No, it’s not the amount of jelly beans in one of those gigantic plastic jars, nor is it the number of times we’ve seen Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather insult each other publicly.
It’s the number of home runs that Barry Bonds hit during his illustrious 22-year career. Let’s discard the ‘steroid’ talk for a moment, and appreciate how insanely unbelievable this statistical output truly is. For those keeping track at home, Bonds averaged 34.6 home runs per season throughout his tenure in Major League Baseball. The duration with which he performed is simply superb.
Of the players currently active, Albert Pujols (608) is the closest to Bonds’ mark. Based upon Pujols’ age (37), it’s unlikely that he’ll catch the former Giants’ slugger. The same can be said for the 34-year-old Miguel Cabrera (459) and 38-year-old Adrian Beltre (455). There’s honestly no telling as to when — or if — Bonds’ record will ever be broken.
Aside from the fact that hitting 762 home runs seems like an incredibly difficult feat to accomplish, pitchers in this current era are also giving hitters a harder time. Bonds hit 73 home runs during the 2001 MLB season. During this year, pitchers across the sport averaged 6.7 strikeouts per nine innings. When Bonds began his career in 1986, pitchers averaged only 5.9 strikeouts over a nine-inning span. In 2017, league pitchers are averaging 8.3 strikeouts per nine innings — the highest number ever. We’ve literally seen these numbers increase on an annual basis. With the advent of power arms out of the pen, hitting home runs at a higher clip would (in theory) be more difficult to do when compared to the Bonds era.
We’ve also seen average hit totals decrease dating back to the mid-2000’s. In today’s game, teams are allowing an average of 8.71 hits per ballgame. From 1993-2008, pitching staffs gave up an average of 9.16 hits per contest.
However, there are six current players with the slight possibility of making it interesting. We’ve opted to leave Aaron Judge off of the list. While many would find this to be asinine, Judge’s age is the biggest factor against the behemoth being a viable threat to catch Bonds. At 25 years of age, Judge has accrued only 39 homers (as of August 7th). In order eclipse the mark of 762, Judge would have to average roughly 40 home runs for the next 18 seasons (not including the ones he’ll still hit this year). As such, it seems unlikely that any player — past or present — would have the ability to consistently hit 40+ home runs after turning 40 years of age.
*Note: These projections are utilizing the current number of home runs from this season. They are not factoring in the potential home runs within the remainder of the 2017 schedule.
Nolan Arenado: Age 26
Current Home Run Total (as of 8/7): 136
There are some eerie parallels between Bonds and Arenado. At 26 years old, Bonds had accrued 142 home runs in six seasons of play. Currently in his fifth year, Arenado already has 136 dingers with a little more than 50 games remaining in the current regular season. The third baseman is also aided by the fact he’s performing half the season in hitter-friendly Coors Field — where balls fly out of the park faster than a Kardashian marriage ends. Interestingly enough, Arenado has already hit at least 40 home runs on two separate occasions. Bonds didn’t register his first 40-home-run season until his eighth season in the league (1993). If Arenado averaged 40 home runs in each of the next 15 seasons, he’d still be 26 shy of Bonds’ mark.
Cody Bellinger: Age 22
Current Home Run Total (as of 8/7): 32
Bellinger is perhaps the most interesting name on this list. The precocious youngster just recently turned 22 years old. In his first season, he’s closing in on what could be a 40-homer season — a feat only one other rookie (Mark McGwire) has ever accomplished. The sample size is extremely small. It’s feasible Bellinger will come back to Earth and suffer the vaunted ‘sophomore slump’. Pitchers around the league will learn how to attack his weaknesses. He’ll have to make the requisite adjustments, but there’s no question that Bellinger has elite tools when it comes to launch angles, bat speed, hip torque, and raw power. Bellinger would have to average 39 home runs over the next 19 years in order to best Bonds for the record.
Bryce Harper: Age 24
Current Home Run Total (as of 8/7): 149
Many feel as if Harper’s got the best shot at contending for the home run crown. In six seasons, Harper’s already made five All-Star teams. The Las Vegas native won the 2015 MVP after a stellar season — which included 42 HRs, 99 RBIs, a .460 OBP, a .330 batting average, and an OPS of 1.109. Oh…and he accomplished this feat at 22 years of age. He’s currently one homer shy of 150. The scary thing for pitchers around the league is the fact that Harper has yet to hit his prime. Hitting the free agency market next summer, he’s arguably in line to be the highest-paid player in the history of the game. Harper’s future destination — whether that’s with the Nationals or somewhere else — could determine his numbers down the line. If he were to sign with the Yankees, his numbers could be bloated even further by a short porch in right field. Regardless, Harper needs to average about 41 homers per season for the next 15 in order to surpass Bonds.
Manny Machado: Age 25
Current Home Run Total (as of 8/7): 125
Machado has sneakily hit 125 home runs by the age of 25. The 3-time All-Star burst onto the scene with the Orioles as a 20-year-old — bashing 14 home runs and 51 doubles. Since then, he’s had back-to-back seasons with at least 35 dingers. He’s hit a bit of a lull during his sixth year, hitting only .257 with 20 home runs. Like Harper, he’s destined for free agency next summer. It may behoove Machado to enter a better situation, where he’ll be offered more protection in the lineup (say, with the Dodgers, Yankees, or Marlins). We believe this season is a minor blip in what should a tremendous career. Machado is possessing some of the best hands in the game, and should bounce back for some monster years as he hits his prime. Machado will have to average 40 home runs over the next 16 years if he wants to become the All-Time home run leader.
Giancarlo Stanton: Age 27
Current Home Run Total (as of 8/7): 244
Stanton is arguably the game’s most prolific slugger. Over the last eight seasons, Stanton has averaged 30.5 home runs (this number will go up by the conclusion of 2017). He’s currently on pace to club an eye-popping 54 home runs — which would crush his prior career high of 37. Stanton would have to average 40 home runs over the next 13 seasons in order to beat Bonds’ current record. He certainly has the physical skill-set to make a run at this thing. The prohibiting factor in his quest to beat Bonds would be durability. Stanton’s yet to play an entire season. In eight years, he’s played more than 145 games only twice. If he can stay healthy, Stanton could etch his name among the greats. However, this scenario is far from a certainty.
Mike Trout: Age 26
Current Home Run Total (as of 8/7): 190
Trout is the most well-rounded baseball player in the entire sport. While not considered a ‘home run hitter’ in the classic sense, it hasn’t prevented the New Jersey native from putting up some impressive numbers. Trout has two MVP trophies and three top-two finishes for the award. This was all done before his 26th birthday. Though a torn thumb ligament has hindered his participation in 2017, Trout will likely reach the 200 mark at the conclusion of this season. He’d have to average slightly more than 40 home runs per year over the next 14 seasons to catch Bonds (assuming he gets 10 more in ’17). Ultimately, Trout should age well as a player. Barring any catastrophic injury, one could easily see him having a similar career length-wise to that of Derek Jeter.
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