FanPost

The 500 HR Club: Can Polar Bears Enter?

With Miguel Cabrera having hit his 500th & 501st HRs this week we've seen analysts weigh in on who might join Miggy in that exclusive 28 member club. As fans of the self-proclaimed "best power hitter on the planet" us Mets fans naturally assume our own Polar Bear, Pete Alonso should be high on that list. The analysts are less certain.

At Fangraphs, Dan Szymborski's ZiPS Projection puts Pete's chances at a mere 10% (and Lindor at 8%). At mlb.com Mike Petriello "gives him a shot" at reaching 500. And USA Today's Jesse Yomtov notes "Debuting in the majors at twenty-four, the two-time Home Run Derby champ got started a bit later than most of the others on this list" of hopefuls.

That last observation caught my eye and I decided to take a look at how Pete's later debut might compare to the twenty-eight legends that have achieved the feat.

I learned that should Pete reach 500 HRs, he would be the first man to start his career so late ... and by a long shot.

Teenagers

An amazing sixteen of the twenty-eight made their MLB debuts in their age 20 season or sooner. Eight of them were teenagers.

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As we see twelve Masters of the Big Fly debuted at age 21 or 22. No one in the history of baseball that debuted at age 23 or later has managed to reach the 500 HR milestone. As an age 24 debuter, were he to reach 500 Pete would again be making history.

But Pete is off to a rip roaring start. He's the fastest in the history of the game to 70 HRs and his 53 HR rookie effort was also historic. But a great HR pace isn't a guarantee of reaching 500 -€” it obviously requires longevity. And can he maintain his early career pace?

In his rookie campaign Pete hit a HR every 13 PAs. In the shortened 2020 once every 15 PAs. And to date in 2021 he is at one HR every 17 PAs. By comparison Barry Bonds hit one every 16.5 PAs and played over 22 seasons but he also exceeded 500 by 262 HRs. History suggests Pete's ratio is much more likely to diminish as he hits his early 30's than to improve.

Back to longevity. Eighteen of twenty-eight (64%) had careers that lasted 20 years or longer while 10 did not reach the 20 season mark.

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*Williams missed his 24-26 seasons while serving his country.

A 20-year career would take Pete to age 44. We shouldn't expect that. Only three members of the Club (Aaron, Mays & Bonds) has played into their age 42 season while only five more played to age 41.

For Pete to make it to age 42 would require him to play 18 seasons. That would seem to be the cap on Pete's longevity and I'd bet pretty heavily on the under. But let's broaden the net and look at the five guys that reached 500 and played in 16 - 18 seasons.

18 yrs

17 yrs

16 yrs

3

1

1

Mantle, Schmidt, Sosa

Matthews

McGwire

Unless steroids become authorized for mlb players, this sample should probably shrink from five to three. McGwire and Sosa's home run prowess over the last four years of their careers was dramatically higher than Mantle, Schmidt & Matthews. It's reasonable to assume PEDs were a big part of the reason.

Matthews & Mantle had a huge head-start over Pete having smacked 153 & 121 HRs prior to their age 24 season. Schmidt is a much better comp only having 19 HRs before age 24 season. That Matthews only hit 359 HRs from his age 24 season on and Mantle only 415 would suggest Pete has a really steep hill to climb but Schmidt hit 529 from that point on which suggests some can climb really steep hills.

Pete has hit 97 HR's so far and should finish 2021 between 100-110. Between their age 24-26 seasons Matthews hit 100, Mantle 128 and Schmidt 102 so Pete is on pace with 2 of the 3. Again Schmidt appears to be the best comp.

cJRS5CY.0.pngDuring the four age 27-30 seasons Matthews hit 146, Mantle 155, and Schmidt 152 HRs -€” a very small spread and a volume that represents 29-30% of the magic 500 benchmark. Clearly sluggers need to perform in these prime years to have any shot. The per year average works out to 36.5, 38.75 & 38 respectively. So Pete's 2021 pace of 36.2 HRs/150 games is close enough. He'll need to slightly improve his current pace while avoiding more than one short IL stint each season.

So let's assume the Polar Bear ends 2021 at 105 HRs and equals Schmidt's total of 152 in the next four seasons Pete would be at 257 heading into his age 31 season. What happens after age 31?

McGwire and Sosa ripped 345 and 269 respectively but do we know how to put those into context? If you're Eddie Matthews or Mickey Mantle, you run out of gas. They had 113 and 132 HRs respectively. That post-31 pace would leave Pete not only well shy of 500 HRs but he wouldn't even reach 400. Mike Schmidt on the other hand rocked 275 HRs in his 9 remaining seasons. That endurance/performance combination would leave Pete at 532-ish which would rank 20th on the All-Time list.

So while it possible that Pete reaches 500 it will require a lot of things to go right. He'll need to remain extremely healthy through his prime, maintain his skill set and play to a very advanced age. If he can pull of that hat trick he'll make new history by being the latest debuting player ever to reach 500 home runs.

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