Home runs can be a thing of beauty, no wait – home runs ARE a thing of beauty. When it comes to how we recognize those with a genuine power stroke that magical line we draw where you’re considered to have one or not is typically 30 home runs. If you hit more than that then you’re considered a slugger but if you hit less than that then you’re not really thought of that way. Odd really when you take into consideration that just 27 players hit 30 or more home runs last season, 24 did it in 2011, and just 18 did it in 2010.
If we were to lower that requirement to be considered a “slugger” or true power threat to say 25 or more home runs then that gives us 44 players who hit that mark in 2012, 42 in 2011, and 44 in 2010. While it does seem readily apparent, at least in such a small sampling of seasons, that there seems to be more consistency with guys who hit at least 25 home runs in a season then it does with guys who hit 30 or more so I guess it does make sense that we draw that mystical line at 30 home runs instead of 25.
What I’m going to take a look at is which of those players who hit 30 or more home runs last season are most likely to hit that mark again this season and which likely won’t, as well as what percentage of players generally repeat such a thing from one season to the next.
Looking at data (taken from FanGraphs) there have been a total of 127 30+ home run seasons by players since 2008. Of those players, just 54 of them – or 43% – managed to repeat a 30+ home run performance the following season. What that tells us, small sample size and all (yes, I’m considering five years’ worth of data a SSS in this scenario – I should probably take it to 10), is that of the 27 players who hit 30 or more home runs last season roughly 11 or 12 of them will do it again.
Which 11 or 12 though is the real question, although a handful of these players are going to be fairly easy to pick out. Three such players are about as close to no-brainers as you can get in Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Prince Fielder as the three of them have hit 30 or more home runs since at least 2007. That right there whittles our field of most likely candidates to repeat down to eight.
At this point it’s probably best to use a little logic and process of elimination based on factors such as age, health, and luck – yes I said luck.
Curtis Granderson is very unlikely to repeat as a 30 home run man considering that he just fractured his forearm, after being hit with a pitch in his most recent spring training game, and it’s going to cost him at least 10 weeks before he’s ready for game action again. Never mind the fact that he will still need to get some rehab starts in the minors to get his swing and timing back.
Corey Hart is another player unlikely to cross the 30 home run plateau after having surgery just over a month ago to repair a torn meniscus and other damage to the join in his knee. He’s going to face the same issues as Granderson in terms of rehab starts and having to take the time to get his swing and timing back. An optimistic view of Hart’s situation is that he could be ready to go by the end of April. The damage to his knee, whether it’s fully healed and repaired or not, is going to sap some of his power this year.
I’m crossing Josh Willingham, Adam LaRoche, Alfonso Soriano, and Carlos Beltran off of my list due to age. LaRoche had a career year at 33 years old and I just don’t trust that type of performance so late in a guy’s career. Call me discriminatory if you want but he’s unlikely to repeat his 33 home runs in 2013, especially considering – according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker – nine of them had just enough juice on them to get out of the ballpark they were hit in anyway.
Beltran is 35 years old, eight of his 32 home runs had just enough on them to get out of the park and his positive contact, walk, and strikeout rates are all moving in the wrong direction. Soriano, the oldest of the bunch at 37 years old, likely had the last hoorah of his career in 2012 and I’m willing to put any amount of money down that he doesn’t touch 30 home runs or come close to it in 2013. His strikeout rate increased to 24.9% and his .262 batting average was helped out in part by a .303 BABIP.
Willingham is 34 years old and had the first 30+ home run year of his career, but 11 of those had just enough on them to get out which tells me he had his fair share carried out by the wind. He’ll likely be the most productive hitter of this age group though (not counting Adrian Beltre of course).
As it stands we have three players (Pujols, Cabrera, and Fielder) that are near locks to hit 30 or more home runs in 2013, which leaves us with eight spots left to fill. I’ve also already knocked off six additional candidates due to various concerns, which leaves our pool of eligible players at 18 with varying degrees of likeliness to repeat a 30+ home run performance.
Ike Davis and Chase Headley may as well go ahead and take a seat because Davis got incredibly lucky on 11 of his dingers, especially with that hardcore .227 average he was rocking, and Headley may have had a career year but I don’t think he’ll be surpassing the 30 home run plateau again and he sure as hell won’t be doing it in San Diego if he does – him and his 11 lucky dingers and all.
I’m also leaning on just the inside of the fence with Robinson Cano, Mike Trout, and especially Josh Reddick. I’m going on record as saying that I’ll eat a microwaved plate of horse shit if Reddick hits another 30 bombs in Oakland without making better overall contact at the plate. No offense to Reddick or anything because he showed tremendous hustle and ability in his breakout season, but I have my doubts that the Coliseum will allow that to happen once more.
Trout had an absolute monster year but he feels more like a 25 home run guy to me in 2013 as opposed to 30, especially now that there’s plenty of footage on him and his tendencies (HINT: he has trouble with the slider in pitchers counts).
Cano could get to 30 or more home runs but the Yankee lineup has become very unimpressive to me over the winter due to age, osteoporosis, and the loss of guys that help turn the lineup over to give Cano additional plate appearances every game. I just don’t think he gets there because of those reasons – especially the osteoporosis surrounding him in the lineup.
Now that my list of candidates has been whittled down even further, we’re at 13 remaining now with eight spots to fill, let me mention that I believe Josh Hamilton, Edwin Encarnacion, Giancarlo Stanton, and even Jay Bruce will reach that glorious 30 home run mark again in 2013. Three of the four will be helped out by tremendous lineups and the one who won’t (Stanton) simply has tremendous power and isn’t the kind of person to go out and tank because he’s pissed off.
Even though one could argue that Encarnacion had one of those breakout seasons that he isn’t likely to repeat I happen to believe he will. Probably not to the tune of 42 home runs but that lineup is going to turn over quite a bit and that’s going to offer him a few more chances over the course of the season to knock a few more balls out of the ballpark. A 36 or 37 homerun season out of him isn’t out of the question and the scary thing is that his BABIP was only .266, a good 30 points lower than league average, so he likely has some positive regression in his future as well.
As it stands right now, our list of most likely to repeat their 30+ home run performances in 2013 is Pujols, Cabrera, Fielder, Hamilton, Encarnacion, Stanton, and Bruce. This is where it begins to get really tough because I’m left with four spots left to fill and nine players remaining from our pool of 30+ homerun guys.
These next three cuts are relatively easy ones to make though; Jason Kubel, Pedro Alvarez, and Mark Trumbo each had their fair share of moonshots in 2012 but Kubel isn’t your typical power hitter and managed to luck into a few extras in Arizona. Another thing worth mentioning with him is that he’s never once played in more than 146 games in a single season. He also set career highs in his strikeout (26.4%) and walk (10%) rates, but it’s the alarmingly high strikeout rate that concerns me the most. Again, he’s not a power hitter by any means and he should be somewhere around 22 or 23 home runs this season.
Alvarez finally put together a strong stretch of the season after getting off to an incredibly rough start through the first two months of it. However, he’s a high strikeout and low on-base guy and his splits are fairly well pronounced as he hit just .207/.270/.379 versus left-handed pitching last year. Playing more games in American League ballparks this season should help the Pirates put him in at DH but he’s also likely to sit more often than not against lefties. That will limit his opportunities and I can’t say with any confidence that he’s really put it all together just yet.
With regard to Trumbo, he has a ton of power potential and the only thing that’s really going to hold him back from surpassing 30 again this year is playing time. Before the signing of Josh Hamilton it appears as if Trumbo would split his time between right field and DH, but now it appears his only real spot in the lineup is at DH and a little closer to the sixth or seventh spot in the lineup as opposed to the fourth or fifth.
Given the fact that he’s a high strikeout and low on-base guy means his value is a bit diminished overall and it would be easier to replace him in the lineup if he hits a slump of any noticeable length. Being lower in the lineup and having the only spot left for him in the lineup being at DH his opportunities are more limited than they were in his previous two seasons.
While it may seem as if I’m not big on high strikeout guys I don’t want anyone thinking that I automatically discredit performances by players such as that. For example, I do believe that Adam Dunn will cross that 30 home run threshold once again. He strikes out a ton, doesn’t hit for a particularly pretty average but his swing carries such tremendous force that any ball he does make the least bit of contact with has the potential to go flying out of the park.
One guy I’ve been waffling back and forth on the entire time I’ve been writing this is Ryan Braun. He’s a tremendous talent and say what you want about his being linked to performance enhancing clinics, drugs, etc. he is still a complete talent on the field. Do I think that he will hit 30 more home runs again this season? Yes, I do. Do I think he’ll touch 40 again? No, I don’t think he does.
Andrew McCutchen hit 31 home runs last season, the first time he has done that in his career, and he also set career highs in various other offensive categories to top it all off. He’s still just 26 years old and is actually getting some comparisons to Barry Bonds at this stage of his career with the Pirates. I’m not sure how many people expect him to hit 30 home runs again this year, or in any subsequent year hereafter, but I do.
He’s a guy that’s just now coming into his prime, makes a great deal of quality contact, and is just a smart player all around. He doesn’t feel like your prototypical 30 home run guy but there’s magic in his swing and I don’t plan on betting against him doing it again this season.
So we’ve got three players left who drilled 30 or more home runs last year and really just one spot left, although two if we’re rounding up. Adrian Beltre hit 36 home runs and batted .321/.359/.561 for the Texas Rangers in 2012. Adam Jones belted a career-high 32 home runs to go along with his .287/.334/.505 batting line for the Baltimore Orioles. Jones’ teammate Chris Davis also “Crushed” a career high in home runs with 33 with a .270/.326/.501 batting line.
I feel compelled to round up and pick two of these three players to repeat because I truly do believe that two of the three will. The one player of this group that I probably have the utmost confidence in heading into this season is the one player who just genuinely got stronger and really smacked the hell out of the baseball – Adam Jones.
Jones may have just barely gotten over the 30 home run mark with 32 but of those home runs there were 19 of them that would have been home runs in every single ballpark in Major League Baseball. That actually tied him for the fourth most in baseball, something I like to call “True Home Runs”. That, to me anyway, is a display of a hitters ability to not only make solid contact with the bat but also the power they’re able to generate with their swing.
Adam has refined his game and his swing over the years to increase his power potential and ability to make solid contact at the plate. He comes into this season at just 27 years old and well in his prime and that means he’s only like to get stronger and smarter as a hitter. He’s going to be a perennial power threat at the plate for years to come in my mind.
In terms of True Home Runs Beltre has the edge in that department over Davis 15 to 10. Beltre has also been the better overall offensive player, making better and more efficient contact at the plate – also more often, and one could say his overall approach is one of the better ones in the game considering he can hit for average, power, and knows how to take a walk.
Davis is sort of the anti-Beltre given the fact that he doesn’t walk a whole lot, strikes out quite a bit, and you really count on him for his damage-to-contact ratio, which is his ability to drive the ball out of the park whenever he does make contact. The other big difference between the two of them though is age, as Davis is still well in his prime at just 26 years old (he turns 27 in March) and Beltre will be turning 34 the first week of April.
Going back to 2008 just 13 players 34 years of age or older have hit 30 or more home runs in a season, an average of 2.6 per year. I’m not saying that it’s not possible for Beltre to do it but given his age and a Rangers lineup that no longer offers him as much protection as Hamilton afforded him I’m inclined to say the odds are forever not in his favor at this point.
That is why I’m choosing Davis for my final spot for players who are most likely to repeat their 30+ home run performances from 2012 this year. I know, I know…this probably felt a bit like a fantasy draft the way it was drawn out for you but you’ve gotta admit – it was kind of fun.
The 30+ Home Run Repeat Contenders (totally useless HR total predictions in parentheses)
Giancarlo Stanton – 46
Edwin Encarnacion – 40
Miguel Cabrera – 39
Adam Dunn – 39
Chris Davis – 37
Prince Fielder – 36
Albert Pujols – 34
Adam Jones – 34
Jay Bruce – 34
Ryan Braun – 33
Josh Hamilton – 32
Andrew McCutchen – 31