The Five Worst Players to Hit 40 Home Runs
Before the 2010 season began, there were only 300 times in Major League history where someone hit 40 or more home runs in a single season. Only 150 of those occurrences were accomplished by players who have not been inducted into the Hall of Fame; it only counts as 114 if you don’t include the times when Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro, and Jose Canseco reached that mark numerous times, and roughly 100 if you exclude everyone who has been linked with steroids.
124 games into the season, Major League Baseball added one more member to the 40+ Home Runs in One Season Club: Jose Bautista. He achieved the feat this past Monday after hitting two long bombs against the Yankees in a 3-2 Blue Jays victory.
With that being said, who would’ve thought that Jose Bautista, of all people, would be the first to tater 40 into the seats this season? The 40-home-run mark used to be a single season milestone for the Babe Ruths, the Willie Mayses, the Mickey Mantles, and the Hank Aarons of the world. Now that Jose Bautista has done it, along with several other people, we could probably think that any ol’ MLB player can do it.
Adam Dunn has done it five times in a row from 2004-2008, and he’s nowhere near as great as the players who have accomplished that feat.
(I was planning on writing this the day after Jose Bautista hit his 40th homer. However, now that he’s currently on pace to reach the 50-home-run mark, I thought, “What the heck… I’ll do it whenever.” Anyways… getting back on subject…)
Out of the thousands of players who have played the game, a total of 123 players have hit 40 home runs in a season, and 69 of those who are on that list are not in the Hall of Fame. It got me thinking about the Jose Bautistas of this semi-exclusive club.
We currently live in an era where people highly value the walk-off home run and giving away big bucks for a big bat. However, none of the all-time greats we think about ever appeared on the top 500 single-season strikeout list. Granted, if you pop 40 dingers in the Major Leagues, you’re worth something, but there are quite a few players who aren’t exactly what you would call a “great player”.
I keep thinking that "worst" is too strong of a word to describe these athletes, because most of these players are pretty good in their respective ways. But what other word can I use to describe a list like this?
But as long as you get my drift, here is the presentation of the five "worst" players to ever hit 40 home runs.
Honorable Mention No. 1: Mark Reynolds
Only one man has made it to the 200 strikeout milestone, and Mark Reynolds has managed to do it twice, not to mention he's on pace for striking out that many times for a third straight season.
Less than four seasons into his career, the Diamondbacks' third baseman is among the top 500 in career strikeouts already. On this pace, to reach Reggie Jackson's career record of 2597 strikeouts he will only need about five more seasons to do it. Imagine being only 31 or 32 and breaking a notorious career record like that.
We all know about that several players have had Mark Reynolds seasons: Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard, Jack Cust, etc. However, I feel that Mark Reynolds represents all of those who have mastered (or should I say unmastered) the strikeout.
However, I feel that one person should represent all those who have recently struck out more times than games played.
Reynolds is not eligible for the top 10 list only because we're not 100 percent sure where his career is going to end up. Only four seasons in, Reynolds could possibly turn his game around; it's not likely, but it can happen. He's got a long career ahead of him.
Here's hoping to 2598.
Honorable Mention No. 2: Brady Anderson
Off the top of your head, do you know how many players there are who have hit 50 home runs yet were never able to reach 25 home runs during any other season? Only one. Brady Anderson.
Out of all the players who have hit 40+ homers in one season, Anderson is the speediest of them all. With a total of 315 swiped bags in his career. Besides Willie Mays and Barry Bonds, there is no other player who has hit 40 home runs in a season and steal over 315 bases.
It is quite debatable as to what Brady Anderson's most productive season was. In 1992, Anderson stole 53 bases as the Orioles' leadoff man. He also jacked 21 long balls and drove in 81 runs that year. Putting up those numbers made him the first player in the American League ever to reach the 20 home run, 75 RBI, and 50 stolen base mark in the same season.
The other great season Anderson had was his best year by far, in terms of power. It was his tenth year in the Majors, when he actually hit 50 home runs, 34 more home runs than his previous season! He also led the league in extra-base hits that year (92); he finished in the top 10 in the MVP voting that year.
Don't get me wrong: Anderson's career wasn't bad. At times, some of his numbers shocked us (in a good way). He also worked the pitch count quite well, was a bunting expert, and managed to get on base a lot more frequently than other players batting close to his .243 average.
Brady also hit 44 leadoff home runs, second only to Rickey Henderson's 79 for the most in all-time. I'm sure that if he was able to get a few more points added to that batting average every season, he would've been considered one of the better leadoff men in the 90s.
However, the 40+ home run club generally represents a hitter than can do well offensively power-wise. Anderson should be mentioned, but doesn't make the list.
* Fun Fact: Brady Anderson's 50th homer was on the last game of the 1996 season against eventual Cy Young award winner Pat Hentgen. That home run also broke the Frank Robinson's franchise record for the most home runs in one season.
*Fun Fact: Anderson is the brother-in-law of NL West outfielder Steve Finley.
*Fun Fact: He was also involved in one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history. In 1985, the Boston Red Sox decided to trade him, along with possible Hall of Famer Curt Schilling, for starting pitcher Mike Boddicker.
Honorable Mention No. 3: Jesse Barfield
This might be arguable, since he played in a pitcher’s era for most of his career. However, I decided not to put him on this list because I think he contributed a lot with the Blue Jays in the mid 1980s for such a short career.
Out of all things Barfield could possibly be noted for, people would probably remember him best for his superb defense. He won two consecutive Gold Gloves, and led the American League in outfield assists during his three best offensive years.
Judging from where his managers placed him in the batting order most of his career, I would say that Barfield wouldn’t be the first person that comes to mind when you think about 40+ home run seasons.
What I really don’t understand is how one can hit 40 home runs (lead the league in the category, mind you), hit 108 RBI, hit for a .289 average, yet still hit in the No. 5/No. 6 spot for 140 of the 158 games he played during that season! If he batted in the top of the lineup, do you think his season would’ve changed? Probably.
After a trio of productive offensive seasons ( 1985-1987), Barfield’s career suddenly dwindled. By the age of 28, his numbers significantly dropped. After being traded to the Yankees and showing signs of fatigue during his later years, he decided to retire from the MLB.
It’s a shame that he didn’t stay with Toronto a few more years. He would’ve won a championship with them.
*Fun fact: Jesse Barfield set the franchise record for most home runs in a season the year he hit 40 homers.
*Fun fact: He was the first Blue Jay to hit a pinch grand slam (1982), and was also the first Blue Jay to compile a 20-20 season; Barfield never stole more than 8 bases aside from that season.
*Fun fact: In 1993, after he retired from the MLB, he decided to play one more year of baseball with the Yomiuri Giants, where he reunited with Blue Jays teammate Lloyd Moseby.
No. 5: Gorman Thomas
Stormin' Gorman is one of the most popular names in Brewers history, and I'm sure that if he was playing right now, he'd win the Captain Morgan Award.
A first round draft pick by the Seattle Pilots in 1969, the centerfielder was well-recognized as a power hitter. He showed it in the minors as well, as he won two home run titles during his time down there. However, Thomas's abundance of strikeouts and low batting average kept him from a steady job in the Majors until the late 1970s.
In 1978 Gorman Thomas was given a chance prove himself. He did hit 32 homers and drive in 86 runs, but only managed a .246 batting average along with nearly one strikeout per game.
The following season, he led the league in homers, but also led the league in strikeouts; striking out 175 times in 156 games.
1980 came around, and Thomas's strikeout numbers didn't change: 170 strikeouts in 162 games. His .303 on-base percentage and .471 slugging percentage is not what you'd normally see in a dangerous hitter who hit 38 home runs, so you could tell that pitchers didn't mind pitching to him. He led the league in homers in 1982 (39), one year after having rotator cuff surgery.
The Brewers' management felt like they could easily get more talent if they got rid of Gorman, and they traded him to the Cleveland Indians.
Gorman Thomas's story has a happy ending, though. He returned to Milwaukee for 44 more games during his last season in the MLB. He finished his career off with a 16 home-run season, a .187 batting average, and .316 on-base percentage.
It seems like only the die-hard Brewer fans truly appreciate what he's done for the team. However, his numbers don't say much. Surely, he had some pretty good power numbers over the years, but the career statistics like the .225 batting average and 1339 strikeouts in 1435 games stick out like sore thumbs.
Sorry, Gorman, but you're on the list.
*Fun Fact: If you've watched the movie "Major League", you may remember that in the final game, Willie Mays Hayes makes a great catch at the wall to save the game. This catch was rumored to honor to Gorman Thomas for his famous wall-catch in the championship series against the Baltimore Orioles, which preceded their trip to the World Series in 1982.
No. 4: Richard Hidalgo
Richard Hidalgo, the Venezuelan native, showed the signs of a promising star at the young age of 17.
If you watched the game of baseball in the 90s and remember Richard Hidalgo, you would also remember that he lacked consistency. Having him on your team was rather frustrating, as you wouldn’t know whether Hidalgo was going to have a great year or a mediocre one.
Throughout his nine-year career in the Bigs, Hidalgo posted a 40+ home run season once, a 100+ RBI season once, a 1.000 OPS once, and a 100+ runs-scored season once; all those numbers were posted in the 2000 season. Along with those great single-season milestones, his batting average was .314, his on-base percentage was .391, and his slugging percentage was an astounding .636 (better than Sammy Sosa’s).
His next best season came in 2003, when he hit .309, with 28 homers, and 88 RBI.
Aside from those two good years Rich put up, he never hit more than 28 home runs, collected more than 88 RBI, or scored more than 70 runs.
His career on-base percentage is a mundane .345, and his slugging percentage is a mediocre .490; that’s not really what you’re looking for in a player in the heart of the order.
It’s a shame that the guy had to battle with knee problems even before his first Major League game. Moving up in the minors, scouts praised him more and more as a five-tool player with youth on his side.
*Fun fact: Not so fun… but on November 22, 2002, Hidalgo was shot in the left forearm during a carjacking incident in his home country of Venezuela.
No. 3: Dick Stuart
Ah… Dr. Strangeglove! A man known for two things: hitting 66 home runs in the Western League in 1956, shattering the previous record of 49 for the most home runs in one season in A-ball, and being one of, if not THE worst, defensive players to ever play the game of baseball professionally.
Upon Stuart's start in Majors, Pittsburgh Pirates' manager Bobby Bragan said, "Dick Stuart is the worst outfielder I ever saw in my life." Bragan immediately shifted Stuart over to first base, feeling that his fielding wouldn't be much of an issue there.
Just for the record, a defensive first baseman is extremely valuable for a team; just ask anyone who has managed a team with Doug Mientkiewicz.
Stuart played as a cornerman throughout (just about) his entire career. In his first season (1958), he led the league in errors while only playing 67 games! He led the league in errors committed as a first baseman for six straight years after that; three of those seasons still rank in the top ten of most errors committed in one season by a 1B.
His defense was such a liability that the managers of his respective teams decided not to put him in the lineup!
Moving on to his offense…
It has been said that, had the designated hitter rule existed during his time, Stuart would've been an excellent candidate for that position. Although his home run numbers state some evidence, the rest of his offensive stat line doesn't say that much.
He had one noteworthy season with the Pirates when he posted a .301 batting average, 35 home runs, and 117 RBI, and two more great seasons with the Red Sox. During his first year in Boston, he posted his only 40+ home run season (42) while leading the league in RBI (118) and total bases (319). He put up another decent season the following year, with a .279 batting average, 33 homers, and 114 RBI. Those three seasons were the only seasons where he reached the 100+ RBI mark.
Throughout his entire career in the cleanup spot (2739 of his 3997 career at-bats), his OPS+ is calculated to an average 104. As a cleanup hitter, you're looking for something a lot more than 104.
As a No. 5 hitter (548 at-bats), his OPS+ is 86, and as a No. 6 hitter (375 at-bats) his OPS+ is 87.
He also struck out 957 times in 1112 games, which translates to 0.861 strikeouts per game.
For a person who had a 40+ home run season, you would expect something a lot more than what he produced.
*Fun Fact: Dick Stuart's first Major League hit was a home run. His second hit was a grand slam!
*Fun Fact: Stuart played 12 innings of baseball in left field throughout his Major League career… without committing any errors. He didn't get a chance to make any play out there, though… so his fielding percentage stayed put at .000. Hey, it's close to his fielding percentage at first base. ;)
No. 2: Tony Batista
Many people probably remember this guy for his unique “WIDE open” batting stance, or the time he scared the shimatta out of a pitcher after being hit by a pitcher in Japan. Click the following link to refresh your memories:
When it is arguable that your biggest moment in your career is when you pretend to charge the mound and trot to first base instead, it is reasonable to say that you weren't the greatest ballplayer in terms of productivity.
Want to know how mediocre his career was? His career batting average is a mere .251, his career OPS+ stands at 92, and his career on-base percentage ended up below .300. His career slugging percentage is only .453, as well; that's far below what the average power hitter puts up.
During Batista's prime, he was considered an average offensive player. Throughout most of his career, he batted in the middle of the order.
During his solitary 40+ home run season, he batted sixth in the lineup most of the time. It wasn't a surprise to not see him move out of that spot, as his batting average was far from being above .300 throughout his entire career. His inabilities to start rallies and put his bat on the ball in clutch situations were pretty big factors, as well.
Batista was an All-Star twice out of his eleven seasons in the Majors, which just goes to show that power will only take you so far.
*Fun Fact: One more memorable incident Tony Batista had was while he was playing for the Blue Jays in 1999. During a game against the Orioles, Batista made it safely to first on an infield single. Batista ran past first base, all the way down the first baseline to SkyDome's outfield wall, 328 feet away from home plate. Anyway, I'm glad you made it, Tony.
*Fun Fact: Out of all the 1309 games he's played in the Major Leagues, his best game came on August 3, 2004 against the Cardinals, when he hit two home runs, including a two-run jack to take the game to extra innings, and his 200th career home run (a grand slam) to win the game for the Expos.
No. 1: Todd Hundley
And… the worst baseball player who ever reached the 40+ home runs in one season mark deserves this honor over anyone on the list, and for good reason. Most people who watched baseball in the 90s would remember him as the primary catcher of the New York Mets before Mike Piazza.
Todd Hundley, a Major League catcher of 14 years, had a pretty rough start during his first few years in the Majors. He did decently well defensively, but not so well at the plate. His first five years' statline looked like this:
.219 batting average, 35 home runs, 136 RBI, .265 on-base percentage, .355 slugging percentage, .620 OPS
As you can see, these numbers don't raise any eyebrows. He was the team's starting catcher and had not driven in more than 53 runs in one season. Things weren't looking too good for the Virginia native, until something out of the ordinary happened.
His numbers averaged rather nicely in '95, when he increased his batting average by 43 points and his on-base percentage by an astonishing 79 points!
Hundley's best year (by far) was in 1996, when he broke two records: Hitting 41 jacks for the single-season home run record by a catcher (previously held by Hall of Famer Roy Campanella) and the single-season New York Metes home run record . 1996 was the first of two times Hundley was selected for the All-Star team.
Things were looking like they were shifting in Hundley's favor, posting two straight 30-home-run seasons. Then, 1998 came along and he suffered what could've been a career-ending elbow injury.
Unfortunately for him, and fortunately for the Mets, New York acquired future Hall of Famer Mike Piazza. With Piazza at catcher, there was no need for Hundley at catcher anymore. So he tried to make a comeback as a leftfielder; that didn't work… and his numbers declined radically shortly after that. He even made a couple of stints with the Dodgers and the Cubs, but it seemed like Hundley was back to his old self. Well... sort of...
It has been theorized that the peak of this man's career was so good due to the fact that he took performance enhancing drugs in the mid 90s.
A former clubhouse attendant named Kirk Radomski has been quoted as saying that he gave Hundley steroids on three to four separate occasions. I hate to bring the Mitchell Report up again, but without that report (and without those drugs), Hundley would've either been a second string catcher for a bunch of different teams and/or back in the Minors somewhere.
I guess this is (sort of) controversial, since this guy is on the Mitchell Report. But think about how where his already mediocre numbers would be had he not taken steroids in the mid 90s.
*Fun Fact: Since 1996, Hundley's record for the most home runs in a single season by a catcher was shattered by Javy Lopez in 2003; Carlos Beltran matched the franchise mark in 2006.
Is the 40-home run mark meaningless?
Do you think baseball players are focused on hitting home runs a lot more than before? As you can see, within the last couple of decades people have been trying to break home run records: the single season mark, the career mark, the franchise mark. What’s next: The consecutive game mark? Hank Aaron believes that players today are obsessed with the long ball.
And is it good for the game? I know most people love slugfests and watching baseballs fly over the fence left and right (and center). The reminiscence of how “chicks dig the long ball” still stands, as well. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ltD21rYWVw
Who do YOU think is the worst player to ever hit 40 home runs? Is there anyone who you think I missed who deserves to crack the Top Five? They’re all right here in the list below. The number in parentheses shows how many times the player hit 40+ home runs in his career. I took the liberty of taking all the players inducted into the Hall of Fame out, because… well… they’re certainly not the worst player of all time with all these people on the list:
Jeff Bagwell (3)
Albert Belle (3)
Lance Berkman (2)
Barry Bonds (8)
Jay Buhner (3)
Jose Canseco (3)
Vinny Castilla (3)
Rocky Colavito (3)
Carlos Delgado (3)
Adam Dunn (5)
Jim Edmonds (2)
Darrell Evans (2)
Cecil Fielder (2)
Prince Fielder (2)
George Foster (2)
Andres Galarraga (3)
Jason Giambi (3)
Troy Glaus (2)
Juan Gonzalez (5)
Shawn Green (3)
Ken Griffey Jr. (7)
Todd Helton (2)
Gil Hodges (2)
Frank Howard (3)
Ryan Howard (4)
Andruw Jones (2)
David Justice (2)
Ted Kluszewski (3)
Paul Konerko (2)
Mark McGwire (6)
David Ortiz (3)
Rafael Palmeiro (4)
Mike Piazza (2)
Albert Pujols (5)
Manny Ramirez (5)
Alex Rodriguez (8)
Richie Sexson (2)
Gary Sheffield (2)
Sammy Sosa (7)
Frank Thomas (5)
Jim Thome (6)
Greg Vaughn (3)
Mo Vaughn (2)
I would just like to make a few points before I finish this slideshow.
Firstly, if I had to choose whether or not Jose Bautista would hit 40 home runs again next season, I would honestly say that he wouldn't. I'm going to take a guess and say that he hits about 30. Does this mean that this season was a fluke? Absolutely not. In his defense, he's had only two seasons with 500+ plate appearances. Plus, he altered his batting stance last year, and it has seemed to work for him since then; see his numbers from September of 2009.
Having said that, however, he's still your average guy in the Major Leagues: 6 feet tall, 195 pounds. Plus, he's already 29 years old. How many more good seasons can we realistically see from a guy who has been in the Majors as long as he has? With a dramatic improvement like his this late in his career, can we see him continue with something like this for a while.
This doesn't even take into consideration the fact that next season is a fresh start. Several things can happen: pitchers, coaches, and managers can pay more attention to Jose Bautista's weaknesses during the offseason; Bautista can get overconfident; he could focus more on his power, which could affect both his number of home runs and his batting average.
In short, I think that Jose Bautista's career could turn out one of three ways. One way, which is the most unlikely way, is if Bautista turns out to be a complete "bust"… either by injury or some sort of factor that causes a huge downfall in numbers. The second way is more along the lines of how Brady Anderson's career ended: where Anderson still compiled some pretty good numbers as a different kind of hitter and turned out to be a pretty good contributor and team player. The third, and final way is the Richard Hidalgo case: still showing some signs of power, but showing signs of aging early.
It takes a lot to hit 40 home runs in the Major Leagues, no matter era you are in. That is why it has only been done 301 times. Congrats to Jose Bautista for joining the club… and here's hoping for 50!
Here are a couple of miscellaneous fun facts to end this bad boy:
* Hank Aaron hit no more than 47 home runs in one season throughout his entire career. That mark has been reached 41 times by a total of 25 players.
* A few members of the 40-homer club did not even reach the 100+ RBI mark. Ken Griffey Jr. (1994, the year of the strike) and Barry Bonds (2003) hold the record for the least amount of RBI in a 40+ home run season (90).