500 Home Runs

In the history of baseball, twenty-five players have hit at least 500 Home Runs. At age 38, David Ortiz sits at 431 career home runs as we look forward to the start of the 2014 season.  What kind of chance does he have of joining the 500 homer club?

Here are the nineteen players to hit 70 or more home runs from age 38 to the end of their careers:

Rk Player HR Age
1 Barry Bonds 149 38-42
2 Darrell Evans 136 38-42
3 Hank Aaron 116 38-42
4 Carlton Fisk 109 38-45
5 Dave Winfield 108 38-43
6 Ted Williams 103 38-41
7 Carl Yastrzemski 86 38-43
8 Reggie Jackson 85 38-41
9 Raul Ibanez 84 38-41
10 Craig Biggio 81 38-41
11 Rafael Palmeiro 79 38-40
12 Steve Finley 77 38-42
13 Graig Nettles 77 38-43
14 Stan Musial 77 38-42
15 Edgar Martinez 74 38-41
16 Willie Stargell 74 38-42
17 Frank Thomas 73 38-40
18 Willie Mays 73 38-42
19 Jim Thome 71 38-41
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 1/27/2014.

Looking at this group of players, I’d say that Bill James is probably right when he suggests that Ortiz’s odds of hitting 500 home runs stands at about 50%. Most of the above listed guys did well in their age 38 seasons and then dropped off a bit in their age 39 season. Then most held on for another two or three seasons (ages 40-42), hitting a half dozen or so home runs each of those last two or three years. You’ll notice that eight of the nineteen were done after their age 41 season – Thome, Thomas, Martinez, Palmeiro, Biggio, Jackson and Williams (Raul Ibanez is the eighth but he is still active). Ortiz reminds me most of Thome, Thomas and Martinez. If a true comparison, then Ortiz will just get over the 500 homer barrier. Pushing his name into serious Hall of Fame consideration – a topic for another post.

Owing to some comments Ortiz made recently about wanting an extension from the Sox, there has been a lot of back and forth on talk radio about the wisdom of giving Ortiz a contract extension. “He’s a big guy, they lose it suddenly,” say the doubters. “He was other worldly in the Series, pay him his money,” say the believers.

Right now he is in the last year of a two year, 29 million dollar deal. His 2013 WAR (4.4) suggests that he was worth about 21 million to the Sox last year. Even if Ortiz drops off in 2014 to his 2012 numbers – 23 homers in 90 games played, still a WAR of 3.1 and worth about 12 million dollars, the Sox are, in essence, playing with house money this year and arguably next.

I think Ortiz stands a decent chance of hitting 20-25 homers each of the next two season. Is that worth giving him another year on his deal now, keeping him happy and keeping the fan base happy? I think so. When you consider his position in Red Sox lore and his importance to Sox fans, it would make sense to give him a one year extension.

Plus, left handed power does not just fall from the sky. The number of left handers in the majors last year to hit 25 or more home runs numbered … eleven. That’s it … eleven … David Ortiz and ten others. A left handed power bat should not be taken lightly, especially by the Sox since they really have no other big power source (lefty or righty) coming up through the minors. Ortiz, since joining the Sox, has never slugged under .500 and has slugged under .550 only twice. Only two Sox minor leaguers slugged over .500 last year – 5’9″ Mookie Betts and 5’8″ Sean Coyle, both second basemen and both slated in 2014 for the Sox AA team in Portland, Maine.

Okay, so there does not appear to be anyone from inside the organization to replace Ortiz. Who are the notable free agents after this year?

  • Torii Hunter
  • Alfonso Soriano
  • Paul Konerko
  • Victor Martinez
  • Adam Dunn
  • Michael Cuddyer
  • Jonny Gomes
  • Corey Hart
  • Mike Morse
  • Jason Kubel
  • Hanley Ramirez
  • Chris Young
  • Colby Rasmus

Do any of these guys scream out to you? The only guy I would want over a 39 year old Ortiz would be Hanley Ramirez. Do Colby Rasmus or Victor Martinez or Michael Cuddyer strike fear into a Yankee fan the way Ortiz does? I don’t think so. This list only makes the decision that much easier.

Give Ortiz another year. Sign him through 2015.

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