Apr 29, 2013, 11:33 AM EST
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.
Jan 28, 2015, 12:16 PM EST
Baker was once a solid starting catcher for the Marlins, but he’s been mostly injured for the past five seasons.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:45 AM EST
Blanton called it quits in April after getting released by the Angels and struggling at Triple-A for the A’s.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:33 AM EST
Though, really, since 1987, Al Campanis has been.
Jan 28, 2015, 11:03 AM EST
Dave McKenna of Deadspin looks into the investigation and why it has gone seemingly nowhere.
Jan 28, 2015, 10:50 AM EST
Janssen saved 81 games from 2012-2014.
Jan 28, 2015, 10:15 AM EST
At age 41 he’ll be joining the Marlins in a backup role, playing behind starting outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich.
Jan 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EST
Complications with new regulations may soon be ironed out.
Jan 28, 2015, 6:32 AM EST
Why yes, it is the darkest week of the offseason. Why do you ask?
Jan 27, 2015, 10:50 PM EST
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times has the update …
Jan 27, 2015, 9:41 PM EST
If you expected new Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred to either expand the DH rule to the National League or eliminate it altogether, you can probably stop now.
Jan 27, 2015, 8:28 PM EST
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles have completed a trade for Pirates outfielder Travis Snider. Pittsburgh’s return is a player to be named later and 21-year-old pitching prospect Stephen Tarpley.
Jan 27, 2015, 7:44 PM EST
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported Saturday that the Brewers’ negotiations for Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon were “definitely on life support, at best,” but it sounds like there has been some rekindling of that fire early this week.
Jan 27, 2015, 6:39 PM EST
The Rangers and Red Sox have swapped 25-year-old pitchers.
Jan 27, 2015, 6:19 PM EST
The Orioles have failed in their pursuit of several free agent outfielders this offseason, so they might now be turning to the trade market to fill the need.
Jan 27, 2015, 5:10 PM EST
He hasn’t worked with the Astros since 2010.
Jan 27, 2015, 4:40 PM EST
Crawford requested $3.95 million and the Giants countered at $2.4 million.
Jan 27, 2015, 4:13 PM EST
They’re coming in bunches lately.
Jan 27, 2015, 3:55 PM EST
Tulowitzki is owed $114 million for the next six seasons and Gonzalez is owed $53 million for the next three seasons.
Jan 27, 2015, 2:48 PM EST
Welcome to the future, man.
Jan 27, 2015, 2:22 PM EST
Specifically, a reduction in size of an area of land protected in order to help keep drinking water clean
- Nationals sign former Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen 6
- Ichiro Suzuki’s deal with the Marlins is worth $2 million 3
- Orioles acquire outfielder Travis Snider from Pirates 27
- Not so fast on the Bud Selig Hall of Fame talk 50
- Blue Jays sign president and CEO Paul Beeston to extension through 2015 26
- Reds sign four-year contract extension with Devin Mesoraco 11
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives 82
- How Commissioner Rob Manfred Can Make Baseball More Appealing 60
- Bud Selig: The Greatest Commissioner in the History of Baseball (146)
- Rob Manfred, new Major League Baseball commissioner, suggests ban on defensive shifts (118)
- Why “Deflategate” would never happen in baseball (93)
- The Yankees are going to try to get out of paying A-Rod his contract incentives (82)
- Comments of the Day: some of you guys aren’t big Bud Selig fans (77)