Say what you want about the baseballs being used today — whether they are juiced or not. What is for sure: we are seeing baseballs fly out of the park at an alarming rate this year.
Is it a bad thing?
Maybe for pitchers, but for the casual fan, it’s making baseball look even better. Baseball is seen as a boring sport, home runs make it exciting, and more home runs means more fans. This year, we could witness something that has only happened twice in the history of Major League Baseball. Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger, Pete Alonso, and Christian Yelich have a chance to etch their names in the history books. Each player has done so already in their careers, however, they each are on pace for 50 or more home runs this season.
Only twice in the history of Major League Baseball have four players hit 50 or more home runs in the same season. In 1998 it was Mark McGwire (70), Sammy Sosa (66), Ken Griffey Jr. (56), and Greg Vaughn (50). In 2001 it was Barry Bonds (73), Sammy Sosa (64), Luis Gonzalez (57), and Alex Rodriguez (52). These are some of the best home run hitters in the history of the game. We’ll break down each player and see how realistic it is for us to see this feat yet again.
*All stats are as of Wednesday, August 28*
Mike Trout is having yet another MVP caliber season with the Angels. Trout entered the league in 2011 playing 40 games for the Angels. Since 2012, Mike Trout has made a splash in the league. In each of the past seven seasons Trout has placed at least top four in MVP voting, winning the award twice. Trout won the Rookie of the Year award in 2012 finishing second in MVP voting and was awarded the Silver Slugger award. The eight-time All-Star now has his chance to join yet another exclusive club. Only 45 people in the history of Major League Baseball have hit 50 or more home runs in a season. Trout has a career-high of 43 with 28 games to play.
Trout is on pace to hit 52 home runs this season. He has owned the Texas Rangers this season, hitting 11 of his 43 home runs this year against them in 18 games. Unfortunately, Trout only has one game left against the Rangers. The Angels will play Houston seven times, Oakland five times, and Boston, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and the New York Yankees three times each. It seems that Trout will be up against some of the American League’s best pitchers in September.
Cody Bellinger has his name in the National League MVP talks alongside reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich. Bellinger had a sophomore slump last season, hitting .260/.343/.470 in 162 games. Bellinger did play in every single game last season which is an accomplishment in itself. However, Bellinger only hit 25 home runs, 14 less than his rookie year the previous season. Bellinger was voted to the All-Star game in his rookie season as well as winning the Rookie of the Year award. Something needed to change for the young star if the Dodgers were going to get back to yet another World Series, their third in three years.
Bellinger spent the offseason and all of spring training fixing things. He was given high praise from the Dodgers’ coaching staff that stated, “Going forward, Cody’s got to be our guy.” There isn’t much to fix with Bellinger’s actual swing as it is one of the best in baseball. What hitting coaches Brant Brown and Robert Van Scoyoc did was adjust Bellinger’s approach. During the offseason, they tried to drill the basics into Bellinger. Brown said during the offseason, “It’s an old Navy Seals technique… in times of stress, you don’t rise to the occasion – you revert back to your training.” Van Scoyoc and Brown’s tricks have clearly worked for the third-year stud. Bellinger’s first full month was a record-breaking one. Bellinger hit 14 home runs in the month of April hitting .431/.508/.890.
Bellinger now stands visibly closer to home plate; it appears that he is almost standing on top of it sometimes. This is to get Bellinger’s load and swing path closer to the one he had his rookie year. Bellinger now has 42 home runs and is on pace for 50. Bellinger has destroyed the Pirates, Padres, and Giants, hitting nine home runs against each team. The Dodgers will play San Diego, San Francisco, and Colorado six times each, Arizona four times, Baltimore and the New York Mets three times each, and Tampa Bay twice. Arizona and Baltimore could help Bellinger inch his way to the home run lead.
Pete Alonso is off to a great start to his career. The rookie has hit 42 home runs and is hitting .265/.367/.596. Alonso is the number one candidate to win this year’s Rookie of the Year award for the National League especially after the news of Padres’ shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. season-ending injury. Alonso has been the backbone of this Mets team and continues to carry most of the load offensively.
Alonso has broken the Mets’ single-season home run record with all of September left to play. Alonso is on pace to hit 52 home runs this year. If he were to keep this pace, that would put him in a tie for the rookie home run record set by Aaron Judge in 2017. With 31 games left to play, the Mets have six games with Philadelphia, four games against Miami and Arizona, and three games against Washington, Colorado, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and the LA Dodgers. Both series against the Rockies and Reds are away. This gives Alonso a little boost with two favorable home run stadiums left. Alonso, 24, has a great career ahead of him if this is the way he keeps swinging the bat. The hype in spring training was all about Alonso and he has delivered thus far.
Christian Yelich started this season right where he left off last season. Yelich is making the NL MVP race interesting alongside Cody Bellinger. The reigning NL MVP has 41 home runs this season and is hitting .330/.424/.675. Yelich leads the National League in on-base percentage and leads the majors in slugging percentage as well as OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage).
Last season, Christian Yelich had a career year, being voted into the All-Star game, winning a Silver Slugger award, and on top of all of that, being voted the National League MVP. Yelich’s .326 batting average last season was good enough to win him the National League batting title as well, but his .330 this season has him tied for second behind Jeff McNeil (.333). The Brewers were a playoff team last season making it to the NLCS losing in game seven to the Los Angeles Dodgers. One of the big reasons the Brewers were able to even make the playoffs last season was because of Yelich’s amazing September. In the final month of the season last year, Yelich’s batting average was .370 with 10 home runs.
Yelich is on pace for 50 home runs this season. The Brewers have seven games against the Chicago Cubs, four games with Miami and San Diego, three against Pittsburgh, Colorado, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, and two against Houston. Yelich will end the year in Cincinnati and Colorado; that could give him an extra boost.