Salvy The Home Run King

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For months, we’ve monitored the leaguewide home run pace. All along, it looked like there was a chance to breach the 6,000-home run plateau for only the third time in history. Finally, the dream is over. Sluggers managed just 209 home runs in the last week when they really needed at least 260 to stand a chance. With just two days of games remaining, the current total of 5,869 won’t be enough. Stepping back, this season is still the third-most homertastic in history – and has been for about 10 days now. When the dust clears, we’ll have seen more than 5,900 home runs. The previous third-best total was 5,693 blasts set in 2000.

The feat is all the more impressive because of changes to the baseball this season. Increased drag has hurt home run rates around the league. That hitters continued to stubbornly bash enough fly balls to set the third-highest total in history is a reflection of today’s all-or-nothing meta. It’s clear from public comments the folks at the Commissioner’s Office aren’t a huge fan of the way baseball is being played. Efforts remain under way to reduce both home runs and strikeouts, instead replacing those so-called “true outcomes” with the greater variance of balls in play. It will be interesting to see what measures they attempt next season – be it roster restrictions, deadened baseballs, or a new trick.

Top Performances of the Week

Trea Turner, 5 HR
Corey Seager, 5 HR
10 Others, 3 HR

The Dodgers did everything they could to salvage the division in the waning days of the season. They’re on a 16-3 run in part due to offensive heroics like those of Turner and Seager. Unfortunately for them, the Giants have sprinted at a similar pace. Just one Giants win or one Dodgers loss will seal their fate. Since joining Los Angeles, Turner has found an extra gear, hitting .335/.384/.550. That likely reflects either a small sample surge or what are referred to as “network effects.” Basically, batting as part of a good lineup helps your stats while being a part of a bad like - such as the Nationals – is a determent. Of course, that didn’t slow Juan Soto this month.

Of the triple-dinger club, not one stands out as a true surprise. Fellow Dodger A.J. Pollock is a legitimate power hitter who is overshadowed in a loaded lineup. Byron Buxton, Tyler O’Neill, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, Mitch Haniger, and Nick Castellanos all spent multiple weeks among the Top 10 Projected Home Run Hitters. Hunter Renfroe and Francisco Lindor are veterans we expect to approach or exceed 30 home runs a year.

The only player who we haven’t discussed ad nauseum in this column is Dylan Carlson. The 22-year-old had a solid sophomore campaign, managing an above average .264/.340/.438 line with 18 home runs in 612 plate appearances. Overall, it was an uneven season with plenty of opportunity to improve in the future. He also had spans of dominance. He could yet mature into a regular power and on base threat – perhaps as soon as next season. One disappointing aspect of his game was his baserunning. Despite 74th-percentile sprint speed, he only swiped two bases. There was hope he’d take 10 or more annually.

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My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Salvador Perez, Kansas City Royals, 48 HR
Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Toronto Blue Jays, 46 HR
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels, 45 HR
Marcus Semien, Toronto Blue Jays, 44 HR
Fernando Tatis Jr., San Diego Padres, 42 HR
Matt Olson, Oakland Athletics, 39 HR
Aaron Judge, New York Yankees, 39 HR
Joey Gallo, New York Yankees, 38 HR
Adam Duvall, Atlanta Braves, 38 HR
Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners, 38 HR

Barring a thrilling finale from Vladito or Ohtani, Royals catcher Salvador Perez will be crowned the home run champion. If his lead holds, he will be the first majority-catcher to lead the league since Johnny Bench in 1972. He also still has a chance to reach the 50-homer plateau. The only active players to reach 50 dingers are Judge, Pete Alonso, Giancarlo Stanton, and Chris Davis.

Only Ohtani, Gallo, Olson, Judge, Alonso, and Stanton project for more than half a home run per two days. Even those six are just over the 50 percent threshold. In other words, the current home run totals are effectively the projected totals. Just off the list are Alonso and Brandon Lowe with 37 home runs. Lowe entered the day with 36 homers, but he blasted another one while I penned this section.

A few players merit honorable mentions. First, let’s acknowledge Tatis Jr. and Duvall who accomplished their feats despite only 538 and 551 plate appearances respectively. Others who might have eclipsed 40 home runs with more action include Max Muncy, Joey Votto, Stanton, Tyler O’Neill, Kyle Schwarber, Byron Buxton.

One curiosity who especially stands out is Mike Zunino. He hammered 32 home runs in 366 plate appearances. Much of that can be attributed to careful usage. He was most frequently used in situations where he thrives – against ground ball pitchers, especially when left-handed or pitch-to-contact. Overall, Zunino’s managed his 32 home runs, 11 doubles, and two triples with just 69 hits.

Injured Sluggers

New

Anthony Santander, Baltimore Orioles, knee sprain
Jesus Sanchez, Miami Marlins, hamstring strain
Luke Voit, New York Yankees, knee
J.D. Davis, New York Mets, hand
Brandon Belt, San Francisco Giants, thumb

Of the five new injuries, two affect players on postseason-bound clubs. Santander, Sanchez, and Davis merely saw their seasons end early. Sanchez had an encouraging if uneven first extended taste of the Majors. Overall, his .251/.319/.489 batting line with 14 home runs in 251 plate appearances was solidly above average. Davis also continued to swat the ball when healthy. Ongoing questions about his defense and ultimate role on the Mets could lead to an offseason trade. Santander, unfortunately, did not build upon his breakout 2020 campaign. Instead, he reverted to the fourth-outfield caliber play he demonstrated in past seasons. The Orioles aren’t in a rush to contend so he might get one more chance to establish himself as a regular.

Voit’s plaguesome knee continues to limit his availability. It’s thought he’ll be able to return at some point in October. The most opportune time would be prior to the World Series – if they make it that far – since he’d then serve as a potent pinch hitter. Sadly, Belt’s superb season – and possibly his Giants tenure – seems to be over. He fractured his thumb after being hit by a pitch.

Existing

Jesse Winker, Cincinnati Reds, intercostal strain
Jo Adell, Los Angeles Angels, back, out for season
Jesus Aguilar, Miami Marlins, knee, knee soreness, out for season

Connor Joe, Colorado Rockies, hamstring strain, out for season
Justin Upton, Los Angeles Angels, back, out for season
Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies, abdominal tear, out for season

Ramon Laureano, Oakland Athletics, PEDs, out for season
Garrett Cooper, Miami Marlins, sprained elbow, out for season
Alex Kirilloff, Minnesota Twins, wrist surgery, out for season
Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves, knee, out for season
Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees, hand, out for season

Clint Frazier, New York Yankees, head, out for season
Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles Angels, hip surgery, out for season

Willie Calhoun, Texas Rangers, fractured forearm, out for season
Kyle Garlick, Minnesota Twins, hernia, status unknown
Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners, knee, out for season

Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves, domestic violence, out for season
Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees, wrist strain, out for season

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels, calf, out for season
Nick Senzel, Cincinnati Reds, knee surgery, out for season
Ronald Guzman, Texas Rangers, knee surgery, season-ending

Returned to Action

Cavan Biggio, Toronto Blue Jays, neck discomfort/elbow strain
Rowdy Tellez, Milwaukee Brewers, right patella strain

Tellez hasn’t technically returned. He’s scheduled to be activated today. He hit well during a brief rehab assignment. Manager Craig Counsell now has the unenviable task of deciding which of Tellez or Vogelbach should start in the Division Series. They’re oddly comparable players. As for Biggio, he flopped while on rehab. With the Jays scraping and clawing for an improbable miracle, they’re treating him as a bench piece.

For more injury updates, check out our MLB Injury Report.