Finish Hot, Start Hot

Christian Yelich launched home run number 14 on Saturday, a blistering start to this season that is much like the way he finished last year. After the jump, find out which other power hitters have followed a hot finish to one season with a hot start to the next.

Most of Yelich’s 36 round-trippers last season came after the All-Star Game so, to find players with similar finishes, I looked for the most home runs in a team’s final 60 games of the season. And, with this season closing in on the 30 game mark, that is the benchmark I’ll use for the start of the following campaign. So, here’s the list for the most home runs in those 90 games.

Home Runs Players
43 Albert Belle (1995-96), Sammy Sosa (2001-02)
39 Babe Ruth (1927-28), Mark McGwire (1999-2000)
38 Christian Yelich (2018-19)
37 Willie Mays (1965-66), Ken Griffey Jr. (1997-98)
36 Mark McGwire (1997-98)
35 Alex Rodriguez (2002-03)
34 Rocky Colavito (1958-59), Mike Schmidt (1975-76), Ken Griffey Jr. (1996-97), David Ortiz (2005-06)
33 Babe Ruth (1929-30), Ted Kluszewski (1954-55), Manny Ramirez (1998-99), Rafael Palmeiro (1999-2000), Barry Bonds (1999-2000)
32 Babe Ruth (1920-21), Hank Aaron (1969-70), Sammy Sosa (1999-2000)

The Brewers still have two more games before reaching 30, so Yelich could still move up this list, but probably not all the way to the top to join Belle and Sosa. Yelich’s 24 homers to close out 2018 are the most by any Brewer in the last 60 games of the season.

Few if any players have had as hot a season as Albert Belle in 1995, the year of his unique 50 doubles and 50 home runs, accomplished in a campaign of just 144 games. He was almost as good the next year with 48 HR and 47 doubles. Bell recorded a 31/12 split between the two seasons.

Sammy Sosa‘s shows up twice, in 1999-2000 and 2001-02. His home run totals for those four seasons were 63, 50, 64 and 49. Those first three seasons followed his career best mark of 66 in 1998, making a record four straight 50 HR seasons (tied with rival Mark McGwire), and three 60 home run campaigns (his record alone). Sosa’s splits were 23/9 (1999-2000) and 30/13 (2001-02).

Babe Ruth is the only player with three appearances on our list, in his first two seasons as a Yankee in 1920-21, in his top two seasons for total home runs in 1927-28, and finally in 1929-30. In 1920, Ruth obliterated his own single-season home record by more than doubling it, from 29 to 59, then followed it with 54 to dispel any notion that the prior season was a fluke. 1927 was Ruth’s 60 home run campaign, followed again by a 54 homer season. He didn’t hit 50 in 1929 or 1930, but still led his league with totals of 46 and 49. His splits were 20/12 (1920-21), 27/12 (1927-28) and 21/12 (1929-30).

Mark McGwire appears twice, in 1997-98 (58 and 70 HR, one shy of Sosa’s record 129 HR in consecutive seasons) and in 1990-2000 (65 and 32 HR). McGwire’s splits were 24/12 in 1997-98 and 28/11 in 1999-2000.

Willie Mays shows up with his career best 52 home run season in 1965. He followed that with 37 home runs in 1966, with a 27/10 split between those two campaigns.

Ken Griffey Jr. makes two appearances on the list, and is the only player to do so in consecutive seasons, in 1996-97 and 1997-98. Griffey fell one home run shy of 50 in 1996, but rectified that omission with career best totals of 56 the next two years. His splits were 20/14 followed by 25/12. The 1997-98 seasons were not just equal in home runs; Junior also posted identical totals for BB, SO and 3B, and almost identical marks (one off) for 2B and RBI.

Alex Rodriguez shows up with his career best 57 home runs in 2002, followed by 47 the next year, both league-leading totals. His split was 25/10.

Rocky Colavito is the youngest player on our list, just 24 when he he launched 41 home runs in 1958, followed by 42 the next year (becoming the first Indian to reach 40 twice). His split was 23/11.

Mike Schmidt was almost as young, with identical totals of 38 home runs at age 25-26 (and again at age 27). His split was 19/15.

David Ortiz makes the list in his top two home run seasons, with 47 bombs in 2005 and a league-leading 54 the next year. His split was 23/11.

Ditto for Ted Kluszewski with a league-leading 49 (then the Reds franchise record) in 1954 and 47 the next year. His split was 23/10.

Manny Ramirez had his first two 40 home run seasons in 1997 and 1998, posting a 24/9 split. Those were also his first two of nine consecutive 30 home run campaigns. Quiz: which two players (both on this list) share the record for most consecutive 30 home run seasons?

Rafael Palmeiro shows up in the the first two seasons of his second stint in Texas, but his first time in the Rangers’ new Ballpark (or is it Bandbox) in Arlington Stadium. Palmeiro launched 47 and 39 dingers with a 23/10 split.

Career home run leader Barry Bonds recorded round-trip totals of 34 (in only 102 games) and 49 (in only 143 games) in 1999-2000. His split was 22/11.

Hank Aaron is the oldest player to make the list, at age 35-36 in 1969-70 when he swatted 44 (his fourth season with that total, the first three league-leading) and 38 homers. His split was 18/14.

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46 Comments on "Finish Hot, Start Hot"

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Richard Chester
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Quiz answer: Barry Bonds and A-Rod, 13 seasons.

Bob Eno (epm)
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Doug, this list raises the interesting question of who are the leaders in HR if you erase season boundaries and just consider, say, 154 or 162 consecutive team games. For example, Barry Bonds hit 77 HR in 159 team games, dating from April 12, 2001 to April 5, 2002 (he added none in the three additional team games at either end). Poking around among Ruth, McGwire, Sosa, and Maris, I found nothing to exceed that. (I can’t see any way to generate a list via the Play Index.) If you take Belle’s last 81 team games in ’95 and first… Read more »
Richard Chester
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Ruth’s best 162 game stretch from his game #1441, 7/24/1927, to #1602, 7/30/1928, was 71 HR.

Richard Chester
Guest

That’s for games Ruth actually played in, not team games.

Bob Eno (epm)
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Yeah. I’m not sure I got Ruth right, but I was considering only team games: the equivalent of a season.

Richard Chester
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It’s also for team games.

Paul E
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Bob
Based on Albert’s surly behavior, hair trigger temper, and multiple incidents of the bizarre and incomprehendable, is it not more than conceivable and certainly likely that Belle was under the influence of steroids?

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
Paul, Thanks to the guys who did do steroids, it is always conceivable that anyone who performs exceptionally well is using steroids. That alone says nothing about whether they actually did use PEDs because players have been having extraordinary seasons since baseball began. Is there evidence that Belle took steroids? None that I know of. On the other hand, let’s look at the evidence that does pertain to Belle’s performance and behavior. Injuries brought Belle’s career to an early close, but prior to his last year the trajectory of his performance did not show any sudden anomalies, other than that… Read more »
Mike L
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Two thumbs up for this one, Bob.

Paul E
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I dunno…the Vina incident breaking up a double play? UNIQUE on field rage. Throwing the ball aimed directly at heckling fans? UNIQUE…never heard of this before in MLB Chasing mischievous kids and hunting them down and threatening them? A little anger beyond good citizenship. Basically, Belle had the greatest peak of all time in the midst of the steroid era and outhit steroid enhanced McGwire, Sosa, and Bonds during their respective peaks? Without steroids? Think of any athletic competition at the highest level i.e. Olympic 100 meters or weightlifting….the steroided guys win. I can’t reduce Belle’s on and off-field behaviour… Read more »
Mike L
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Bob Eno (epm)
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Paul, Your point seems to be that unique behavior is best explained by a generic cause. I don’t see the logic in that. Apart from Belle, Piersall, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Sherry Magee were all fine players who exhibited uniquely bizarre on-field behavior; their off-field behavior was bizarre as well, like Belle’s. The reason was not steroids. In Belle’s case, whatever the cause was, he began by self-medicating with alcohol, and he seems to have returned to alcohol after his career. How many players do you know of who get sent by their teams to alcoholic detox — you seem… Read more »
CursedClevelander
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Paul, wouldn’t that sort of argue in Belle’s favor? Lots of guys used steroids, but almost none acted like Belle. So to call it roid rage seems odd when other juicers weren’t nearly as erratic, tempermental and violent. And you’re definitely exaggerating Belle’s peak. His absolute peak was 1994-1995, and even in that period, Frank Thomas was outperforming him, and I think most of us believe the Big Hurt was also clean. His numbers in that peak are fantastic – .334/.417/.700, OPS+ of 184 – but plenty of others have matched or bested that, many of them clean players. He… Read more »
Paul E
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CC, Mike L, Bob, So Belle’s on and off-field behavior is due to alcoholism, mental illness, or steroids? You have chosen the illness of alcoholism but, does that explain the Vina incident or throwing the ball at fans? Was he drunk on the field? I doubt it. So, at that point, I’ll put it down to mental illness or steroids and, based on his intellectual ability (National Honor Society/accepted into the Air Force Academy), I’ll take it that his brain chemistry was rewired through steroid abuse….but, hey, I’m no psychiatrist. As far as steroid-enhanced athletes winning competetions, I believe at… Read more »
Bob Eno (epm)
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Paul, I don’t think you need anything to explain the move on Vina: it was a dirty attempt to knock Vina out of the double play, but so close to being within the rules, since Vina was running towards Belle for a full-body tag, that the umpires didn’t even call it at the time. And Belle immediately trotted away, although Vina was yelling at him. Belle was playing dirty, like Machado, and ruthlessly, like Rose, but he didn’t expect to be called on it, and was in control of himself — there’s no anger visible. Trotting away from a confrontation… Read more »
Paul E
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Bob,
You’ve convinced me that, for Belle, it’s mental illness. I still don’t know how major league pitchers let him get away with that vicious swing. Maybe they feared reprisal from the mentally ill cleanup hitter? Someday, in a perfect world, right up there with term limits on US Senators, perhaps an anonymous questionaire regarding steroid use can be forwarded to former ML ballplayers whose active years ran 1985 – 2010. Yeah, I must be dreaming

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest

perhaps an anonymous questionnaire regarding steroid use can be forwarded to former ML ballplayers

Nothing wrong with this idea as far as I can see.

mosc
Guest
I think Bob’s approach would also be interesting looking at this cutest. If we want to properly context Yellich’s tear, doing the last 60 games in one season and the first 30 games of another is still relatively cherry picked. Why not do 90 team games with Bob’s approach of ignoring season lines? It COULD be somebody’s had a better run in a season or it COULD be that the magic number is 17 games in the previous season with 73 games in the next, who knows? I don’t see any particular skill in crossing the season line, at least… Read more »
CursedClevelander
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I’ve commented on Belle’s hot streak to end the 1995 season a few times before. The part that always wows me the most is his ratio of extra base hits to singles in September/October – 27 to 4. Given his low BABIP in that peiord, I did an investigation 5 or 6 years ago of all his outs, and concluded that even though it may have seemed like he was getting “hit unlucky” or lining everything right to a fielder, the vast majority of his outs were actually grounders, pop flies and routine fly balls.

CursedClevelander
Guest
The other crazy part is that Belle ended August with two straight walk off homers. His line on August 31st was 2 for 4 with a 2B and a HR. On August 30th, 1 for 6 with a HR. The day before that he took an 0 for 3, and on August 28th he was 1 for 5 with a 2B. His last single had been on August 26th. All told, over 32 games to end the season, he had a line of .299/.400/.889, a BABIP of .188, 19 HRs, 12 2Bs, and 4 singles. 36 runs and 37 RBIs.… Read more »
Paul E
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Albert Belle Batting Gamelogs for Career Games 1162 to 1237
Here is Belle for the CWS post All Star game in 1998:
PA……AB….R……H…..2B..3B.HR..RBI…BA/….OBP…/SLG…. OPS
328…282…61…109…26…1…31…86 .387… .451… .816… 1.267

This was done in 76 games. I do recall him being hot in the second half but never realized the extent to which he excelled. I guess everyone was distracted by Sosa and McGwire chasing Roger Maris?

mosc
Guest

So maybe the longest streak of 10 to 1 XBH to singles ratio? Might be some other much more terrible hitters that only swung for the fences on there. Matt Stairs or somebody? Dunn? I dunno.

CursedClevelander
Guest

Mosc, that’s certianly possible, so I’m wary to call it the highest ratio. But the disparity is probably the record, or darn close to it – +28 XBH over a 31 game period.

CursedClevelander
Guest
So since it’s hard (for me at least) to search the arbitrary periods, keeping it just to month splits, there are two players tied for the most XBH in a month with no singles – Robinson Chirinos in June of 2017 and Ken Griffey Jr in July of 2003 both had 9. HR/2B split was 7/2 for Chriinos, 5/4 for Griffey. Griffey’s season actually ended on July 17th of that year. The highest calculable ratio is Glenn Davis in June of 1990, with 11 XBH and 1 single. He seems to have gotten injured at the end of June –… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

off the beaten path here but, SD RFer Franmil Reyes has 8 home runs in 30 games….and 9 runs scored. That’s pretty tough to do in 30 games….

Doug
Guest

What is surprising to me is Sosa and McGwire both showing up twice in the late 90s and early noughts, but not for 1998-99 that was front-loaded with their epic home run duel to close out the season.

Doug
Guest

Switching gears for a moment, in Toronto’s come-from-behind win today (they spotted Oakland threes runs in the 11th, then won it with four in the bottom half), the winning pitcher was Elvis Luciano, aged 19 years, 2 months (youngest to win since Jose Rijo in 1984), and the starting third baseman was Vlad Guerrero Jr, aged 20 years, 1 month. First time since 1971 a team has fielded two players that young, and first time since 1967 in a game before September.

Paul E
Guest

Doug,
who were the players in the 1967 game? I remember Briggs and Wise being awful young…….turns out Wise’s debut (18 years 2xx days) featured both players (Briggs 20 years 3x days):

https://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CHN/CHN196404180.shtml

They both went on to have pretty productive careers.

Doug
Guest

Johnny Bench and Gary Nolan first appeared in the same game on Aug 29, 1967. If you want a game not so close to September, Frank Tepedino and Charlie Sands both pinch-hit for the Yankees on June 21, 1967.

Paul E
Guest

Gary Nolan was certainly a talent – that Bench fellah was OK, too. Tepedino and Sands? Not so much

Doug
Guest

Seems there’s a little bug in the P-I Batting Game Finder. It’s not picking up pitchers in DH games (probably because they don’t have a batting order position).

So, I will amend (slightly) my earlier claim. Luciano and Guerrero are the youngest teammates to appear in a game since 1974 (not 1971), and the youngest to do so before September since 1967. The 1974 game was the Brewers’ Robin Yount and Roger Miller.

Doug
Guest

Sad news to pass along to our community.

Birtelcom, who conceived of and originated the Circle of Greats series, passed away in March after a lengthy illness. His widow conveyed to me how much he enjoyed HHS, and how he was looking forward to the new season.

RIP, sir.

mosc
Guest

That’s horrible. Can we do something? I would like to participate in doing something. This really upset me. The COG was a really great thing he did that it would be nice for his family to know we appreciated going forward.

CursedClevelander
Guest

Really sad to hear that. If the family is comfortable, could we possible know where condolences or donations could be sent?

mosc
Guest

Maybe we could have something made? Some memorial to his contributions? Some honor or award?

Richard Chester
Guest

Sorry to hear the news. I remember that a few years ago he disappeared from this website for a while with some strange illness.

no statistician but
Guest

Just to add a few more words in appreciation, Birtelcom, in his posts back when he was a prolific contributor, provided a voice of reason and sanity, generosity and moderation.

Bob Eno (epm)
Guest
Sad news, indeed. Perhaps it was because he used Henry Chadwick’s photo as his avatar, but I always felt birtelcom’s posts carried exceptional authority here. Without him, and his invention of the Circle, HHS’s most popular feature, I think it’s fair to say we probably wouldn’t still have this site to communicate on. It was very thoughtful of birtlecom’s wife to convey this sad news. I remember that in 2012, when longtime contributor Frank Clingenpeel died, his son let us know online, and Andy followed by posting a new string just to make sure everybody was aware that Frank had… Read more »
Paul E
Guest

Sorry to hear that. I do recall when he took time from that struggle to set the record straight on an issue with the COG format/rules and advised us of the health problems.
We have not heard from Hartvig in quite a while, either? I thought he had indicated he was moving, had a hard time getting online….

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