Nothing excites baseball fans quite the way a home run does. The most sought after record in baseball is Roger Maris' 61 home runs. The Hall of Fame gives free passes to any player who has hit 500 home runs in a career. Most collectors chase cards of power hitters over those who hit for average. But who are the great home run hitters of our time? Where do they rank in baseball's history of sluggers? Our statistical study for this month should help answer these questions.

To understand where today's sluggers rank in history, we took a look back at past records of the home run hitting greats. There have been just 15 players who have reached the milestone of 500 home runs. All of these players appear in the Hall of Fame. Actually, all players with more than 450 home runs have been enshrined (excluding Dave Winfield, who is ineligible). Keeping this in mind, we went through each of these players career statistics and broke down their careers by age. We then took an average of the group as whole. The list below shows our results .


Average number of home runs, by age of all players with 450 or more home runs

Our predictions included 32 calculations for each player. In short, the process included finding a "home run average" for each player, for each age. This average gave us a frequency of how often a player hits a home run. This number was then factored in with the historical list to find the number of home runs that each player should hit in the future. This total was then added to each players current home run total to give us a final number of predicted home runs.

Obviously, predictions are not perfect. Baseball has many factors that can effect a player's career stats. Injuries are unpredictable as are work strikes. Some players peak late (Mark McGwire, according to the law of averages, should only hit 25 round trippers this year; he had that many in about 50 games). Other players fall off on their 500 home run pace before their time (Fred McGriff, was ahead of McGwire in career home runs just two years ago; they are the same age). Regardless of where players futures are headed, we thought it would be fun to list our predictions for modern day sluggers. Here are the top 20.

GRIFFEY, Ken 29 318 693
RODRIGUEZ, Alex 23 85 686
GONZALES, Juan 29 275 683
MCGWIRE, Mark 35 415 581
THOMAS, Frank 30 266 579
BONDS, Barry 34 388 539
CANSECO, Jose 34 368 539
BELLE, Albert 32 285 532
RAMIREZ, Manny 26 119 527
THOME, Jim 28 148 499
PIAZZA, Mike 30 178 495
SOSA, Sammy 30 226 489
WILLIAMS, Matt 33 290 474
MCGRIFF, Fred 35 346 466
VAUGHN, Mo 31 208 459
KLESKO, Ryan 27 109 458
JONES, Chipper 26 90 451
SALMON, Tim 30 165 447
PALMER, Dean 30 176 442
BAGWELL, Jeff 30 196 441

Prediction of career home run totals for current day players, through June 8, 1998

There were many surprises that came from this study. Players who were thought to be great power hitters failed to make the top 20. Others who are rarely regarded as stars did appear. Some of the results that we found to be rather interesting were as follows:

  • Ken Griffey has a real chance at the all time home run record
  • Mark McGwire does not Alex Rodriguez is currently on pace to be the greatest offensive shortstop to ever play the game
  • Juan Gonzales is greatly underrated
  • Jose Canseco and Albert Belle should reach 500 home runs, yet are disregarded in the hobby
  • Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, and Sammy Sosa are highly underrated for their ability

Although we do not claim that these statistics will hold up over time, it is a good guide to just who the greats of our era really are. It should also help those of you who are active in the new card market. In baseball, numbers are everything. Every time a player reaches a major career milestone, their rookie cards become more sought after and values experience sharp increases.

Should a Ken Griffey rookie be valued at seven times that of Juan Gonzales, who is on pace to hit just 10 fewer home runs in his career? Why are Alex Rodriguez rookies so inexpensive when he appears to be the greatest offensive player ever at his position? Many disparities exist in the current market, and many fortunes will be made in the future by those who pick the right players. It wasn't long ago that 1985 Topps Mark McGwire rookies could be purchased for around $5.

In future SMR's we will include similar lists of those on pace for 3,000 hits and 300 wins. We will also update the 500 home run list every quarter. Also, we have included a list of how the top 20 home run hitters of all time would look if our predictions hold up.

Hank Aaron 755
Babe Ruth 714
Ken Griffey 693
Alex Rodriguez 686
Juan Gonzales 683
Willie Mays 660
Frank Robinson 586
Mark McGwire 581
Frank Thomas 579
Harmon Killebrew 573
Reggie Jackson 563
Mike Schmidt 548
Barry Bonds 539
Jose Canseco 539
Mickey Mantle 536
Jimmy Foxx 534
Albert Belle 532
Manny Ramirez 527
Ted Williams 521
Willie McCovey 521