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Double Your Homers, Double Your Fun
2006-04-18 20:50
by Mike Carminati

Tonight Chris Shelton goes for his tenth home run of the season in his first fourteen games as his Tigers face the A's in Oakland. He currently projects to 112 on the season, which is slightly behind projecto-Albert Pujols at 116. Take that McGwire and Sosa, you wimps.

Coming into this season, Shelton had just 19 career homers. Even if he fails to reach his projected 112 homers, one would expect him to very easily double his career home run total. He's almost halfway there now and has 149 games left to go.

That made me wonder what was the most a player, who already had some major-league experience under his belt (at least 100 games and 15 home runs), upped his career home run total in a single season while doubling his career home run total. When Shelton hits 112th this year, whose "record" will he be breaking?

The answer would be that pitcher-cum-outfielder named Babe Ruth:

PlayerYrCareer HRHRPrev HR
Babe Ruth19201035449
Johnny Bench1970874542
Lou Gehrig1927844737
Cecil Fielder1990825131
Brian Giles1999783939
Reggie Jackson1969774730
Troy Glaus2000774730
Joe DiMaggio1937754629
Juan Gonzalez1992754332
Lee May1969743836
Ralph Kiner1947745123
Darrell Evans1973724131
Eddie Mathews1953724725
Steve Balboni1985713635
Ripper Collins1934703535
Nomar Garciaparra1998693534
Jim Gentile1961684622
Richard Hidalgo2000684424
Charlie Keller1941653332
Ernie Banks1955654421
Todd Helton1999653530
Willie Mays1954654124

Shelton would also be increasing his homer total fivefold. What was the greatest percentage increase for a player's career home run total in a single season:

PlayerYrCareer HRHRPrev HR%
Ralph Kiner1947745123222%
Mel Ott1929614219221%
Ernie Banks1955654421210%
Jim Gentile1961684622209%
Jimmie Foxx1929493316206%
Hideki Matsui2004473116194%
Mike Schmidt1974553619189%
Phil Plantier1993523418189%
Eddie Mathews1953724725188%
Ruben Sierra1987463016188%
Chase Utley2005432815187%
Travis Hafner2004432815187%
Norm Cash1961634122186%
Alfonso Soriano2002603921186%
Richard Hidalgo2000684424183%
Jason Thompson1977483117182%
Wally Post1955624022182%
Fernando Tatis1999533419179%
Henry Rodriguez1996573621171%
Willie Mays1954654124171%
Mo Vaughn1993462917171%

Kiner had 23 in his first season (1946) and then 51 in his second, a 122% increase. That's measly compared to Projecto-Shelton.

One last thing, Shelton will be 26 this season, which made me wonder who was the oldest player to double his career home run total. Let's ask Mr. Owl:

PlayerYrCareer HRHRPrev HR%Age
Bob Thurman1957311615107%40
George Crowe1957623131100%36
Sam Jethroe1951361818100%33
Bob Cerv1958613823165%32
Monte Irvin1951392415160%32
Ken Williams1921402416150%31
Roman Mejias1962412417141%31
Hideki Matsui2004473116194%30
Casey Blake2004472819147%30
Geronimo Berroa1995372215147%30
Dale Long1956462719142%30
Melvin Mora2002341915127%30
Chuck Workman1945462521119%30
Sid Gordon1948573027111%30
Mike Stanley1993502624108%30
Chico Fernandez1962392019105%30
Bill Robinson1973492524104%30
Ripper Collins1934703535100%30
Pat Mullin1948462323100%30
Chuck Essegian1962422121100%30
Jerry Martin1979381919100%30
Earl Averill1961372116131%29
Lee Stevens1997382117124%29
Don Hoak1957361917112%29
Joe Collins1952351817106%29

I love lists like this. What's great, besides the awesome array of names, is that there are three men from the 1957 Cincinnati Reds, excuse me, Red Legs. They are the top two guys on the list, Crowe and Thurman, and Don Hoak (29). I guess cowering in the face of abject McCarthyism helps a team open themselves up to playing old, untried guys by the truck full. I guess it was a senior outreach program, and it worked in the short term as the Reds finished 80-74 for the season.

You'll also note that recent players include late-career revelations like Casey Blake and Melvin Mora—where's Mike Easler?—and Japanese import Hideki Mastui.

By the way, the only two men to make the list twice, that is double their career home run totals in one season two times, were Babe Ruth (1919-20) and Johnny Bench (1969-70). Also, two generations of Earl Averill make the list (in 1930 and 1961), and both had 37 career home runs at the time.

2006-04-18 20:58:26
1.   das411
Ryan Howard will probably join that last list of yours before long too.
2006-04-20 08:14:44
2.   Yaks Hairbrush
Putting the cutoff at 15HR overlooks one of the more interesting power break-outs: Kirby Puckett's 1986.

Over his first two years Puckett played in 289 games, had 1248 AB and hit only 4 HR. Over his next 161 games and 680 AB, Puckett hit 31 HR.

2006-04-20 11:07:07
3.   Josh T
How bout this for a fun fact. Three of the top five oldest players to double their homers were former Negro Leaguers who were among the first or second wave of black ballplayers. George Crowe, Sam Jethro and Monte Irvin. (I only know Crowe because of David Halberstam's Summer of 64). I have a suspicion that Thurman may have been an ex-Negro Leaguer too but I'm not sure.

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