Where Does Alex The Great Rate as of This Date?
As I wrote last week in Drilling Deeper Into The Greatest HR Hitters Ever, there is one player who has the potential of becoming the all-time home run leader on a cumulative basis before he retires--yet has not appeared on any of the lists thus far because his career plate appearances prior to the 2003 season were below the 5,000 minimum I required for inclusion. There is no need for a little drumroll here. Not surprisingly, Alex Rodriguez is his name. Hitting home runs (among other things) is his game.
Rodriguez turned 28 years old on July 27. Using the universally accepted cut-off date of July 1st to determine age for a given season, A-Rod will be classified as a 27-year-old in 2003. Alex the Great hit his 33rd home run tonight vs. the Chicago White Sox and has now hit 331 HR in his career, far surpassing all of the other players in baseball history in homers through age 27.
1 Alex Rodriguez 331 2 Jimmie Foxx 302 3 Eddie Mathews 299 4 Ken Griffey Jr. 294 5 Mickey Mantle 280 6 Mel Ott 275 7 Frank Robinson 262 8 Juan Gonzalez 256 9 Hank Aaron 253 10 Johnny Bench 240
Earlier this season, A-Rod became the youngest player to hit 300 home runs and is likely to be the youngest to reach each of the next several century marks, provided he remains healthy. According to 756watch.com (which uses the "Favorite Toy" method created by Bill James), A-Rod is projected to hit 683 HR in his career and has a 35% chance of passing Hank Aaron. By comparison, Barry Bonds is estimated to hit 740 HR and has a 47% chance of passing Aaron's record. Despite comments by Bonds that could be interpreted to the contrary, it is highly unlikely that he will end his career 15 short of the all-time record unless, of course, he is unable to play due to injury or poor health.
NUMBER OF SEASONS WITH HOME RUNS > 40
1 Babe Ruth 11 T2 Hank Aaron 8 T2 Harmon Killebrew 8 4 Ken Griffey Jr. 7 T5 Willie Mays 6 T5 Mark McGwire 6 T5 Barry Bonds 6 T5 Sammy Sosa 6 T9 Alex Rodriguez 5 T9 Ralph Kiner 5 T9 Juan Gonzalez 5 T9 Lou Gehrig 5 T9 Jimmie Foxx 5 T9 Duke Snider 5 T9 Ernie Banks 5
A-Rod is within striking distance of hitting 40 HR in a season for a sixth time this year. Similarly, Bonds is only three away from doing it a seventh time and Sammy Sosa has an outside chance of hitting 40 for a seventh time as well. Alex the Great and Ernie Banks are the only non-OF/1B to slug 40 HR in at least five separate seasons--and both happened to do it as shortstops, arguably the most difficult defensive position on the field.
NUMBER OF CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH HR > 40
1 Babe Ruth 1926-32 7 T2 Alex Rodriguez 1998-02 5 T2 Ralph Kiner 1947-51 5 T2 Duke Snider 1953-57 5 T2 Ken Griffey Jr. 1996-00 5 T2 Sammy Sosa 1998-02 5 T7 Ernie Banks 1957-60 4 T7 Harmon Killebrew 1961-64 4 T7 Mark McGwire 1996-99 4 T10 Jimmie Foxx 1932-34 3 T10 Ted Kluszewski 1953-55 3 T10 Eddie Mathews 1953-55 3 T10 Frank Howard 1968-70 3 T10 Jay Buhner 1995-97 3 T10 Juan Gonzalez 1996-98 3 T10 Vinny Castilla 1996-98 3 T10 Andres Galarraga 1996-98 3 T10 Barry Bonds 2000-02 3
If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs. Repeat after me. If, and when, A-Rod hits his 40th roundtripper this year, he will be in second place all by himself and only one behind Babe Ruth's record of seven for the most consecutive seasons with 40 or more home runs..
Not a One-Trick Pony
Setting aside home runs for a moment, A-Rod is simply one of the best players of all time through age 27. Using two comprehensive stats invented by Lee Sinins of the ATM Reports and the Sabermetric Baseball Encyclopedia--Runs Created Above Average and Runs Created Above Position--Alex The Great ranks among the most elite players in baseball history. (RCAA is the difference between a player's runs created and the total for an average player who used the same amount of his team's outs. A negative RCAA indicates a below average player in this category. RCAP is just like RCAA, except the comparision is to players at his position.)
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE IN THE A.L. THROUGH AGE 27
AMERICAN LEAGUE RCAA 1 Ty Cobb 657 2 Mickey Mantle 645 3 Jimmie Foxx 643 4 Babe Ruth 547 5 Ted Williams 526 6 Lou Gehrig 506 7 Joe DiMaggio 463 8 Joe Jackson 443 9 Frank Thomas 420 10 Tris Speaker 417 11 Ken Griffey Jr. 385 12 Alex Rodriguez 384 13 Eddie Collins 365 14 Hank Greenberg 325 15 Rickey Henderson 317 16 Charlie Keller 281 T17 Hal Trosky 274 T17 Goose Goslin 274 T19 Al Simmons 256 T19 George Brett 256
Whaddya know? Ken Griffey Jr. and Frank Thomas are the only active players ahead of A-Rod. Readers of Rich's Weekend Baseball BEAT shouldn't be surprised to see Griffey's and Thomas' names among these greats. Of note, every player listed above A-Rod who is eligible for the Hall of Fame has already been enshrined. A-Rod is the highest-ranked non-OF/1B. Eddie Collins and George Brett are the only other 2B-SS-3B.
Charlie Keller and Hal Trosky are the only eligible players on the list not in the HOF. Keller, a lefthanded-hitting slugger who played RF for the Yankees in the 1940s, was headed to Cooperstown after his first five years with OPS+ scores of 144, 141, 162, 163, and 168. However, Keller lost nearly two years to World War II at his peak, returned and played 150 games in 1946 (with an OPS+ of 159), and then never played 100 games in a season the rest of his career due to back troubles. He retired with an OPS+ of 152, tied for 29th all time. Trosky, a lefthanded-hitting 1B with the Indians, enjoyed one of the greatest rookie seasons ever in 1934 (.330/.388/.598 with 35 HR and 142 RBI). He knocked in more than 100 runs in each of his first six campaigns, including a league-leading 162 in 1936. Trosky retired at the age of 28, then returned for three seasons and hit only 23 HR the rest of his career.
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE AVERAGE IN THE MAJORS THROUGH AGE 27
MAJOR LEAGUES RCAA 1 Ty Cobb 657 2 Mickey Mantle 645 3 Jimmie Foxx 643 4 Babe Ruth 547 5 Mel Ott 545 6 Ted Williams 526 T7 Rogers Hornsby 506 T7 Lou Gehrig 506 9 Stan Musial 464 10 Joe DiMaggio 463 11 Joe Jackson 443 12 Frank Thomas 420 13 Eddie Mathews 419 14 Tris Speaker 417 15 Hank Aaron 392 16 Ken Griffey Jr. 385 17 Alex Rodriguez 384 18 Arky Vaughan 374 19 Eddie Collins 365 20 Johnny Mize 363
All of the players on the above list eligible for Cooperstown have been inducted. That should speak well for the three active players (Thomas, Griffey Jr, and A-Rod) who are not yet eligible.
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE POSITION IN THE A.L. THROUGH AGE 27
AMERICAN LEAGUE RCAP 1 Mickey Mantle 602 2 Ty Cobb 575 3 Babe Ruth 515 4 Jimmie Foxx 479 5 Ted Williams 475 6 Alex Rodriguez 465 7 Lou Gehrig 428 8 Joe DiMaggio 409 9 Ken Griffey Jr. 375 10 Joe Jackson 372
A-Rod has created the sixth most runs above the average player compared to one's position through age 27 in A.L. history. He should surpass Ted Williams and Jimmie Foxx before the season is out, placing him fourth behind only Mickey Mantle, Ty Cobb, and Ruth. Rarefied air indeed.
MOST RUNS CREATED ABOVE POSITION IN THE MAJORS THROUGH AGE 27
MAJOR LEAGUES RCAP 1 Mickey Mantle 602 2 Ty Cobb 575 T3 Rogers Hornsby 515 T3 Babe Ruth 515 5 Jimmie Foxx 479 6 Ted Williams 475 7 Alex Rodriguez 465 8 Arky Vaughan 456 9 Mel Ott 449 10 Lou Gehrig 428
Source: sabermetric baseball encyclopedia
At the conclusion of the season, A-Rod should rank as the fifth most productive offensive player relative to his position through age 27 in major league history, behind only Mantle, Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, and Ruth. If Rodriguez can maintain a similar pace throughout his career, he will enter baseball's pantheon as one of the truly most outstanding players ever.
I will continue with Alex The Great Part II next weekend with more detailed information on his current year and career stats as well as how he stacks up in the rankings vs. the greatest shortstops of all time.