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    Tuesday, May 22, 2012

    Future of the 500 Home Run Club

    So, the last few weeks, I’ve been writing a lot about the 500 home run club and what direction it’s heading in. This seems like only a natural conclusion to that train of thought. My first article ever focused on the 300 Win Club, going down each age and seeing who was closest to joining the club. That sounds like solid enough thinking, so I’m going back to that. (Sorry if some of these numbers are slightly off; this was written over a span of time, so some of the stats are from earlier in the week).

    41 is the oldest age of anyone in the top 100 active home run hitters. Jim Thome is second, with 604. That’s not particularly fun, since we sort of already know if he’ll get 500 home runs. So the runner up is Jason Giambi, at 429. As I mentioned last time, that’s just too far for a bench bat to make it.

    The 40-year olds look equally dismal. Chipper has the most home runs of any active non-500 homer player, at 459. He’s already said this will be his last year, though. He’s not getting 41 homers between now and the World Series. After him is Raul 259.

    39 doesn’t turn up with any active players, which is a little disappointing. There aren’t any active 38 year olds in even the 400 home run club, which also is not promising. Todd Helton leads the way with 351, followed by Bobby Abreu at 284 and Johnny Damon at 231. Only the total lack of the surrounding years prevents it from looking like a complete disappointment. The crop of 37 year olds is another drop down, with Scott Rolen acting as the lone top 100 rep at 310.

    After several disappointing years, 36-year olds stand leaps and bound above their predecessors. A-Rod leads the way with 634 bombs, followed by the intriguing Konerko at 402. David Ortiz and Lance Berkman are also outside shots, with 385 and 358, respectively. They may stay productive into their 40s, you never know. I wouldn’t bet on it, but stranger things have happened. After them comes Carlos Lee (352) and Alfonso Soriano (342). I definitely wouldn’t bet on them.

    36 is probably an aberration. The age of 35 is much closer to the years that proceeded it. Andruw Jones leads the charge here. You know, I always forget that Jones is (reasonably) young; I mean, he spent all those years being great as part of the Joneses with Chipper...whose five years his senior. He has seventeen seasons under his belt, meaning he’s been in Major League Baseball for just under half of his life. I just find that mind-boggling. In any case, he has 424 home runs at the moment, which doesn’t seem too overwhelming given his age. However, he’s going to have to be more than a bench bat if he hopes to pose a serious threat at the mark. If he can find some large DH roles in the next few years, I would think much more highly of his odds.

    After him is Carlos Beltran, who’s had a great renaissance the last two years after getting healthy. However, he’s sitting 185 home runs short at the moment, and he’s never really been a huge power hitter. The only 34-year-old with more than 300 home runs is Aramis Ramirez, and he’s barely above Beltran, with 317. Add in that he’s never topped Beltran’s season high in home runs, and he’s not having the same type of success as of late, and I don’t think the extra year does makes any real changes in his chances.

    Sandwiched in between them is Adrian Beltre, the 33-year-old leader. Again, though, he’s not a huge power hitter-apart from his 48 home runs in 2004, he’s never hit more than his 32 last year. The fact that he’s relatively young and still hitting well helps, but I don’t think it’s enough to get him those last 183 home runs. That would still require him remaining incredibly productive into his late 30s and early 40s, and with his injury history, I can’t say I think it will happen.

    Albert Pujols leads all 32-year-olds with 448. Even with his struggles, I would call him a lock. It may take until 2014 instead of until 2013 like I originally thought (I still doubt it), but it will happen, and soon. Also representing the age of 32 is Mark Teixeira, just above the Beltre-Ramirez-Beltran clump with 319. I would mark his chances as much better than any of those three, though, seeing as he’s more of a power hitter (he hasn’t fewer than 30 homers since his rookie season). Ryan Howard is also a famed 32-year old power hitter, but he’s been in a fairly sharp decline, he’s coming off a massive injury, and he’s just barely half-way there at 286, so I’m going to say it’s highly unlikely.

    It looked like we were seeing an uptick in players with a shot with each year younger we looked, but 31 turns in the wrong direction. Nick Swisher leads the way, but he’s more of a doubles-power type, with only 192 home runs. Yes, no 31-year old has over 200 home runs. Justin Morneau is right after him at 190. The three-through-five slots are also interesting: Curtis Granderson (180), Jose Bautista (166), and Josh Hamilton (136). All five of those are interesting late bloomers, but none of them are serious 500 Home Run contenders.

    30 is better, but not by much. Adrian Gonzalez might have a shot, and he’s signed long-term to a team in a hitter’s park, but he’s still below 200 homers (198). That’s a lot of ground to make up in your 30s. No one else in the age group is even marginally interesting, odds-wise.

    At the age-29 plateau, we finally hit another favorite: Miguel Cabrera. He’s already well over halfway with 285, and he’ll almost certainly pass the 300 mark by year’s end. The Bill James tool even gives him a 59% chance to make it, and he’s been at his best the past two years. I would actually call him a very likely future member. After him are David Wright (187) and Robinson Cano (148), neither of whom inspires great confidence.

    Former teammates Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun lead all 28 year olds, with 237 and 172 home runs, respectively. I think Braun has the better chance to stay great going forward, but Fielder probably has a better chance to make the 500 club because 1) he has a 61 bomb advantage right now; and 2) the Tigers have already committed to paying (and, by extension, playing) him through 2020. Even if Braun stays good longer, it’s not like Fielder will be hurting for playing time. The Bill James tool gives Fielder a 61% chance and Braun a 17% chance. I would put Braun’s odds a little higher than that, given that he seems to be entering his peak, but I don’t think I would put him above 25% yet (granted, my odds are based on the long-held tradition of “eyeballin’ it”, so maybe take my guesses with a grain of salt).

    We’re nearing the end; only three more ages have players on the Active Top 100 leader board, with five players between them. A trio of 27-year olds sit in the rankings: Matt Kemp (140), Ryan Zimmerman (130), and Troy Tulowitzki (126). Zimmerman and Tulowitzki I would list under unlikely, as they play more demanding positions, have longer injury positions, and haven’t demonstrated as much power. Kemp was a bit of a late bloomer, but he’s shown serious power over the last year or so. If he can have a decent-length peak that’s similar to his 2011 campaign, then he can put himself into consideration. Right now, though, he seems below the pace.

    The only 26 and 25 year olds on the list are Evan Longoria (117) and Jay Bruce (110), respectively. Longoria looks to be more on pace with Matt Kemp, meaning he’s going to need some strong peak years to build a case (as well as some longevity, although I guess that’s more a given). Jay Bruce looks like he may be a little ahead of that pace, but he’s still a little before his peak. If he matures into an MVP-level player, I’ll consider him a favorite, but until then, he’s only slightly more likely than Longoria and Kemp.

    So there you have it. After the flood of 500 home run hitters in the past decade, we’ll definitely see only a handful in the next few years, after which point I would predict it turns to a more reasonable trickle just slightly above what it used to be.

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