 times a guy had at least 10 of them before the calendar turned to May:

73: Barry Bonds (2001)
70: Mark McGwire (1998)
58: Mark McGwire (1997)
57: Luis Gonzalez (2001)
56: Ken Griffey (1997), Ken Griffey (1998)
54: David Ortiz (2006), Alex Rodriguez (2007)
50: Brady Anderson (1996)
49: Barry Bonds (2000), Larry Walker (1997), Albert Pujols (2006)
48: Willie Stargell (1971)
46: Vinny Castilla (1998)
45: Barry Bonds (2004), Lance Berkman (2006)
44: Andres Galarraga (1998)
43: Matt Williams (1994), Gary Sheffield (2000)
42: M.McGwire (1992), B.Bonds (1996), G.Sheffield (1996), L.Berkman (2002), J.Thome (2006)
40: Tony Perez (1970)
39: Cecil Fielder (1996), Carlos Delgado (2001), Jeff Bagwell (2003), Paul Konerko (2010)
38: Mike Schmidt (1976), Larry Walker (2001)
37: Carlos Lee (2006)
36: Jose Abreu (2014)
35: Dave Kingman (1984), Nick Swisher (2006)
34: Ryan Klesko (1996), Jose Canseco (1999)
33: Jermaine Dye (2000), Chase Utley (2008), Ryan Braun (2011)
32: Frank Robinson (1969)
29: Reggie Jackson (1974)
28: Andres Galarraga (1998), Cliff Floyd (2002)
27: Gary Sheffield (1994), Justin Upton (2013)
26: Alfonso Soriano (2011)
23: Matt Kemp (2012)
22: Craig Nettles (1974)
20: Jonny Gomes (2006)
16: Chris Shelton (2006)

As you can see, there's quite a range of outcomes, from going on to set the single-season home run record, to hitting only six more home runs all season. Of the 51 times before this year that a player hit 10+ homers by the end of April, 80% of them went on to hit at least 30 for the season. 49% went on to hit 40+, and 18% went on to hit 50+. The median total was 39.

Most of the guys who've ever hit 10+ in March/April were big time power hitters, so it's not especially surprising that so many of them reached a big final number. Among the guys who weren't already seen as big home run hitters, some were having their breakout season, some were beginning a year unlike anything else they'd ever do, and some fizzled out by the middle of May and weren't even starting by the end of the season.

Cruz and Ramirez are each off to a great start, but there's a lot of season left, and the range of possibilities remains massive.

No comments:

Post a Comment