Who’s Next: The Last 600-Home-Run Post For A While August 25, 2011Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
Jim Thome managed to crack the 600-home-run mark on August 12, hitting #599 and #600 in consecutive plate appearances. Since he was hitting home runs at a rate of .044 per plate appearance, his choke index – which is (1 – the likelihood of not hitting a home run) raised to the power of the number of plate appearances, is undefined. Since he went 0 plate appearances without a home run, it should be 1, but he can hardly be said to have choked.
But I digress.
A lot of people have been finding The World’s Worst Sports Blog by searching for “who’s next to 600 home runs”, which usually brings up this old post of mine. Of course, since it determines that Thome is next, it’s not terribly useful. The leaderboard for home runs (active players only) gives us Manny Ramirez, who retired early in the season, as following Thome up with 555. Chipper Jones follows with 448, followed by Vladimir Guerrero with 446, Albert Pujols with 439, Jason Giambi with 427, and Andruw Jones rounding out the top 5 with 416. Suffice to say it’ll be a while before anyone hits #500, much less #600. (No one else is above 400.)
The ages of the players involved – Chipper is 39, Giambi is 40, Guerrero is 36, Andruw is 34, and Pujols is a sprightly 31 – make things a little more interesting. Let’s take a look at them one by one:
- Chipper Jones, age 39, 448 home runs. His production was about .03 home runs per plate appearance in 2009 and 2011, but dropped to about .026 in 2010. If he has 52 home runs to hit, and he only hits a home run about 3% of the time, it’ll take about 1733 plate appearances to hit #500, and about triple that to hit #600. 1733 plate appearances is about three years of full-time play (600 plate appearances over three years would be 1800), and I can’t imagine Chipper maintaining his hitting ability with his history of injuries. He may stick around until he’s 42 to hit #500, but he won’t hit #600.
- Vladimir Guerrero, age 36, 446 home runs. Vlady’s a high-variance hitter. His home run production over the past few years has been .041, .045, .037, .045, and then .022 this year. Let’s downgrade him to about .04 to account for age. That gives him 135 plate appearances to #500 and about 385 to #600. If he normalizes down to about .03, his numbers will be similar to Jones’. For Vlad, consistency is going to be the biggest hurdle to making a milestone.
- Albert Pujols, age 31, 439 home runs. Albert is hitting at a career low .027 clip this year. His previous years were .047, .057, .067, .06, and this year he’s way down at .027. That’s probably due to his fractured wrist, so let’s credit him with .05 home runs per plate appearance over the next few years. That means he’ll take about 1220 plate appearances to #500, or about 3220 to #600. He’ll need to play to the ripe old age of 36 to hit his 600th home run, so I think he’s a pretty safe bet.
- Jason Giambi, age 40, 427 home runs. Giambi has hit at a .09 rate this season, but as he’s a full-time pinch hitter, he’s only made 122 plate appearances. Even assuming he hits at a .05 home run per plate appearance rate, and assuming he played a full season of 600 plate appearances as a DH, he’d need almost two and a half seasons (1460 plate appearances) to make his 500th home run. That would make him over 42. He won’t make it that far.
- Andruw Jones, age 34, 416 home runs. Jones’ production has consistent – in 2009 he hit .051 home runs per plate appearance, and this year and last have both been around .058. Let’s call his average production going forward .055. He’ll need about 1527 plate appearances before he hits his 500th, or about 3345 before #600. Those normalize to about two and a half years and about five and a half years, respectively. Of course, Jones hasn’t made 600 plate appearances in a while – he’s made about 300 for the past few years. Still, doubling the time to hit 500 and 600 still put #500 within striking distance for Jones, who would be about 39 five years from now.
Realistically, Albert Pujols is the only one of this group who’s likely to make 600 home runs at all, much less within a few years.