Who’s Next for 500?

I went into the history of the 500 home run club yesterday and as part of that, I was looking into potential future members of the club. That investigation evolved into a longer post, one I think worthy of its own standing.

Looking at the immediate future, Carlos Delgado, with 473 career home runs, is in line to become the first member of the 500 home run club from the 2010s pending his recovery from hip surgery. After Delgado, the next members on the current active list over 400 are Chipper Jones, who is tough to gauge given his age, Jason Giambi, who has no chance and Vladimir Guerrero, who seems highly unlikely given his age and advancing level of injury. Does Chipper make it? He will probably be 70 away after this season and on a low 20s per year average at the age of 37. If he does pass it, it looks like it would be in his age 41 season, assuming no further drop off in power.

Among players in the 300-400 current list, Albert Pujols is almost a given to make it. Though remember when Andruw Jones seemed like a lock as well? Not so anymore. After Pujols, you have to go all the way down to Adam Dunn at 308 before turning 30. Dunn is likely to fall off fast when he goes, but three more 40-homer seasons gets him to about 440 and that should be close enough to withstand even a mid-30s breakdown.

The further down the home run list you go, the younger the player needs to be. Mark Teixeira is over 70 home runs behind Dunn at the same age, but if New Yankee Stadium maintains its reputation as homer friendly, Tex has some other skills besides power that could help him hold off decline until his late 30s and if so, that should buy him enough time to get in. Ryan Howard is an even longer shot, but if he could go post another 200 home runs in the next four seasons might get himself in the running. Big if though.

Miguel Cabrera is playing in a pitcher friendly park and does not seem the best bet to age well so I would be highly skeptical of his chances to reach 500, needing to average 30 a year (his career average) for the next decade to reach it. The furthest player out that I would feel even remotely comfortable projecting to get near the mark is Prince Fielder. Fielder’s good command of the strike zone might enable him to play for the required time that he will need.

After a decade of sluggers mushrooming the list 25, the 2010s are almost certain to look more like the 80s or 90s with just two or three players crashing the gate.

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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.

21 Responses to “Who’s Next for 500?”

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  1. Ryan M says:

    Vlad is that unlikely? If he just stays at DH instead of screwing around in RF, he has a shot to hit another hundred. His ISO is down to like .160, which given the number of at-bats this year, probably isn’t a significant deviation from other recent seasons. Before this year, the last time he was under 140 games played was 2003. Four more seasons of ~25 HR will get him there, and something to that effect sounds perfectly reasonable over his age 35-40 seasons. I would give him a 40% chance to make it, at least.

    I also think you’re underrating Cabrera as well since power tends to improve into that early thirties, and he’s what? 26?

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  2. Steve says:

    Thanks to Tango I learned about Bill James “Favorite Toy”, which oddly enough is a wed app on ESPN.

    I took what has happened this season out so all of these numbers go back to opening day.

    Name, projected total, Chance at 500
    Prince, 422, 30%
    Vlad, 542, 89
    Dunn, 538, 67
    Chipper, 487, 36
    Delgado, 569, 97
    Pujols, 608, 97
    Teixeira, 427, 25
    Giambi, 467, 19
    Jones, 540, 81
    Howard, 517, 55
    Cabrera, 434, 30

    Giambi seems to be done playing baseball. I think the projections for Vlad, Delgado, and Jones are a little bullish. Though Jones is only 31 still. Neat stuff.

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  3. Jordan B says:

    Can’t say I disagree too much with what you said.

    Carlos Delgado: As you said, he just needs to be healthy for 2010 and he has a good shot at 500.
    Chipper Jones: Spot on here. He’s going to need 3-4 years to get there at his current pace. He either needs three 24-HR years or four 18-20 HR years. This one will depend on injuries, IMO.
    Jason Giambi: Needs almost 100, is 38, and sucked this year. NEXT!
    Albert Pujols: He would pretty much have to die in order to not make it. I think he could make 500 while in a coma.
    Andruw Jones: He actually might have a shot, if he can continue his revival. He’s projected to end the season with 395. Meaning all he needs is five 21-homer seasons to make it. Considering he’s only 32, I could see it happening, especially if he stays in Arlington.
    Vladimir Guerrero: Needs exactly 100, and if he can stay as a DH for a few years (he’s a guy, barring injury, who could play into his early 40s) he’ll get there.
    Adam Dunn: On his way to his 6th straight 40 homer season, and at age 29 will have around 320 home runs to his credit. If he can get away from the OF (or better yet, away from the field altogether) he should hold up for 500. I figure he’s got 2 more 40 homer seasons in him (age 30 and 31), putting him at 400. Then, he pretty much just needs to stay in the majors for about 5 years in order to do it.
    Mark Teixeira: Also 29, but not even halfway there yet. He’ll be a bit over 240 at season’s end. He is playing in a very hitter friendly park (particularly conducive to LHB home runs) so he could get there. I see him with 100 over the next three seasons. Then, he’s got 340 at age 32, when he’ll likely see a bit of a drop-off. If he can manage to stay in the majors until age 40, I could see him doing it, as he’d only need 20/season from there on out.
    Ryan Howard: Also 29, but only at 203 (like 215 by season’s end). He’s also regressing as an overall hitter (BB% going down, wOBA hasn’t been too great the past couple years, ISO down every year since ’06). He already whiffs way too much, how long before his bat speed slows down just enough that he K’s even more? He’s a guy whose skillset doesn’t fit well with aging.
    Miguel Cabrera: He’s going to have about 210 by the time he turns 27, so I’ll give him a shot. I can see him continuing his 35 HR/season pace until he’s a bit past 30. So, let’s say he does averages 35 for the next 5 (his age-27 through 31 years). That gives him 385. Again, he’s just got to find a way to stay in the majors (that’s why they have the DH) for 5-6 years after this and I see him getting it. 20-23 homers a season from age 31-36/37 should be doable.
    Prince Fielder: This is the really young guy I see as most likely to get there. He’s only 25 and will likely have about 155 jacks by the end of the year. He has yet to hit his prime (scary!) and should be a perennial threat to hit 40-50 bombs. Obviously his weight could be an issue, but again, that’s why they have a DH. The guy could realistically have 350 by the time he’s 30 (more like around 320), meaning he’s got a great shot at it.

    So, to sum up my post:

    Albert Pujols

    Adam Dunn

    Good Chance:
    Mark Teixeira
    Prince Fielder
    Andruw Jones

    Health-Dependent (obviously everyone is health dependent, but these guys are moreso):
    Vladimir Guerrero
    Chipper Jones
    Carlos Delgado

    Ryan Howard

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    • Ryan M says:

      I don’t think Adam Dunn is more likely than not to get there. As he enters his early thirties, he’ll continue to lose batting average. And unlike Cabrera, he’s not going to take another big step forward in power… maybe he suddenly cranks out a 58 HR year, but a drop to a 22 HR season seems just as likely if not more from where I’m standing. There’s a real possibility that he can’t hit .220 by the time he’s 34, and I don’t think many teams would be interested in playing a .205/.300/.440 line at DH.

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      • Jordan B says:

        I guess you are kinda right, and looking back I may have a bit of a double standard for Dunn and Howard (both have bad contact rates, so when those drop off so will they). However, the big thing with Dunn is his ability to take a walk. His career OBP is 130 points higher than his average. So even if he’s batting .220, he’ll still have a respectable .350 OBP, and probably a near-.500 slugging. Some team will be willing to have that as their DH. Not to mention the marketing tool he can be if/when he gets close to 500.
        However, if Howard’s BA drops to .220, his OBP is only going to be about .300 (I’m using his recent downward trend in walks, rather than his career numbers, which skew his current talent), and his slugging probably drops to about .475.

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  4. Jonathan Laden says:

    “I don’t think many teams would be interested in playing a .205/.300/.440 line at DH.”

    Which is why God created the Mariners.

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  5. nick says:

    If Chipper can play 130+ games per season for the life of his extension, i think he’ll get to 500. However, that is not something I would bank on happening. He had some leg injuries earlier in the year that took away from his power, and it’s returned in the 2nd half. People look at his low 20′s HR total these last couple of years and assume his power is really dropping off but in actuality his HR/AB rate remains pretty strong

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    • Steve C says:

      I think a move to 1B would really help Chipper stay healthy, and help the defense overall. He is not a statue at 3B like Mike Lowell, but at his age it is not an easy spot to be on the field.

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      • nick says:

        He’s said 1B hurts him more than it helps because he’s involved in nearly every single play on defense, i tend to believe what chipper says about his health

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  6. Mike says:

    What about Adrian Beltre? He’s half way there (247 HRs) at the age of 30. He is excellent defensively, which could help him maintain playing time for the next decade.

    Prior to this year, he was churning out 25 HR seasons. He needs to step up the pace a bit to eclipse 500 before his 40th birthday. If he goes to a more hitter friendly park (LAD & SEA are death to right handed bats) I could easily see Beltre hitting 30/year.

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  7. Mike says:

    One more for the way out there…Justin Upton

    21 year olds who slug .541 tend to have tremendous careers. I dont think anyone would be surprised if Upton develops into a 35-40 HR/year player (especially in Chase). If that happens sooner, rather than later Upton could be well north of 300 by his 30th birthday.

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  8. nate says:

    why does nobody mention mark reynolds for the 500 homer club. he’s 25, crushes the ball when he hits it, plays in a HR friendly park (and SF/Col on the road are friendly as well), and he already has 81 hrs in 1327 plate appearances (or 1 hr every 16 plate appearances).

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  9. SadPanda says:

    Scratch that, park factor of 102…I’m surprised.

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    • B says:

      Park factor isn’t really the relevant point here. In terms of home runs, I’d call LF at AT&T pretty neutral, while RF is extremely difficult to hit home runs to. I know there’s data on parks home run factors if anyone knows where to find it…

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