Sunday, July 7, 2013


Warning: this is not quite the usual use of the term "mapping," as you'll soon see.

We are first providing a list of all 52 players who hit 30 or more home runs in their team's first 88 games.

Why? Well, because we used O's slugger Chris Davis as the initial "mapping agent." Davis has hit 33 homers in the Orioles' first 88 games (he's missed one of those games--most of the folks on this list have  not missed very many games for reasons that may be self-evident, but we'll state the most significant of them now: you can't break the HR record if you miss very many games).

Digression alert: looking at Davis' page over at Forman et fil today is a surreal that's unlikely to be the case soon. He's got the same number of HR and RBI thus far in 2013 as he had for all of 2012. While we hope that our call-out won't wind up being some kind of analogue to the infamous Sports Illustrated jinx for Davis, his HR performance got us thinking about all the times that a hitter has come into the All-Star Break with 30+ homers.

We think this list probably captures most of them, but there may be a few All-Star Games that happened after 90+ games, and a few folk may have slipped through the cracks.

None of those, however, ever set a HR record. We have all of those guys on the list: Babe Ruth, three times (1920, 1921, 1927); Roger Maris (1961); Mark McGwire (1998); Barry Bonds (2001).

And, yes, we know that Ruth actually set the HR record four times, but in 1919 that new record entailed 29 HRs for the full season, so he couldn't be on this list. (We're sure he'll get over it.)

Just in case you were wondering: yes, that's
a hat that Ford Frick is waving to the crowd,
not an asterisk...
Those record-setters are shown in blue type. Chris Davis, just for the sake of reference--and those notorious, more-PC-than-thou statements about how he considers that Maris is still the record-holder (but waddabout da asterisk, Chris? Jeez, man, donchew wanna comfort the moldering corpse of frickin' Ford Frick already??)--is shown in red type.

But it's the "mapping chart" that might wind up being the most interesting portion of this little exercise. By laying out all of the years in BB history from 1900 to the present in a handy grid, we can map all the years in which hitters have had "30 HRs in their teams' first 88 games", which is a reasonable proxy for guys who have some kind of shot of breaking the HR record (particularly if you decide to adopt Davis's party line).

In most of these years, of course, there were no real threats to the existing HR record, but it's interesting to see the clustering. Five in the 20s (four of them Ruth) and five more in the 30s (one of them Ruth). One in the 40s (Johnny Mize). Five in the 50s and six in the 60s (nice numerological congruence--style points that even the Soviet judge can't dispute).

Then the slowdown in the next two decades (per Brock Hanke and his likely correct conspiracy theory about the Lords of the Game trying to ensure that no one else would climb Mt. Ruth): three in the 70s, just two in the 80s.

And, then, of course, all Hell breaks loose. Almost half of the "assaults" on the HR record occur in the 90s and the 00s--a total of 24. (Collect 'em all!)

The truly intense period--the one that Roids ragers want to sink their teeth in and keep biting until the giant pimple head of Barry Bonds explodes in a clattering confirmation of hateful, hellish guilt--occurred between 1997-2001, where no less than fifteen such forays occurred, including some unlikely names (Tino Martinez, Greg Vaughn, Brady Anderson, Luis Gonzalez).

(The years in which the record was actually broken are shown with a box drawn around the number.)

His odd historical stance aside, Davis is probably owed a debt of thanks. It's good to have someone restart the process of hitting a serious bunch of HRs in the first half of the season, so we can all get comfortable with that--and so that we can all just relax back into the long view of history. In a time frame when overreaction has been the defining principle of just about everything in America, here is one way that at least a portion of us can start unclenching the teeth, unlock the middle finger from its customarily extended position, and--in the immortal words of June Allyson in arguably her greatest role (as the Depends™ spokesperson)..."get back into life!"

We know, we know... you first.