Daily Notes: Greatest Home-Runs Seasons Relative to League

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Greatest Home-Runs Seasons Relative to League
2. Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
3. Today’s Complete Schedule

Greatest Home-Runs Seasons Relative to League
Introduction
After his home run this weekend at Yankee Stadium, Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis now has 33 for the season. With over half the season complete, it would appear as though Davis has a slight probability of surpassing the 61-home-run threshold set by Roger Maris in 1961 and an almost non-extant probability of reaching Barry Bonds‘ record of 73, set in 2001.

With regard to Davis, however, it’s entirely possible that some readers will credit his accomplishments more subtantially than Bonds’ — or Mark McGwire‘s or Sammy Sosa’s, etc. — because Davis’ powerful first half has occurred during an era in which Major League Baseball is testing for certain performance-enhancing drugs. While the author has absolutely no intention of examining to what degree PEDs do or don’t actually enhance performance, concerns about PEDs do reveal an actually interesting point — namely, the degree to which certain eras have signature (some higher, some lower) home-run rates. Indeed, it might be best were we to celebrate those players not with the highest absolute home-run totals, but those with the best home-run rates relative to their peers.

With a view to examining which players have produced the most impressive home-run seasons relative to their peers, the author has first identified the league-average home-run rates (home runs per at-bat, and not plate appearance, for reasons that are mentioned below) for every season since 1876. The author has then divided every qualified player’s seasonal home-run rates (since 1876, as well) by the relevant league-average rate for that year. The result is an index stat, HR+, which measure home-run rate relative to league average, where a higher figure is better.

A pair of tables below contain the relevant results.

Table: Greatest Home-Runs Seasons Relative to League (Since 1876)
By the methodology described above, here are the greatest home-run seasons relative to league since the beginning of major-league baseball:

Rank Name Season AB HR HR% LgHR% HR+
1 Babe Ruth 1920 457 54 11.8% 0.7% 1578
2 Babe Ruth 1919 432 29 6.7% 0.6% 1121
3 Charley Jones 1879 355 9 2.5% 0.2% 1056
4 Ned Williamson 1884 417 27 6.5% 0.6% 1026
5 Babe Ruth 1927 540 60 11.1% 1.1% 1018
6 Babe Ruth 1921 540 59 10.9% 1.1% 993
7 Dan Brouthers 1881 270 8 3.0% 0.3% 950
8 George Hall 1876 268 5 1.9% 0.2% 938
9 Paul Hines 1878 257 4 1.6% 0.2% 923
10 Babe Ruth 1926 495 47 9.5% 1.0% 921

Table: Greatest Home-Runs Seasons Relative to League (Since 1961)
By the methodology described above, here are the greatest home-run seasons relative to league — in this case, since the start of the expansion era:

Rank Name Season AB HR HR% LgHR% HR+
1 Barry Bonds 2001 476 73 15.3% 3.3% 467
2 Mike Schmidt 1981 354 31 8.8% 1.9% 464
3 Dave Kingman 1976 474 37 7.8% 1.7% 459
4 Mark McGwire 1998 509 70 13.8% 3.0% 454
5 Hank Aaron 1971 495 47 9.5% 2.2% 433
6 Willie Stargell 1971 511 48 9.4% 2.2% 428
7 Mark McGwire 1992 467 42 9.0% 2.1% 423
8 Mike Schmidt 1980 548 48 8.8% 2.1% 409
9 Kevin Mitchell 1989 543 47 8.7% 2.2% 401
10 Frank Howard 1968 598 44 7.4% 1.8% 401

Five Notes
• While Babe Ruth is famous in every land as one of the sport’s great power hitters, 19th century outfielder Charley Jones is famous in almost none of them (i.e. the lands) — and yet, in 1879, Jones was responsible for over 15% of the 58 home runs hit in the National League. He played for the Boston Red Caps in that city’s South End Grounds — although, five of his home runs were hit in away parks, so the influence of home park factor is likely minimal.

Mark McGwire and Mike Schmidt both appear twice on the expansion-era leaderboard. Of note regarding Schmidt’s 1981 figures: those came during a strike-shortened season during which only 108 games were played.

Chris Davis has produced a 357 HR+ this season so far, the 36th-best mark since 1961.

• It should be noted that this methodology accounts zero percent for park factors. Home-run rate relative to overall league has been the author’s only concern — mostly because of how much easier it is to calculate.

• The author has chosen at-bats and not plate appearances as the denominator for home-run rate because employing the latter would actually penalize those batters (like Bonds, for example) who were so terrifically powerful that opposing pitchers refused to throw them strikes.

Today’s MLB.TV Free Game
Minnesota at Tampa Bay | 19:10 ET
Samuel Deduno (49.1 IP, 102 xFIP-, 0.7) faces Roberto Hernandez (96.1 IP, 87 xFIP-, 0.5 WAR). The Rays are currently about a standard deviation above league average both by park-adjusted offensive production relative to league average and park-adjusted home-run rate. Meanwhile, the club’s payroll is a full standard deviation below league average.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Tampa Bay Radio.

Today’s Complete Schedule
Here’s the complete schedule for all of today’s games, with our very proprietary watchability (NERD) scores for each one. Pitching probables and game times aggregated from MLB.com and RotoWire. The average NERD Game Score for today is 5.5.

Note: the following table is entirely sortable.

Away   SP Tm. Gm. Tm. SP   Home Time
Max Scherzer DET 10 7 8 8 6 CLE Scott Kazmir 19:05
Jeremy Guthrie KC 1 6 3 3 4 NYA Phil Hughes 19:05
Bartolo Colon OAK 4 6 4 7 3 PIT Jeff Locke 19:05
Derek Holland TEX 9 4 6 9 3 BAL Scott Feldman 19:05
Dan Haren WAS 6 2 4 1 4 PHI John Lannan 19:05
Mike Minor ATL 8 8 6 1 5 MIA Kevin Slowey 19:10
Samuel Deduno MIN 3 3 5 10 7 TB Rob. Hernandez 19:10
Matt Garza CHN 4 4 4 1 6 CHA Hector Santiago 20:10
Homer Bailey CIN 10 3 7 4 5 MIL Kyle Lohse 20:10
Zack Greinke LAN 3 2 5 2 10 AZ Randall Delgado 21:40
Jon Lester BOS 5 8 7 5 10 SEA Felix Hernandez 22:10
Tyler Chatwood COL 6 8 5 7 3 SD Edinson Volquez 22:10
Matt Harvey NYN 10 7 8 6 7 SF Tim Lincecum 22:15

To learn how Pitcher and Team NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
To learn how Game NERD Scores are calculated, click here.
* = Fewer than 20 IP, NERD at discretion of very handsome author.





Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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IZZY2112
Member
IZZY2112

To get a more accurate answer (though likely more difficult to calculate), I think it would be better to calculate a players’ standard deviations above league average. Players in the 20s and 30s dominate the list because while players could hit lots of home runs, not all tried, keeping the league average relatively low. In the PED era, you had similar Home Run totals at the top of the leaderboards, but since everyone tried to hit home runs, the league averages were higher.