Friday, July 30, 2010

Can Alex Rodriguez Catch Barry Bonds?

As Alex Rodriguez continues his pursuit toward the magical 600 home run mark, it got me thinking about how much longer it would take to get to 763 home runs. I understand that I'm coming across as getting way ahead of myself. However, the Yankees just finished taking 3 of 4 from the Indians and that will be addressed elsewhere. With that being said, let us begin our quest!

In order to get a good grasp on this topic, I will examine Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds... regarded as the greatest home run hitters in baseball history.

George Herman Babe Ruth, at the age of 35, had 565 career homers. He would go on to average 114 games played in the next 5 seasons while clipping 149 homers (30 homers per year). He hit homers at a ridiculous rate of 1 per 12.66 ABs. The Sultan of Swat was truly the Home Run King of his day.

Hank Aaron, at the age of 35, stood at 554 homeruns. Over the next 7 seasons of his career, he hit another 201 homers to bring his grand total to 755. He averaged 125 games played per season in those 7 seasons and 29 homers per season. So... after the age of 35, Hank Aaron hit a home run about once every 4.3 games (1 homer every 14.6 ABs).

Barry Bonds, at the age of 35, stood at 494 homers. Bonds is a special case because he did a devastating amount of damage after turning 35 in 2000. Every knows his unbelievable 73 homer season came in 2001 so he launched himself into discussion of possibly catching Hank very quickly. Barry also only played 14 games in 2005 after suffering a knee injury that sidelined him virtually the entire season. So, Bonds averaged 120 games played over the final 7 seasons of his career. During that time period, he hit 268 homers (yes, 38 per 120 game season). Bonds hit homers at an alarming rate of 1 per 8.9 ABs (that's absolutely FILTHY).

There are multiple similarities between all three of these giants.

1) They all played at least until the age of 40.

2) Although they all played a different amount of games in their final 5-7 seasons, everyone averaged between 29-38 homers per year after the age of 35.

3) They were all consistent home run hitters.

So, where does all of this leave A-Rod? Well, let's say (for argument's sake) that A-Rod finishes off the 2010 campaign with 16 more homers to get to 615. To catch Bonds, I figure A-Rod is going to have to play at least 5 more seasons. So, 763 - 615 = 148 more homers during those 5 years.

If Alex plays 5 more seasons, he will need to average 30 homers per season.

If Alex plays 6 more seasons, he will need to average 24.6 (25) homers per season.

If Alex plays 7 more seasons, he will need to average 21 homers per season.

Now, is this all possible? Sure it is. Is it probable? Now that is the question. Barring no big injuries, Alex has a legitimate shot at becoming the All Time Home Run King. However, his hip is nothing to joke about. This season, it already seems like he isn't playing the same as he did last season. He's had some trouble fielding grounders at times and he can't quite turn as quickly on that hip as he used to be able to. Also, keep in mind that Ruth, Aaron and Bonds averaged 114, 125 and 120 games played per season in their final 5, 7 and 7 seasons. Alex has played a majority of this season and could struggle to surmount 30 homers.

Do I think Alex will catch Bonds? I don't see it. His hip worries me a bit and I'm not sure he has 5-7 seasons left in him that will be nearly as productive as his past. The key to becoming the Home Run King is having longevity and consistency from the age of 20 through one's early 40s. I think the steroids will end up breaking down his body. That combined with the hip injury are not good ingredients to longevity.

I wish Alex the best of luck in his pursuit of Bonds as long as he helps the Yankees win more championships along the way.

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