Among the current crop of home run hitters who is the most prolific and who has the best chance to break records for home runs?
Some of the first names that come to mind are Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder, Alfonso Soriano and Mark Teixeira.
The youngest of the group is Prince Fielder, who is only 24 years old. The Brewers' slugger has put up some impressive numbers in his three plus years in the big leagues.
In Fielder's first year in the majors, late in the 2005 season, he played in only 39 games. He has been a regular ever since. In 1789 at bats, he has slugged 114 home runs or one dinger for every 15.69 times at bat.
Two other twenty-something's are even more impressive.
Albert Pujols is only twenty-nine years old, but has been in the majors for eight seasons. He broke in quick with a spectacular rookie season in 2001. In 4578 times at bat Albert has already hit 319 home runs or one for every 14.35 at bats.
Ryan Howard is on an even hotter pace. Howard is also 29 years old but has only been in the majors for five years. In 2071 at bats, Howard has hit 177 homers or one every 11.70 times to the plate.
Another twenty-nine year old, Mark Teixeira, recently signed a multi-year multi-million dollar contract to play for the Yankees. But Tex has not been nearly as productive if home runs are the only criteria.
In his six seasons with Texas, Atlanta and the Angels, Teixeira has batted 3414 times and has hit 203 home runs. That comes out to one every 16.8 times at bat.
Alfonso Soriano is thirty-three years old, has had 4934 at bats and has swatted 270 homers. So he is way down on the list at one home run every 18.27 times at bat.
Finally comes Alex Rodriguez, who was the youngest player ever to hit 400 homers and the youngest to hit 500.
A-Rod is now 33 years old, and will turn 34 on July 27 this year. He has hit 553 home runs in 7860 times to the plate. That figures to be one every 14.2 times up.
A-Rod came up with Seattle in 1994 but only played 17 games. The next year he appeared in 48 games, before becoming a fixture at shortstop for the Mariners beginning in 1996.
Over his career A-Rod has averaged 3.84 times at bat for every game played. If he averages 150 games a year for the next six years, he is expected to come to the plate another 3456 times before he is forty years old.
If he maintains his current pace he will hit another 243 home runs to have 796 before he is forty.
The hottest hitter on the list, Ryan Howard, is already 29. He has averaged 3.62 times at bat for every game he has played. If he plays until he is forty he will play in another 1650 games and have almost 6000 more times at bat.
At his current pace he would be expected to hit another 510 homers leaving him with a total of 687, more than one hundred short of what is projected here for A-Rod.
Of course, all of this is pure speculation. No one knows what any of these players is likely to do, whether any of them will play until they are forty. Injuries could cut short any career; affect any player’s production.
But such speculation and the ability to analyze numbers in this way is one of the things that makes baseball such a great game.
While we are at it, let’s look at the three greatest home run hitters in history, in inverse order.
Babe Ruth had 8398 times at bat and hit 714 home runs or one every 11.76 times at bat (about the pace that Ryan Howard is on).
Hank Aaron had an astounding 12364 at bats (almost half again as many as Ruth) and hit 755 dingers. That gave him one every 16.38 times at bat (about the pace of Mark Teixeira.)
Barry Bonds hit 762 home runs in 9847 plate appearances for 12.92 at bats per home run (a little better than all the current players except Howard).
There are so many “ifs” implied in this study that it is probably useless. But A-Rod so far has outdistanced ever player in history to the century home run marks.
He is on pace to break Bond’s career mark. If he continues as he has he may break 600 home runs this season. At age 34, Bonds had only 445 home runs.
Longevity is the key to the career record. A-Rod has a contract through age 42. He cannot possibly continue to be as productive as he has been when he is that old. But watching this unfold will be a lot of fun.