What might of been…

Back in 2007, I predicted a short life for Barry Bonds’s home run record. Alex Rodriguez was on pace to blow by it. Plus it looked like after A-Rod set it, Albert Pujols would be right on his tail and likely passing him up. A-Rod will fall short with 696 career home runs, but Pujols still has a chance.

The numbers

Alex Rodriguez started 2007 with 464 home runs at age 31. He averaged 41 home runs a year for each full year he’s played. If he did the same for the next 7 years, he would hit another 287 home runs, giving him 751 career home runs at age 38. Bonds at age 38 was just past 600 home runs, and still at his physical peak. If A-Rod can perform in his later years as well as Bonds then he could expect an additional 150 home runs which would put him around 900 career home runs; he likely will fall off some in his later years, so most likely Rodriguez will finish around 800 total HRs.

My prediction from 2007 was Alex Rodriguez will become the all time home run leader with his 760th home run on Sept 23rd, 2012; coincidentally passing Barry Bonds on the same day he hit his 759th five years earlier.

Obviously, this didn’t happen. Here’s the chart of what might of been, projecting A-Rod’s home run production from 2007 to 2016.

Year Age Predicted Actual
2007 31 58 54
2008 32 52 35
2009 33 53 30
2010 34 50 30
2011 35 45 16
2012 36 38 18
2013 37 30 7
2014 38 25 0
2015 39 20 33
2016 40 20 9

If he hit the predicted amount it would give him 855 total career home runs, almost 100 more than Bonds. However, due to suspension, injuries, and slumps A-Rod finished his career with 696 home runs.

Albert Pujols is also on a pretty hot pace. Albert is a little behind A-Rod, but slightly ahead of Hank Aaron’s pace when compared to their total home runs by age. If Pujols can continue to play and produce until he’s 42 years old like Bonds and Aaron did, he still has a chance to break the record.

All-time Home Runs by Age

Instructions: Click the names to toggle the player’s graph
Data from Baseball Reference, December 2016.

See full-size graph on CodePen


The Walks

One thing to note, which makes Bonds’s record even more amazing: he was walked a major league record 2,558 times, once every 4 at bats for his career. This is the most ridiculous stat, if you’re looking for something that will never be beat, this is it. The next closest is Ricky Henderson with 2,190 and Babe Ruth with 2,062. They would need to walk every single at-bat for a season to close the gap.

If Barry Bonds walk ratio was on par with A-Rod’s or Hank Aaron’s which is both around every 8 at bats, Bonds would have an additional 1,200 at bats. Considering Bonds’s career home run ratio is an HR every 13 at bats, that would have given him an additional 92 home runs! What might of been.

Willie Mays

Did you know Willie Mays missed almost two full years of baseball due to military service? Mays finished with 660 career home runs, which is now 5th all time. What might of been if The Say Hey Kid would of had a full career like the rest of the home run leaders.

Willie Mays home runs early in his career, which is when he went into the military.

Year HR At Bats
1951 20 464
1952 4 127
1953 0 0
1954 41 565
1955 51 580
1956 36 578

Mays hit a home run every 15.2 at-bats, and was averaging around 546 at-bats per year.

So in 1952 he missed out on 419 at-bats and in 1953 he missed out on all 546 at-bats. Using one home run every 15.2 at bats works out to be 27 more home runs in 1952 and 36 home runs in 1953 which would be an additional 63 home runs.

Babe Ruth finished with 714 career home runs; if Mays didn’t serve in the military it is very likely he would of had 63 more home runs, giving him a career total of 723 home runs and being the first to pass the Babe.

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