Apr 29, 2013, 11:33 AM EDT
In honor of Bryce Harper playing his 162nd career game, here is the list of the top 12 home run hitters through their age 20 seasons:
1. Mel Ott, 61
2. Tony Conigliaro, 56
3. Alex Rodriguez, 41
4. Ken Griffey, 38
5. Frank Robinson, 38
6. Mickey Mantle, 36
7. Mike Trout, 35
8. Al Kaline, 32
9. Bryce Harper, 31
(tie) Ted Williams, 31
11. Orlando Cepeda, 25
(tie) Eddie Mathews, 25
Now, some of these players — Alex Rodriguez, Ted Williams and Cepeda — actually turned 21at some point DURING the season, something Bryce Harper will not do until October.
There are a couple of points worth making here. One, Harper is on pace to hit 60 home runs this year. And while he probably won’t do that, he has to hit a more manageable 40 homers this year (31 more in the last five months) to pass Mel Ott for most home runs through age 20 season. He’s a pretty decent bet to do that.
But here’s an even more significant point, I think. Look at the 12 players. Tony Conigliaro seemed on his way to an extraordinary career until he was hit in the face by a Jack Hamilton pitch. the pitch fractured his cheek, dislocated his jaw and caused serious problems to his eye. His comeback was stirring and magnificent — he hit 36 homers in 1970 — but his vision was never the same and he was done at 26 (he did try another comeback at 30, making it back to the Majors). He goes down with Herb Score and a couple of others as the greatest “What might have beens” in baseball history.
So take away Conigliaro. And take away Trout and Harper because they are active. That leaves nine players.
All nine are either in the Hall of Fame or will be in the Hall of Fame (depending on how the voters treat A-Rod). That’s amazing to me. All nine are all-time players.
It just goes to show you that displaying this sort of brilliance as an extremely young hitter is very telling and predictive. It’s interesting. Take a look at the pitchers with the most strikeouts through age 20 (since 1901):
1. Bob Feller, 712
2. Dwight Gooden, 544
3. Bert Blyleven, 359
4. Gary Nolan, 317
5. Larry Dierker, 290
6. Mike McCormick, 287
(tie) Pete Schneider, 287
8. Chief Bender, 276
9. Felix Hernandez, 253
10. Smoky Joe Wood, 244
11. Rick Ankiel, 233
12. Walter Johnson, 231
Sort of a mixed bag, isn’t it? You have all-time greats and a few OK pitchers and some washouts. Pitcher wins through Age 20 looks more or less the same — you add Wally Bunker and Milt Pappas and Ray Sadecki, take out Walter Johnson, Rick Ankiel and King Felix. It still gives you an inconsistent mix. Pitchers get hurt: Gary Nolan did, Smoky Joe Wood did. Dwight Gooden lost his way. Rick Ankiel, well, this happened.
That sort of thing does not seem to happen as often to young hitters. Sure, they will occasionally get hurt like Conigliaro. Vada Pinson, Claudell Washington, Cesar Cedeno and a handful of other precocious young players all ran into various problems or inconsistencies along the way. But, generally speaking, brilliant young hitters stay brilliant for an extended period of time. Bryce Harper and Mike Trout are obviously a long, long, long way away from becoming all-time players. But I’d bet on both of them.
May 2, 2015, 11:55 PM EDT
Are those “Keys to the Game” segments getting stale? FOX Sports San Diego put a fresh spin on it.
May 2, 2015, 11:15 PM EDT
More arm issues for Braves lefty Mike Minor.
May 2, 2015, 10:34 PM EDT
Torii Hunter said something dumb again.
May 2, 2015, 10:25 PM EDT
The Astros are good again!
May 2, 2015, 9:35 PM EDT
Nelson Cruz won’t stop hitting home runs.
May 2, 2015, 8:45 PM EDT
A stroke of luck bailed the Giants out in the ninth inning when their bullpen went into meltdown mode.
May 2, 2015, 7:55 PM EDT
One of the best pitchers in baseball history tells us how he’d approach the best player of this generation.
May 2, 2015, 7:05 PM EDT
The Cubs had an unfortunate series of events lead to a little league home run for Brewers outfielder Logan Schafer.
May 2, 2015, 6:10 PM EDT
Catcher Ryan Hanigan figures to be out until the All-Star break, according to Red Sox manager John Farrell.
May 2, 2015, 5:29 PM EDT
Billingsley hasn’t pitched in the majors in over two years.
May 2, 2015, 4:46 PM EDT
Ross went just 2-for-22 (.091) with three RBI over nine games during his brief stint with Oakland.
May 2, 2015, 4:14 PM EDT
Albert Pujols missed two days after leaving Wednesday’s game due to left hamstring tightness, but he’s back in the starting lineup today against the Giants. While he’ll return to his standard No. 3 spot, Angels manager Mike Scioscia has made some changes with his lineup.
May 2, 2015, 3:18 PM EDT
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman acknowledged Saturday that the team won’t pay a $6 million marketing bonus to Alex Rodriguez for tying Willie Mays with 660 career home runs.
May 2, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT
Yelich has been sidelined since April 19 with a bulging disk in his lower back.
May 2, 2015, 1:50 PM EDT
The Rays are hoping that Moore will be ready to return around the middle of June.
May 2, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT
Gomez has been out since April 15 due to a strained right hamstring.
May 2, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT
Wilpon denies the claim that he urged Martinez to pitch hurt in 2005.
May 2, 2015, 11:05 AM EDT
Puig is currently sidelined with a strained left hamstring, but he’s nearing his return to the Dodgers.
May 2, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT
Willie Mays issued a statement to congratulate Alex Rodriguez for tying him on the all-time home run list.
May 2, 2015, 9:35 AM EDT
Another day, another tape-measure blast for Nelson Cruz.
- Torii Hunter doesn’t care what Floyd Mayweather has done outside of the boxing ring 44
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman acknowledges team won’t pay A-Rod $6 million bonus for 660th home run 53
- Willie Mays congratulates Alex Rodriguez for reaching 660 career home runs 30
- Settling the Score: Friday’s results 38
- Ryan Hanigan needs surgery, so the Red Sox will call up prospect Blake Swihart 15
- Royals’ bullpen blows no-hit bid in the eighth inning against the Tigers 7
- Alex Rodriguez hits a pinch-hit home run to tie Willie Mays at 660 home runs 93
- Video: Remembering Rickey Henderson’s record-setting stolen base 31
- Pitchers batting is dumb and the DH should be universal (362)
- Comment of the Day: do not underestimate the seriousness of the anti-DH crowd (201)
- Monday’s White Sox/Orioles game postponed due to ongoing protests and violence in Baltimore (162)
- Protesters converge on Oriole Park at Camden Yards (149)
- The Orioles will play to no fans tomorrow; this weekend’s series will move to Tropicana Field (125)