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Diamondbacks Game Preview #158: 10/1 @ Giants

Getting to 700 HR is not easy

St. Louis Cardinals v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Today's Lineups

DIAMONDBACKS GIANTS
Stone Garrett - DH Joc Pederson - RF
Jordan Luplow - LF LaMonte Wade - 1B
Jake McCarthy - RF Thairo Estrada - SS
Christian Walker - 1B Mike Yastrzemski - CF
Josh Rojas - 2B J.D. Davis - DH
Emmanuel Rivera - 3B Jason Vosler - LF
Corbin Carroll - CF David Villar - 3B
Cooper Hummel - C Ford Proctor - 2B
Sergio Alcantara - SS Joey Bart - C
Drey Jameson - RHP Jakob Junis - RHP

On Opening Day, Albert Pujols needed 21 home-runs in his final season to reach 700 for his career. It seemed a long shot in his age “42” season. Only one man in baseball history had more than 18 at that point in his career: Barry Bonds hit 28 in 2007, and we all know that deserves a big ol' asterisk. You could get odds of -1200 on him not making it from sports books before the season began. But, here we are. Pujols got there, having whacked 22 so far, to become the fourth member of the 700 HR club. Part of me, without any evidence beyond the fact he had just four HR through game #87, wonders if Albert just said "Screw it," and juiced up on everything he could find, knowing his career was ending anyway.

We may not see this again, potentially ever. 700 HR is an insane number. Put another way, it would be achieved by a batter who hit thirty-five home-runs every single season for twenty years. In the post-steroid era, it’s rare to hit 35 HR in any ONE season. Last year, only nineteen players did it. Half that number (10) have hit 70 between this year and last. To reach 700, you need to maintain that pace for two decades. Another factor is teams now realize it’s a poor investment to pay players on the down-side of the aging curve. Once you’re in your late thirties, the consistent playing time needed to reach 35 HR is almost impossible to obtain. This year, just four qualifying hitters are age 36 or older.

This matters, because longevity is crucial in reaching the mark. Never mind 700, everybody bar one person in the 600 HR club played at least 22 years in the majors. The exception is Sammy Sosa who likely merits almost as big an asterisk as Bonds. Right now, among the top 100 active HR hitters, only three including Pujols have a current rate of even 30 per season. The other two are Aaron Judge (219 in seven) and Pete Alonso (146 in four); Nolan Arenado could join them if he hits a homer this week, as he is on 299 in his tenth season, but he’s now out of Clown Field. Judge and Alonso both debuted at age 24; can you see either hitting 35 HR at age 43? We may not see 700 again in my lifetime. Though I am an old git. :)