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Andruw Jones and the Adjusted 400 Home Run Club

Asher ChanceySenior Analyst IJune 16, 2010

NEW YORK - MAY 02:  Andruw Jones #25 of the Chicago White Sox in action against the New York Yankees on May 2, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the White Sox 12-3.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Andruw Jones of the Chicago White Sox stands just two home runs away from joining the 400 Home Run Club, a once exclusive club which now boasts 45 members.

There was a time when joining the 400 Home Run Club was a big deal, and usually meant automatic entry into the Hall of Fame.

Now, not so much.

I began watching baseball in 1987, and at that time there were twenty-one baseball players who had hit over 400 home runs, including then-active players Reggie Jackson, Dave Kingman, and Mike Schmidt.

By the time I turned 16 years old, that list also included Darrell Evans, Eddie Murray, Dave Winfield, and my childhood hero Andre Dawson, though it notoriously did not include Dale Murphy, who left the game after 42 homer-less at-bats in 1993 stuck at 398. We consider him an honorable mention.

Obviously, though, when we are discussing the 400 Homerun Club, implicitly we are talking about guys who did not hit 500 home runs. This is because, in baseball, 500 home runs is the Golden Ticket. With 500 home runs, you get the keys to the kingdom, you are royalty, and all others will bow before you or perish where they stand. Players who hit 500 home runs know where they stand in baseball history.

Players at 400-499 home runs, however, are harder to judge.

Different Eras, Different Players

As of 1993, the year of the first 1990’s expansion and the beginning of the current era as we know it, there were 12 players with more than 400 homeruns but less than 500, including Honorable Mentions Al Kaline (399) and Dale Murphy (398).

Since 1993, that list has doubled, including new Honorable Mentions Andres Galarraga (399) and Joe Carter (396).

For me, the 400 Home Run Club presents two questions that the 500 Home Run club does not:

First: Why was this player able to hit over 400 home runs?

Second: Why didn’t this player hit 500 home runs?

Any Willie Horton, Ron Gant, or George Foster can hit 300 home runs. And the greatest power hitters of all time don’t even look upon 500 home runs as a big accomplishment. But the 400-500 hom erun range is such a small window, and so few players have landed there, that it makes me wonder what it is about these players that got them there.

The Fundamental Issue

Maybe we're looking at this the wrong way.  Maybe, in reality, all 400 Home Run Club members are actually either overachieving 300 Home Run Club members or underachieving 500 Home Run Club members.

So, our two questions slightly rephrased become:

Which members of the 400 Home Run Club are really 500 home run hitters in disguise, and which members of the 400 Home Run Club are really 300 home run hitters in disguise?

And so we adjust.

Adjusting the Pre-1993 400 Home Run Club

For the pre-1993 crew, this is a pretty simple exercise.  Of the 12 members, three guys right away stand out at 500 home run caliber players who were hampered into the 400 club.

Had Lou Gehrig not ended up with the terrible disease that now bears his name (ALS), he would have easily hit the seven more home runs he needed to get from 493 to 500.

Stan Musial , with 475, is certainly a 500 home run player when one considers his other extra base hits – 177 triples, most of which were hit in his prime, and 725 doubles – and his missed 1945 season due to World War II.

And Willie Stargell , with his 475 home runs, is clearly a 500 home run caliber hitter when one considers that he only played over 130 games ten times during his career.  Had he managed to play 15 more games per year, he more than likely would have been taking aim at 550 home runs.

I would also make the case for Dave Winfield , who finished his career with 465 home runs.

Dave Winfield

This is a hard case to make, because Winfield didn’t lose time to any wars, or to injury. In fact, Winfield reported straight to the Padres after being drafted as the fourth overall pick in 1973 and played in 56 games that season. Then he played until he was 43, which is hardly a short career.

Nevertheless, consider the following:

First, Winfield hit 247 home runs during his career on the road, compared to just 218 at home. This is a shocking number. What if he’d played for the Braves in the 1970s and 1980s? He’d have 600 home runs. What if he’d played in a neutral park? 494 home runs?

Second, Winfield played through two strikes. During his prime, in 1981, he played 105 games and hit 13 home runs. Was he good for eight more that season? Then, in 1994, he played in 77 of the Minnesota Twins 113 games, and he was healthy when the strike began, with 10 home runs. Was he good for five more that season?

I don’t think it is a stretch to say the guy was good for 35 more home runs if he’d played in neutral ballparks and had not missed time due to two strikes.

The Rocky Colavito Rule

At the other end of the list, there are four players who are clearly 300 home run caliber hitters in disguise at 400 home run caliber hitters. Maybe we could call this the “Rocky Colavito Rule.”

Rocky Colavito hit 374 home runs in about 14 full seasons during his career. He had 193 home runs at home, and 181 home runs on the road, about what you’d expect.

So what is the difference between Rocky Colavito and, say, Dale Murphy ? Well, as it happens, Murphy also hit 181 home runs on the road, but managed 217 home runs at home. And those 24 homeruns at home make up the difference between Murphy, an honorable mention 400 home run Clubber, and Colavito, who is pretty much the quintessential 350 guy.

Guess who else had 181 home runs on the road? Billy Williams , who is not an Honorable Mention but up in the 400 home run Club with 426. The home field advantage makes up the difference for Williams as well.

Of course, we don’t need Rocky Colavito to see through Duke Snider . The Duke hit 40-plus homeruns four years in a row playing for the Dodgers in Ebbets Field. The Dodgers moved to L.A. when Duke was 31, and he only hit over 16 home runs one more time during his career. If not for Ebbets Field, Duke may not even be a member of the 300 home run Club.

We also don’t need Colavito to see through Al Kaline . I love Al Kaline, and take nothing away from him. Indeed, I have always considered his 399 home runs maddening.

No need.

During his career at Tiger Stadium, Kaline hit 54 more homeruns at home than on the road (226/172). He would not have finished anywhere near 400 without the boost.

Quintessential 400 Homerun Club Guys

After eliminating those four players, on top of the four at the top of the list, we are left with just four remaining members of the 400 home run club from pre-1993 – Carl Yastrzemski (452), Dave Kingman (442), Andre Dawson (438), and Darrell Evans (414).

Basically, Yaz, Kingman and Dawson aren't going anywhere - they are too low to boost to the 500 Club, but too solid to drop below 400.

I initially counted Darrell Evans amongst the “300 Home Run Clubbers in Disguise,” and a fair argument could be made. At the end of the day, he’s really just like Yaz – he played forever, which is allowed, he hit 195 home runs on the road, which is reasonable. He didn’t slam dunk 400 home runs, but I think he earned it.

Adjusting the Post-1993 400 Homerun Club

We will leave aside era for the time being, because I would argue away that none of the contemporary 400 Homerun Cub members could hang with the pre-1993 crowd, but that is not what this is about. So, same analysis as before.

First, which of these guys is actually a 500 home run clubber in disguise?

Off the top of the list, three guys immediately stand out.

The first is Fred McGriff , who is tied with Lou Gehrig at 493. Why? First, seven home runs is negligible over a 20-year career. Second, he had 34 home runs when the 1994 strike broke out – I think he would have managed seven more that season alone. And third, he hit 252 career home runs on the road – neutralize that and you’ve got a 500 homerun hitter.

The next guy that stands out on the list is Jose Canseco . Say what you will about Jose and his antics, his steroids, his ego, and his off-the-field behavior – in a vacuum, this guy was an elite homerun hitter.

Canseco finished his career with 462 home runs, with a 219/243 split. He played in 154 games in 1991, then managed to play just one more full season from 1992 to 2001 before retiring at the age of 36. If he manages to make two of those seasons complete, or if he manages to not get blacklisted late in his career, he gets 38 more home runs just by showing up with a bat.

Then there is Carlos Delgado . He is currently 38 years old, has 473 home runs, and appears to be out of baseball. Could he hit 27 more homeruns if he played this year and then again until 40 or 41. Yes, yes he could.

There is one more player I am going to bump up into the 500 home run category, but you need to brace yourself because I am about to drop some drama – Mike Piazza , and his 427 home runs, are in the 500 home run club.

Craziness, right? Well, not exactly.

Piazza, in my opinion, is the single most home-field disadvantaged player of all time. He has a home/road OPS split of (.880/.960); the number of players with a .960 OPS on the road period you can count with two hands.

Plus, playing catcher, Piazza pretty much stopped playing full seasons after the age of about 33, long before his home run hitting ability left him. Not only is Piazza a 500 home run caliber player, but I would put him ahead of many of the players on the 500 home run list.

The bottom of the list is a really difficult exercise, because there are so many players that you could say “If he hadn’t played in the 1990s, he wouldn’t be on the list.” But again, that’s not the point, or at least isn’t yet.

Joe Carter , who is only on the list as an Honorable Mention, fails the Colavito test, with 183 career home runs on the road. He too played through the 1994 strike, but that balances his home/road, if anything. Plus, Joe Carter sucked.

Andres Galarraga fell short of 400 by one, but unlike Kaline, he had a 202/197 home/road split so he doesn’t get disqualified there. He also played through the strike in 1994, and had 31 home runs, so he almost certainly would have hit his 400th home run, and probably his 410th home runs.

Plus, Galarraga missed all of 1999 due to cancer, after three straight years of 40-plus home runs, so he probably would have hit another 30-40 there. Dude’s a 400 home run clubber, and may even be a 500 guy if you really got me started.

Obviously, Galarraga benefited from Coors Field, and we have to take that into account. But we did – he only hit five more home runs at home than on the road in his career.

Quintessential 400 Home Run Clubbers from After 1993

I can’t really take anything away from the rest of these guys – Cal Ripken, Jr. (431) played every single day forever and did so in, at best, a neutral park; I’d say he earned it. Chipper Jones has spent his career in a park not known for giving up home runs, and has been injured often. Juan Gonzalez makes a better case for the 500 home run club than the 300 home run club – 237 home runs on the road (vs. 197 at home); missed the strike year; played his last full season at the age of 31. He also has steroids written all over him, but that’s a different matter – this guy is Ralph Kiner of the modern era.

The Result

So tallying up the score, and making the correct adjustments, we redistribute the 400 home run club as follows?

500 Home Run Club
Lou Gerhig
Willie Stargell
Stan Musial
Dave Winfield
Fred McGriff
Jose Canseco
Carlos Delgado
Mike Piazza

400 Home Run Club
Carl Yaztrzemski
Dave Kingman
Andre Dawson
Darrell Evans
Andres Galarraga
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Chipper Jones
Juan Gonzalez

300 Home Run Club
Dale Murphy
Billy Williams
Duke Snider
Al Kaline
Joe Carter

As for Andruw Jones, well, for now his numbers look pretty unassailable.  He actually has 216 home runs on the road compared with just 182 on the road - a shocking split.

He has also been basically M.I.A. since the age of 30, which makes his numbers shocking.

When Andruw joins the 400 home run club in the next week or two, he'll definitely deserve it.

I just wish we'd have seen him stay healthy and active and make a run at 600.

Asher B. Chancey lives in Philadelphia and is a co-founder of BaseballEvolution.com .