June 4 - Home Run Greats
Now that the ghost of Babe Ruth has gravitated to other pastures after haunting
Barry Bonds into a home run slump, Bonds is now second on the all-time leader
board. We can all now go back to our regularly scheduled activities that were on
hold due to game updates involving Bonds flying out feebly to the catcher.
With Bonds trailing only Hank Aaron for home run supremacy, where does that
put him on the list of home run greats? Where do other past and present
four-bagger sluggers rank? Granted, anyone with a stat sheet, spare time, and a
pair of trusty bifocals can read off the all-time home run list and proclaim himself
a baseball expert; however, is that really the best way to judge who the all-time
The answer my friends is of course no. And, since I’m no home run cognoscente I've created a
scoring system to back up my claims. Keeping true with baseball's statistical bible practices, I've
inputted, calculated, and manipulated a statistical spreadsheet that would make the top students at
MIT drop their abacuses in jealousy. I realize it is difficult to compare players in different eras, and in
most cases it all evens out, so I put my faith in raw statistical data. (I also put my faith in a lonely corn
dog that sat patiently in my fridge for five months one inning prior to the Bonds 715 at-bat and as a
result missed the entire epic ab, but that is neither here nor there).
And now to the rankings…
The rules: Only players with 500 or more home runs are considered. (Lou Gehrig is only exception
Six main categories in order of importance:
1. Home Runs per-at-bat ratio (ab/hr) - try that equation on for size MIT students
2. Total Career homers
3. Number of 40 or more home run seasons
4. Number of consecutive 30 or more home run seasons
5. Number of 30 or more home run seasons
6. Number of 50 or more home run seasons
All these stats make up the MHR (McDevitt Homer Ratings) which I'm sure in no time will be a well-
known synonym discussed at office water coolers and local bars. Each player was ranked by each
category and then multiplied by the significance of the category. For example, Babe Ruth ranked first
in 40 or more home runs in a season. So, I took his ranking (1) and multiplied it by .13 (significance
factor) and he received .13 for that category. The lower the score, the higher one ranks.
I figure that a player shouldn't be penalized because he played less seasons, so home runs per-at-
bat was a better way to gauge hitters. At the same time, I didn't want to discount someone who was
able to put up good numbers over a long period. Thirty home runs per year aren’t judged too highly
unless it was done over a consistent period, while 40 home run seasons are harder to come by. Fifty
or more home runs in a season are important, but, since so few o players actually did it, I wanted it to
be more of a bonus than a statistical comparison.
Take the MHR, throw in a few other varying factors, and you have your top home run hitters of all time.
1. Babe Ruth (2.82 MHR, 11.76 hr/ab ratio,714 career homers) - Third on the all-time list with 714
homers, Babe Ruth transformed the game of baseball during his jaw-dropping 22-year career. His
home runs per-at-bat rank only behind Bonds and he ranks first in 40 or more homers hit per season
with 11. In 1920 Ruth led the league with 54 home runs edging out the entire league with a combined
50! Babe revolutionized the game of baseball with his mammoth blasts during a dead ball era.
Even the MHR, which actually scored Ruth 2nd overall, couldn’t keep him from heading the top of this
Key Stats: 13 30-hr seasons, 11 40-hr seasons, 4 50-hr seasons, held single season home run
record with 60 for 34 seasons, 714 career home runs
2. Barry Bonds (2.73, 12.94, 715) - Despite all the steroid controversy involving Bonds, I just couldn’t
put him any lower, plus the MHR ranked Bonds first so I had something to back up my choice. His
splash home runs into the San Francisco Bay put chills down your spine that Casper, Emily Rose,
and the kid from Sixth Sense couldn’t conjure up. No one pitched to him during his prime seasons
(2000-2004) leaving him with maybe only one pitch per game good enough to hit which he
consistently crushed over Major League fences. Bonds ranked first in the MHR, but what Ruth did for
the game leapfrogged him over Bonds on the list.
Key Stats: Single season home run leader with 73, 14 30-hr seasons, 8 40-hr seasons, 13 30-hr
seasons in a row, 715 career home runs and counting
3. Josh Gibson (n/a) - Known as the “Black Babe Ruth,” Josh Gibson’s
homers were supposedly known to consistently travel 500 feet and one blast
even knocked a speaker off the roof of the old Comiskey Park. Although his
home run tales often sound more mythical than fact, had Gibson played in the
Majors he may have easily been considered the best home run hitter of all time.
Unofficial statistics have Gibson with 962 career home runs including 84 in
1936. Unfortunately, many of his homers came against semi-pro competition
making it nearly impossible to truly measure him against other home run
Key stats: Supposedly hit a 460-foot home run out of Yankee Stadium, 962 career home runs
4. Hank Aaron – (5.85, 16.38, 755) - Aaron, the all-time home run leader with 755 homers, like a cow
on a frozen pond, slipped his way all the way to fourth on this list. Aaron was able to consistently
crush home runs season after season and hit over 30 homers in 15 major league seasons as well
as over 40 in eight seasons. However, he never hit 50 home runs in a single season, and his lack of
ability to take as many walks as Bonds and Ruth led to a high home run per-at-bat ratio. This may
help you on some lists, but when you are dealing with an official scoring system such as the MHR, it
will place you fourth every time.
Key Stats: career home run leader with 755, 15 30-hr seasons, 8 40-hr seasons, 9 30-hr seasons in
5. Mark McGwire – (5.08, 10.61, 583) - Like Bonds, because of steroid allegations, McGwire was
tough to place on this list. He scored so well in all the stat categories, especially home runs per-at-
bat, which he ranked first in, but he also declined to comment in front of a Grand Jury regarding
steroid use. However, remembering the anxious butterflies congregating in my stomach when the
colossal monster known as “Big Mac” strolled up to the plate making me feel like a jovial school boy
outweighed any steroid allegations to rank him 5th on this list.
Key Stats: hr/ab ratio leads all players, 4 50-hr seasons, 12 30-hr seasons, broke Roger Maris home
run record with 70 in 1998, hit 65 hr in 1999
6. Harmon Killebrew – (6.55, 14.22, 573) – I realize that putting Killebrew above the likes of Willie
Mays will not only make baseball enthusiasts perplexed, but outraged. But like a second-grader with
cookie crumbs on his V-Neck sweater and the last cookie missing from the cookie jar, the MHR never
lies. Before you search your over-cluttered garage for your trusty shillelagh to take a swing at the
creator of this discombobulating MHR, please listen to the facts, and step away from the shillelagh.
The two players often battled it out for home run dominance during their illustrious careers, but it is
Killebrew who trails only McGwire, Ruth and Bonds in home runs per-at bat. Mays ranks 14th.
Killebrew also ranks 2nd in 40 or more home run seasons.
Key Stats : 10 30-hr seasons, 8 40-hr seasons, 6 30-hr seasons in a row
7. Willie Mays – (8.38, 16.49, 660) – The “Say Hey Kid,” ranks 4th all-time in career bombs, but his
long career and lack of walks led to a high home runs per-at-bat ratio, bringing him down in the
ratings. There is no denying Mays is one of the all-time greats, and if this were a greatest players of
all time list, Mays would probably rate in the top three.
Key stats: 11 30-hr seasons, 6 40-hr seasons, 6-30 hr seasons in a row
8. Sammy Sosa – (4.50, 14.29, 588) - For the first time, I strayed significantly from the MHR which
ranked Sosa 3rd behind only Bonds and Ruth. It could have been the fact that Sosa was caught with
a corked bat that made him slide to 8th on the list. Or it could have been the fact that his head shrunk
more sizes than the Grinch’s heart at Christmas after the 2003 season insinuating he was off the
juice. I tried not to let the steroid situation influence the rankings, but when a guy drops seven hat
sizes in one off-season it’s hard not to take it into account. Nonetheless, Sosa’s numbers are
staggering. In the shadow of McGwire, Sosa put up three 60 home run seasons, becoming the only
player to ever accomplish that feat.
Key Stats: 11 30-hr seasons, 7 40-hr seasons, 9 30hr seasons in a row, 3 60-hr seasons
9. Jimmie Foxx – (8.50, 15.23, 534) A fearsome hitter labeled “the beast,” Foxx was the second player
to eclipse the 500 home run plateau, following Ruth. Foxx hit 30 homers in 12 consecutive seasons,
second only to Bonds.
Key Stats: 12 30-hr seasons, 5 40-hr seasons, 2 50-hr seasons, 12 30-hr seasons in a row
10. Sadaharu Oh – ( n/a) – Like Josh Gibson who didn’t play against Major
League competition, I didn’t subject Oh to the MHR. This Japanese home run
god was the equivalent of Babe Ruth in Japan. His 868 career home runs are
the official career world record and his 19 seasons with 30 or more homers
probably will never be matched. He unofficially ranks second behind McGwire
with a 10.66 home run per-at-bat ratio. Had he played against Major League
competition he may have ranked in the top three on this list.
Key Stats: World record 868 career homers, 19 30-hr seasons in a row, 3
50-hr seasons, 13 40-hr seasons
Just missed the top 10…
11) Ken Griffey Jr. (8.71, 14.69, 541)
12) Mike Schmidt ( 9.06, 15.24, 548)
13) Mickey Mantle (9.65, 15.12, 536)
14) Frank Robinson (11.26, 17.08, 586)
15) Lou Gehrig (12.27, 16.23, 493)
16) Ted Williams (12.32, 14.79, 521)
17) Willie McCovey (12.41, 15.37, 521)
18) Rafael Palmeiro (11.03, 18.40, 569)
19) Reggie Jackson (13.50, 17.52, 563)
20) Duane Kuiper (1000.32, 3379.00, 1) - just to see if you’re still paying attention.
Active players headed for this list…*as of 5/28/06
Jim Thome – 13.58 hr/at-bat ratio, 9 30-hr seasons in a row, 448 career hr
Albert Pujols – 14.00 hr/at-bat ratio, 30+ hr in first 5 seasons, pace for over 80 hr, 2006
Manny Ramirez – 14.17 hr/at-bat ratio, 10 30-hr seasons, 446 career hr
Alex Rodriguez – 14.45 hr/at-bat ratio, 5 40-hr seasons 442 career hr