300 Round Trips – A Notable Achievement Again?

In case you missed it (like me), last week (on June 16, to be precise), Torii Hunter cranked home run number 300 to become the 136th member of that club. What was once a momentous feat now just attracts a kind of … ho hum … “Good for him!” type of recognition. Sort of like the attention paid to Ryan Howard‘s 300th at the end of last season (unless you missed that one too).

Once akin to a pitcher reaching 300 wins, 300 homers no longer has anything like that luster. After the jump, I’ll take a closer look at the 300 home run milestone, and preview a possible coming change in its significance.

Of course, the Bambino was the first player to reach the 300 plateau, connecting off Buster Ross of the Red Sox on Sep 8, 1925. Ruth would almost reach 700 homers before a second player joined him at the 300 level. That player was Ruth’s teammate Lou Gehrig, with his first homer of the 1934 season, on April 30th off Earl Whitehill of the Senators. Those two were followed in quick succession by Rogers Hornsby (1934), Jimmie Foxx (1935), Mel Ott (1937), Al Simmons (1939), Chuck Klein (1941) and Hank Greenberg (1946). All of these players were retired at the beginning of the 1948 season, the last time there were no active players in the 300 home run club.

I mentioned Ruth and Gehrig as the first teammates in the 300 home run club. The next pair were also Yankees, Joe DiMaggio and Johnny Mize from the 1949-51 world championship squads. The first NL tandem were Gil Hodges and Duke Snider on the 1958-61 Dodgers (and, very briefly, on the 1963 Mets). Yankees appeared as teammates again with the Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle pairing from 1960-63 (I suspect you could win a few bets by asking people which of those two got to 300 homers first – it was Berra in 1959, 11 months before Mantle). Other teammates from the 1960s were Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews (1963-66), Duke Snider and Willie Mays (1964, the first 400 HR teammates),  Al Kaline and Eddie Mathews (1967-68), and Mickey Mantle and Rocky Colavito in 1968. The 9 active players at 300 at the end of 1968 matched the membership of the entire 300 HR club just twenty seasons earlier, as shown below.

300 Home Runs 1925-68

With the second and subsequent expansion waves, membership in the 300 club started to ramp up, No longer significant to mention just two teammates. Instead, the first 3 teammate groups appeared, starting with the 1971 Cubs with Ernie Banks, Billy Williams and Ron Santo (notable in that all three had at that time played their entire careers for the Cubs). Next were the Tiger threesome in 1972-73 of Al Kaline, Norm Cash and Frank Howard. For the 1970s as a whole, there were 14 new club members, almost a 50% increase in total club membership from a decade earlier.

Things picked up in the 1980s and 1990s with 19 and 22 new 300 homer members, respectively. Notable trios in this period were Dwight Evans, Jim Rice and Don Baylor on the 1987 Red Sox; Dave Winfield, Dave Parker and Lance Parrish on the 1991 Angels; and 3 successive Oriole teams from 1998 to 2000. The 1998 Orioles were the first team with four 300 HR hitters with Cal Ripken, Harold Baines, Rafael Palmeiro and Joe Carter. The next two seasons, Palmeiro and Carter were gone, but Albert Belle was added to form a new threesome. The 2000 season was the first with two teams having three 300 HR hitters. In addition to the Orioles, Tampa Bay sported the trio of Jose Canseco, Fred McGriff and Greg Vaughn.

The real explosion, though, was yet to come, as shown in the chart below.

300 Home Runs 1969-2013

We’ve now had at least one new 300 home run club member every season for 21 straight years, easily besting the previous longest run of 11 seasons from 1957 to 1967. There have also been at least 16 active 300 homer hitters each season for the past 16 straight years, compared to the previous high of 13 in 1974. As with the earlier period, there are almost as many active club members at the end of this period as there were total members at the beginning. And, there has been at least one team with three 300 HR hitters in each of the past 10 seasons.

But, all things, good or bad, do come to an end. At this juncture, absent fortuitous trades, a team in 2013 with three 300 HR hitters seems unlikely – Prince Fielder would have to go on quite a tear to join Cabrera and Hunter. That is symptomatic of a coming drought (relatively speaking) in new inductees into the 300 club. Take a look.

18. Raul Ibanez (18, 41) 288 L HR Log
19. Carlos Pena (13, 35) 285 L HR Log
20. Prince Fielder (9, 29) 272 L HR Log
21. Vernon Wells (15, 34) 269 R HR Log
22. Eric Chavez (16, 35) 255 L HR Log
Derek Jeter (18, 39) 255 R HR Log
24. Matt Holliday (10, 33) 240 R HR Log
25. Adrian Gonzalez (10, 31) 223 L HR Log
26. Dan Uggla (8, 33) 222 R HR Log
27. Jason Bay (11, 34) 219 R HR Log
28. Nick Swisher (10, 32) 216 B HR Log
David Wright (10, 30) 216 R HR Log
30. Travis Hafner (12, 36) 213 L HR Log
31. Ryan Braun (7, 29) 211 R HR Log
Curtis Granderson (10, 32) 211 L HR Log
33. Adam LaRoche (10, 33) 208 L HR Log
34. Justin Morneau (11, 32) 207 L HR Log
Chase Utley (11, 34) 207 L HR Log
36. Jose Bautista (10, 32) 199 R HR Log
37. Jimmy Rollins (14, 34) 197 B HR Log
38. Mark Reynolds (7, 29) 195 R HR Log
39. Robinson Cano (9, 30) 193 L HR Log
40. Michael Young (14, 36) 181 R HR Log
41. Edwin Encarnacion (9, 30) 180 R HR Log

Ibanez, Pena and Fielder will likely all reach 300 this year or next. Then Holliday in 2015 or 2016, and Wright and Braun in 2016 or 2017. Joey Bats, Double-E and Mark Reynolds will probably also get there in the 2016 to 2018 period.

But, we’re no longer adding 5, 6 or 7 new guys every year as has been common for the past decade. It’s certainly safe to say that the next 10 members of the 300 club will be a lot longer in coming than the last 10. In fact, we may, once again, start to take more notice of this venerable milestone.

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Richard Chester
Richard Chester
9 years ago

At the start of the 1948 season Rudy York was the active leader with 277 HR. He was surpassed by Joe DiMaggio on June 20th and on September 16th Joe. D hit number 300. From that date on here has always been an active 300+ HR player. Doug: It’s eerie that you posted this blog only a couple of hours after I mentioned in another comment the fact that there were 10 players with 300+ HR at the end of the 1950 season, the same 10 you mentioned in your third paragraph. Do I have ESP or did I inspire… Read more »

Mike L
Mike L
9 years ago

Richard, I wonder how much of that 1948 number was impacted by the lost WWII years.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
9 years ago
Reply to  Mike L

If there were no WWII I think DiMaggio would have been the only player with 300+ HR in 1948.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
9 years ago

I took another look. Mize would have done it and Williams had a good shot at it.

PP
PP
9 years ago

And I had a response to your comment 1 hour before this post. But I do recall when 300 taters was pretty special and 400 and 500 were way out there. Nice to see the topic presented so clearly.

Jimbo
Jimbo
9 years ago

There’s a pretty decent chance Carlos Pena doesn’t even get to 300 homers. In fact from that list there are many who likely won’t. In fact the only players who look like locks are Fielder, Cano, Bautista, Braun. Ibanez is so close but he is 41 and a single injury could shut him out. Reynolds could easily stop hitting well enough with his lack of contact. Encarnacion is looking good but a long way to go still. Adrian Gonzalez looks good but looks very likely to not be headed far past 300, probably won’t reach 350 the way he hits… Read more »

Jimbo
Jimbo
9 years ago
Reply to  Jimbo

Holliday is a lock too, missed him by accident.

Oh and the rest I expect won’t make it. Swisher has a good chance and Grandy too. Uggla? Morneau?

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago
Reply to  Jimbo

The combination of Uggla’s age/position, plus the way he’s hit over his past 916 plate appearances, don’t bode well for his chances. I also wouldn’t count on Morneau’s body holding up for 93 more home runs.

I think you may have overlooked David Wright, though – his past injury issues could be an issue, but his glove and ability to hit for average/OBP should keep him in the Mets’ lineup as long as his body holds up.

Jimbo
Jimbo
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

You’re probably right about Wright.

bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  Andrew

I would have agreed a week ago, Andrew, but it’s been revealed that Uggla has been having vision issues for quite some time, which HOPEFULLY explains at least some of his contact issues at the plate. In fact, since receiving his new contacts a few days ago, Uggla has gone 4 for 17 with 1 RBI, 0 home runs, 9 K’s and a .644 OPS. Oh, wait..

I agree, Andrew!

John Autin
Editor
9 years ago

Some actives 27 and under with a pretty fair shot at 300 HRs: – Jay Bruce, 152 at age 26 – Evan Longoria, 147 at age 27 – Justin Upton, 123 at age 25 – Adam Jones, 122 at age 27 – Carlos Gonzalez, 120 at age 27 – Giancarlo Stanton, 100 at age 23 Jones and CarGo both got a relatively late start for this sort of thing; I’d bet on CarGo over Jones. I think Longo kind of slipped below the radar due to injuries the last couple of years, but he’s played every game this year, and… Read more »

RJ
RJ
9 years ago
Reply to  John Autin

I hope Stanton hits 600 HRs. I don’t really get that excited by homers as a highlight reel spectacle but, for me, watching Giancarlo absolutely smoke one is about as good as it gets.

bstar
9 years ago

Killer graphs, Doug. Just a lot of fun.

I miss the days when 300 HR meant something.

birtelcom
birtelcom
9 years ago

Lowest career Rbat (the batting-only component of b-ref’s Wins Above Replacement) among players with 300 or more career homers:
1. Vinny Castilla -51
2. Gary Gaetti -37
3. Ruben Sierra -3
4. Joe Carter 4
5. Lance Parrish 29

GrandyMan
GrandyMan
9 years ago

Probably about half the guys you listed will get to 300, in my opinion. There’s 7 I’m pretty confident will, 5 I’m pretty confident won’t, and the jury’s out on the rest. Some of the really sketchy guys, like Pena and Wells, are already pretty close so that works to their benefit. However, out of everyone there, I can’t imagine anyone other than Fielder, Wright, Braun, and Cano making it to 400 — and one of them probably won’t — and I’d be shocked if more than one of them made it to 500.

bryanM
bryanM
9 years ago

Birtelcom, are you saying that there are 3 members of the 300 HR club that were worse hitters than Joe Carter? what will happen if this gets out?

birtelcom
Editor
9 years ago
Reply to  bryanM

Don’t worry, nobody can under-perform Joe in the 1400 RBI club: Lowest career Rbat among players with 1400 or more RBI 1. Joe Carter 4 2. Cal Ripken 195 3. Andres Galarraga 210 4. Dave Parker 212 5. Yogi Berra 227 Basically everybody in MLB history with more than 1,400 career RBI (72 guys altogether) was an excellent hitter, well above-average at the very least — except Joe. Rbat, by the way, is measured against average, so Joe’s career Rbat number suggests he was, over the full scope of his career, an average major league hitter. That “average’ is not… Read more »

bstar
9 years ago
Reply to  birtelcom

If you dial it back to 1300 RBI or more, the gap between Carter and Ripken fills with several names (and brings in some negative Rbat guys).

1300+ RBI, lowest Rbat:

Gary Gaetti, -37
Garret Anderson, -14
Ruben Sierra, -3
Joe Carter, 4
Brooks Robinson, 45
Ivan Rodriguez, 70
Graig Nettles, 102
Carlos Lee, 140
Carlton Fisk, 167
Ted Simmons, 171
Mickey Vernon, 174
Steve Garvey, 178
Cal Ripken, 195

bryanM
bryanM
9 years ago
Reply to  bstar

Interesting list, bstar- some genuine HOF candidate types who played 3B or caught, a couple of decent defensive types who hit .300 regularly, and Joe, Garret and Ruben.
It looks to me that these three are vying for the crown of “Best career Triple crown stats for as below-average player” the envelope , please…
And the winner is .. Ruben Sierra – who milked a 20 YEAR MLB career out of basically 2 good years in his early 20s.

bryanM
bryanM
9 years ago
Reply to  bryanM

should have said “best HR/RBI totals for a below average player — there have been some selfish, non- contributors who regularly hit 300 – Al Oliver comes to mind as one who regularly helped his teams lose ,on the field and in the clubhouse

no statistician but
no statistician but
9 years ago
Reply to  bryanM

BryanM:

I think the list is more diverse than that, and it contains some bona fide quality players. A problem with career Rbat is than it cancels positive achievement with negative. Brooks Robinson wasn’t much of a batter early and late; Mickey Vernon had a notoriously up-and-down career at the plate, as did Fisk and Ripkin to lesser degrees. I haven’t looked at others here, but I’m not certain Rbat is the final word.

BryanM
BryanM
9 years ago
Reply to  bryanM

Nsb@25 Agreed. The many fine fine players in the list typically played other than corner outfield positions- as I tried to say @23 . Brooks, Cal, Pudge, , The other pudge, even Ted Simmons. , although the latter was not stellar defensively, played a difficult position adequately. I was picking up on Birtelcoms implied point that a corner outfielder with a long career really has no business being only average with the bat, unless they were an outstanding Baserunner, and of course when you get up to 160-170 rbat you are talking about a decent hitter as well

bstar
9 years ago

That’s pretty harsh on Oliver, bryanM. You must be aware of some specific clubhouse incidents that I’m not aware of.

About the only thing Al Oliver didn’t excel at offensively was drawing walks (pretty similar to Steve Garvey in that regard). Not a great player, but it’s hard to imagine someone being such a distraction that all of his 40+ career WAR was non-contributory.