When examining the Rest of Season projections from either ZiPS or Steamer, one will notice in both systems that Giancarlo Stanton is expected to finish just short of the league lead in home runs. While this is a tremendous accomplishment on its own, Stanton’s projected presence near the top of the home-run charts looks like an even more tremendous feat considering that Stanton has already missed 22 games this season, and will be missing even more as he recovers from a fractured left wrist.
At first glance the two projection systems regard Stanton very differently: ZiPS projects Stanton to finish second in the league in home runs at 43 — a single dinger behind Mike Trout — and Steamer projects that Stanton will finish tied for sixth, at 36. Upon further inspection, both projection systems regard Stanton’s on-field skills very similarly: ZiPS is projecting a home run once every 13 PAs, and Steamer once every 12.67 PAs. (Stanton has deposited a souvenir in the bleachers once every 11.7 PAs so far this season.) The true difference is that ZiPS is more confident in Stanton’s continued health, projecting only nine missed games from Stanton for the rest of the season, while Steamer projects that Stanton will finish the season with about 100 fewer PAs, or I guess about 25 missed games on top of the ZiPS projection.
So I wondered: how often does a player reach the league lead of a cumulative counting stat while missing such a huge chunk of the season? It turns out that players who finish on the edge of qualification actually hit the top 10 in some category just about every year — except when it comes to total hits, and home runs.
- Last season, Adam Eaton and Michael Bourn finished tied for second in total triples (10) despite appearing in 123 and 106 games, respectively. David Peralta had just one triple less in just 88 games.
- In 2013, David Ortiz had a significant lead over second place in intentional walks while appearing in just 137 games.
- The same season, Jacoby Ellsbury led the league in stolen bases in 134 games, and Rajai Davis achieved third place in just 108 games.
Similar achievements in hits and home runs are rarer. The last meaningful low-games campaign on the hits chart was Josh Hamilton in 2010, who finished eighth in hits in just 133 games. In home runs, Edwin Encarnacion finished eighth in 128 games last season, and fourth in 142 games the year before that — although he was nearly 20 homers behind first-place Chris Davis. Stanton himself had a whale of a season in 2012, finishing seventh in just 123 games.
But who is the last person to achieve what Stanton is realistically expected to do this season? That is: finish top five in homers while missing more than 20 games? Well, you’d have to go back to 2003, when two sluggers accomplished the feat. One of them, remarkably, was Javy Lopez, who tied for fifth in just 129 games. The other, who tied for third in just 130 games?: Barry Bonds.