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.
Dec 19, 2014, 11:30 PM EST
Chase Utley plans to wear Phillies red until his contract runs out.
Dec 19, 2014, 10:25 PM EST
Everything’s coming up Padres lately.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:31 PM EST
Brian Wilson and his beard are back on the free agent market after the Dodgers released him on Friday.
Dec 19, 2014, 9:20 PM EST
The Red Sox have brought back lefty Craig Breslow on a one-year deal for $2 million.
Dec 19, 2014, 8:15 PM EST
The Padres’ outfield should hit a lot of homers in 2015, but they may give back a lot of those runs on defense.
Dec 19, 2014, 7:10 PM EST
The Orioles have settled on a new hitting coach: Scott Coolbaugh.
Dec 19, 2014, 6:05 PM EST
The Giants are looking to solve their third base dilemma with Casey McGehee.
Dec 19, 2014, 5:18 PM EST
Jon Lester now has a personal catcher.
Dec 19, 2014, 4:47 PM EST
All baseball moves the Yankees make must be construed as pro-A-Rod or anti-A-Rod. There are literally no other reasons the Yankees make baseball moves.
Dec 19, 2014, 3:45 PM EST
Howie Kendrick’s replacement?
Dec 19, 2014, 3:25 PM EST
Minor League Baseball’s top lobbyist wants minor leaguers classified as if they were babysitters and seasonal farm workers.
Dec 19, 2014, 3:10 PM EST
He’s owed $2.75 million for 2015.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:30 PM EST
It’s complicated. But you can bid on his deferred compensation, payable by the Mets.
Dec 19, 2014, 2:14 PM EST
Hart was one of the best right-handed power hitters in baseball for the Brewers from 2010-2012.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:42 PM EST
Dec 19, 2014, 1:30 PM EST
The Padres have made a flurry of moves in the past few days. It may help them win some more baseball games. But it will undeniably fire up a fan base that has had nothing to get excited about for years.
Dec 19, 2014, 1:13 PM EST
Furcal is actually a year older than Jimmy Rollins at 37 and hasn’t been healthy since 2012
Dec 19, 2014, 1:00 PM EST
Bud is still going to be CCd on all the imporant emails, it seems.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:12 PM EST
Rollins waived his no-trade rights to facilitate a move after 15 seasons in Philadelphia.
Dec 19, 2014, 12:00 PM EST
One player the Padres did NOT get.
- Giants acquire Casey McGehee from the Marlins 11
- The Padres have given their fans something to talk about. Which is badly needed in San Diego. 56
- Justin Upton traded to the Padres for three prospects 79
- Bud Selig will get a $6 million a year pension. Which is obscene. 141
- Jake Peavy agrees to a two-year, $24 million deal to stay with the San Francisco Giants 24
- Matt Kemp has officially been traded to the Padres 29
- Padres acquire catcher Derek Norris from Athletics 37
- St. Petersburg City Council votes down deal to allow Rays to look for new stadium site 90
- The United States will seek to normalize relations with Cuba (144)
- Bud Selig will get a $6 million a year pension. Which is obscene. (141)
- Cubs, Red Sox, Dodgers, Padres, Rangers, and Astros interested in Phillies’ Cole Hamels (111)
- Rays, Padres, Nationals agree to 11-player trade (97)
- Chase Headley signs a four-year deal with the Yankees worth at least $52 million. (95)