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Players to hit 40+ homers after the age of 29 who never did it before

Posted by Andy on May 16, 2011

Using their seasonal June 30th ages, here are the players to hit 40+ homers at least once at the age of 29 or older who never did it at age 28 or younger:

In this case, the 'years' column refers to the number of times they hit 40 HR after the age of 29. Of these 45 guys, the most recent to do it was Jose Bautista last year. Bautista is a more interesting case since he never had more than 16 HR in any previous season.

If we whittle down the list to guys who never hit more than 20 before age 29, then we're left with just 7 names: Bautista, Cy Williams, Davey Johnson, Hank Sauer, Ken Caminiti, Luis Gonzalez, and Dante Bichette.

Those wondering how I did this search--first I did a batting season finder for guys Age 29 and older with 40+ seasons, and then I used that search result as a basis for two new batting season finder searchers (for players 28 and under with 40+ or 20+ HR seasons).  I then had to compare the lists manually to see which names were missing, but it took only a few minutes since the first search eliminated so many names.

This entry was posted on Monday, May 16th, 2011 at 7:17 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

42 Responses to “Players to hit 40+ homers after the age of 29 who never did it before”

  1. He's really without precedent, isn't he? I thought for a second Hank Sauer might have been a previous example, but a closer look made me realize that he didn't stick in the majors in his 20s because of WWII, not his lack of hitting.

    That's really the oddity of Bautista's case -- that he's reached such a high level after 2000 PAs of opportunity that produced "meh". There really doesn't seem to be anyone else near him.

  2. John Knox Says:

    Brady Anderson would seem to be the most obvious recent precedent to Bautista. Anderson: 3868 PA and 72 HR (1 HR every 53.7 PA) before his miracle year. Bautista: 2038 PA and 59 HRs (1 HR every 34.5 PA) before his breakout year. After Anderson, Luis Gonzalez might be the closest analog. But neither one put up the kind of numbers post-miracle-year the way Bautista is doing right now.

  3. Brendan Burke Says:

    Can anyone say "steroids"?

  4. Ben Ogilvie must have been the skinniest "slugger" of all time.

  5. dukeofflatbush Says:

    Where is Brady Anderson?

  6. dukeofflatbush Says:

    oops! no glasses

  7. Umm, he's on that list...read it again.

  8. John Autin Says:

    Andy -- I don't think Big Papi belongs on the list. B-R lists him as 28 when he hit 41 HRs in 2004. His listed birthdate is Nov. 18, 1975.

  9. Paul Drye Says:

    @John Knox: That's just it. Pretty much everybody who might be considered a comp has one of four issues:

    - It was actually the war that kept them out of the lineup in their twenties, not lack of talent
    - They were a case of PEDs
    - They were a case of an exploding offensive environment floating *everybody's* boats (i.e., early 1920s or mid-90s to 2002).
    - They had actually had decent seasons beforehand, and not actually been busts.

    In many cases Bautista's comps fit into several of these categories.

  10. JA, yeah I think I forgot to remove Ortiz. I got distracted just as I was checking his name off, and clearly I forgot to actually to do it. Good catch.

  11. Of course, that still doesn't explain why you haven't started writing your own blog posts yet.

  12. dukeofflatbush Says:

    I did a check of guys who had the biggest single season deviation in HR %.
    And although I had no way of knowing if these were the worst 'offenders' - Brady, Davey Johnson and '87 Wade Boggs had the highest % difference btwn their high season vs their career %.
    Guys like Steve Finley and Brian Downing sustained their power, while the others just had a blip.
    Lou Brock also had an early power stroke that lasted three seasons, then virtually disappeared, peaking at 21, then hitting 0 about ten years later.

  13. There's a lot of extraneous reasons why some of these players never hit 40+HR 28 or younger or why they hit 40+ for the first time after 28.

    Bagwell & Walker were affected by the strike of '94-95. Although Bagwell's HR rate was very strange. From '91-93 Bagwell had a 3.25 HR/per 100 AB rate, in 1994 that rate soared to 9.75HR/per 100 AB. And he was doing this in the Astrodome no less.

    Schmidt came very close 3-4 times but he drew a lot of walks each season so that hurt his chances.

    Stargell, Howard, F. Robinson, B. Williams, were affected by playing in the dead ball era of the 60's. And it was even tougher for Howard because he was stuck in a pitcher's park.

    Galarraga, Walker, Burks and Bichette played in Colorado so it's not likely they would have hit 40+ had they played somewhere else.

    Dale Murphy & Andre Dawson probably hit the 40+ because of that juiced ball they used in 1987.

    T. Williams and Sauer were in WW2.

    Campenella didn't become a full time player until 27 because of discrimination.

    Javy Lopez, Campenella and Murphy were catchers so that hurt their chance to get 40hr.

    Sievers, Olilvie, and Stuart were mostly part time players before age 28.

    Greg Vaughn seems kind of odd. Vaughn never hit over 30 HR until he was 30 year old. Then he hits over 40 three out of four years and hits 50 at age 32 for the Padres at Jack Murphy Stadium.

    There's very strange changes in HR rates by a lot of players who came up with the Astros in the early 90's: Bagwell, Finley, Caminiti, and L. Gonzalez. Even a guy like Biggio had a strange change in HR rate after age 29.

  14. stan smith Says:

    I'm sorry. I wish I could use my inner Mulder (I want to BELIEVE), but in this post-era of PEDs I have to be skeptical.
    Davey Johnson had an extremely fluky year in '73. 43 home runs in one year, never hitting more than 18 any other season.
    One thing I always found wild was seeing records of players who became sluggers in the majors who never exhibited a power stroke in the minors. Look up the minor league records of Ralph Kiner and George Foster. Neither of them gave a remote indication they would be 50-homer guys in the majors. Anyone on this board have a back story on what happened in the development of either of these two that turned them from line-drive minor leaguers to major league bashers?

  15. stan smith Says:

    I don't have the stat sheet in front of me, but it seems Foster might be a comp for Bautista. The Giants gave up on Foster and traded him to the Reds. As a platoon player he began to develop a power stroke. Playing full time in '76 he hit 29 taters and led the majors with 121 RBI. Foster then went 52 and 149, 40 and 120, 30 and 98 while missing a quarter of the season with an injury, 25 and 95, and 22 and 90 missing a third of the season due to the strike. If any of those numbers are off, my bad. Anyway Foster's development into a slugger seems to be directly traced to his being traded from the Giants to the Big Red Machine. At that, it still took a few years for the power stroke to completely emerge. Bautista's outburst was novalike.

  16. John Autin Says:

    On the broad theme of late-blooming power ...
    I don't have absolute proof, but I think that HR power tends to peak just a little later than general player value.

    Here are the number of seasons of 40+ HRs at various ages:

    Age ... # of 40-HR seasons
    Age 20 ... 1
    Age 21 ... 1
    Age 22 ... 5
    Age 23 ... 15
    Age 24 ... 16
    Age 25 ... 19
    Age 26 ... 31
    Age 27 ... 30
    Age 28 ... 31
    Age 29 ... 31
    Age 30 ... 32
    Age 31 ... 22
    Age 32 ... 18
    Age 33 ... 16
    Age 34 ... 10
    Age 35 ... 10
    Age 36 ... 4
    Age 37 ... 6
    Age 38 ... 2
    Age 39 ... 2

    Maybe this doesn't actually show a later peak for HR production, but a slightly longer sustainability. Whereas most players decline in win value by age 30, their HR production tends to last longer than other skills.

    Age ... # of 6+ WAR seasons
    24 ... 77
    25 ... 100
    26 ... 115
    27 ... 109
    28 ... 108
    29 ... 102
    30 ... 78
    31 ... 82
    32 ... 68
    33 ... 44

  17. @12 Duke,

    I was always surprised that Steve Finley continued to play without being heavily criticized for possibly using steroids. His career before 31 and after age 31 are like two different players.

    From the ages of 24-30 he had a HR-AB Rate of 47hr-3364ab which comes out to 1.39 HR per 100AB. From the ages of 31 to 42 years old he hits 257hr-6033ab which comes out to 4.25 HR per 100 at bats.

    At the age of 31 he had 47 Career HR yet he ended his career with 304 HR and ranked 10th all time among Center Fielders.

    He hit 36 HR at the age of 39 years old which is the third highest by a 39 year old in BB history. His 36 HR during his age 39 season was roughly 75% of his career total from ages of 24-30.

    It took him 758 games to get to 36 HR for his career, July of 1994 at the age of 29. At age 39, it only took him about 160 games to get 36 HR.

  18. @15, Stan,

    Kiner was the direct beneficiary in the Pirates acquiring Greenberg in the 1946 season. They acquired Greenberg in '46 and shortened the left field fences at Forbes Field. Greenberg retired after the '46 season and Kiner benefitted from the short left field fence.

    Kiner was a great power hitter but he also benefitted from playing in a 8 team league which tends to make it easier to lead the league in HR. This is one of the problems with judging players who played in smaller leagues by "Black Ink" standards.

    I think Kiner was in WW2 so that may have affected his minor league play.

  19. How does everyone tag is so quick to tag anyone who hit an odd number of homers as a steroid user....yet I've never once head anyone level the charge at Ryne Sandberg. He had hit 20 once in his career, then bashes 30 followed by a league leading 40.
    Or how about one of the biggest sudden home run peaks in baseball history: Roger Maris 1961. His prior career high was 39, which then shot up to 61 and right back down to 33. Clearly, by a lot of people's standards, he had to be on steroids!

  20. @3
    Can anyone say "Bautista is the same size today as he was several years ago"?
    Steroids is a lazy, lazy response, and sadly, is also what passes for journalism today (not that you're a journalist, but I guarantee there will be several Jose is definitely on steroids articles this year, with no proof, of course)

  21. edit: several "Jose is definitely on steroids" articles

  22. I am not 100% educated in steroids but can't a player be on them without looking much different?

    It seems to be a universal thought that Sheffield was on steroids but he looked the same throughout his entire career and only gained 20-25 pounds throughout is 22 season career.

  23. John Autin Says:

    @22, Johnny -- I agree with you. I don't think every PED user exhibits marked change in body mass or shape.

  24. That may be true, but there's still no evidence to suggest he is on steroids. The biggest difference between Bautista now and in the past is his swing. It was awful before, and he has credited Toronto's hitting coach with correcting it.

  25. @15, Stan

    Foster came up with the Giants in a time that they had Mays, Bonds, K. Henderson, Mathews, Maddox, and Kingman in the Majors or Minors for basically 3 outfield positions.

    Foster was traded to Reds in another series of horrible trades the Giants made in the 70's. The Giants really could have been a powerhouse team in the 70's. And to make matters worse, the Reds were in the Giants division back in the 70's.

    It's kind of shocking in hindsight but the Reds didn't even use Foster that much from 1972-1974. When they acquired Joe Morgan in '72, Rose had to switch to left field because they had Dennis Menke at third base. Bobby Tolan and Geronimo played the outfield so there weren't any other spots for Foster.

    Tolan left in '74 but Ken Griffey took over in Right Field and Geronimo went to Center Field. Dennis Menke left after '73 but Dan Driessen played third base in '74. It's interesting what could have happened in hindsight if the Reds switched Rose to Third in '74.

    Rose switched to Third in '75 and Driessen started to split time at First with Perez and then Foster went to Left Field. And the rest as they say is history. Driessen really could have been a starting 1b on many teams.

    Foster started playing regularly and then became one of the premiere offensive players in baseball from 1975-1981. I think he was the only player from 1962-1989 to hit 50+ HR in a season. His 149 ops+ during this time period was second only to Mike Schmidt.

    The Reds started dumping salary in the late 70's and Foster was essentially traded to the Mets in '82 in a salary dump. Foster signs a huge 3 or 4 year contract with the Mets and then struggles mightily for the team in 1982. I'm not sure if it was the contract or playing in NY or playing in a pitcher's park or being 33 years old but he was never the same player and the NY fans vilified him for it.

    He bounced back in '84-85 but he was never the dominant offensive player he had been and was at best average defensively. He became a popular scapegoat/whipping boy at Shea, unfortunately a trend that continues among Mets fans until this day. As if one player is to blame for the incompetence of an entire organization.

    He struggled mightily in '86 and was released in August and then he was picked up by the White Sox and lasted a month before being released and out of baseball.

  26. Damned if do, damned if don't.

    If a player gets bigger, he's on steroids!
    If a player doesn't get bigger, he's on steroids!

    Get hurt too much? Consequence of steroid use!
    Abnormally healthy? Clearly on a PED.

    There are litereally thousands of PEDs, all of which work in different ways. Some are far more effective than others, with some likely working to actually inhibit the skills a baseball player most needs. Many of the effects of some PEDs can be achieved without the use of a drug, though will likely take longer, require more work, and results will be harder to maintain.

    Would I be surprised to find out Bautista used something that is banned? No. But I would say the same of every ball player in the game today. And going back to a time before most drugs were banned, I'd say that I wouldn't be surprised to learn that any player was using a form of a performance enhancing substance, be in pain killers, amphetamines, or what have you. However, without any concrete evidence, I have no more reason to believe that Bautista is on steroids than supposed clean-nosers like Jeter. All the speculating is unfair, especially given that a study like this shows there is precedent for what Bautista has done, with most of the players having no formal links to PEDs of any kind.

  27. #25,

    My mistake on some points:

    Rose had already switched to the outfield in '67 when Tommy Helms played second base.

    Dennis Menke came with Billingham, Morgan AND Geronimo in the '72 trade. What an unbelievably great trade the Reds made. That's a great trade just with Geronimo and Billingham, then you put Morgan into the mix and it's one of the great lopsided trades of all-time.

    Then they basically traded for Foster and gave up nothing and they don't even have a place to play him for 3 years because there is too much talent. Just a tremendous job by the Reds G.M back then.

  28. @19, Atom,

    Well Maris did hit 39 HR in 1960 (Second in the league) and he won the MVP so it's not like he suddenly started hitting HR.

    1961 was the first expansion year so there were an extra 20 pitchers in the league that would have been in Triple A the year before. Maris also played in a great park for left handed power hitters. Maris also had the unique good fortune of hitting in front of one of the greatest hitters in baseball history (Mickey Mantle). He was never intentionally walked in '61 because of Mantle hitting behind him. So Maris was in the right place at the right time. It's highly unlikely he gets to 61 HR playing on any other team during the 1961 season.

  29. Paul Drye Says:

    @Stan Smith and John Q: Foster's not that great a comp anyway: he broke out at age 26 and had a regular career arc after that. There's plenty of players who figure out things at that age, and certainly Foster could have done it sooner if not crowded out of the SF and Cincinnati pictures.

    Bautista was 29 last year, and he played pretty regularly from age 25 onward without showing anything.

  30. It's a bit tiring when it is immediately assumed that a player with a sudden power spike is on steroids. It's equally tiring when fans of suspected player get angry at those who bring the topic up. Suspected PED use is with us forever. No player can be declared clean or not clean.

  31. @19 Atom,

    Sandberg hit 26 HR in 1984 not 20 hr. He hit 30 hr in 1989 the year before he hit 40.

    His HR rate from 1981-1989 is 2.84 per 100ab, which is a pretty solid HR rate by a 2b for the time period.

    If you take it from 1984-1989 it's 3.42 per 100ab.

    His HR rate for 1990 is 6.50 HR per 100ab. It's high but it's not like he was an old player and suddenly went on a crazy home run streak. It really looks like a steady progression from the time he's 24 until he's 30 years old. So it's not like a guy who suddenly triples or quadruples his rate at age 30.

    Did he start using PED around 1989? I don't know it's possible I guess but it doesn't seem probable. He didn't look like a different player when he was hitting 40 HR.

    The Cubs also had an unusual batting order in that Sandberg was a power hitter and batted 2nd in front of Grace and Dawson. Grace was not a power hitter and hit Behind Sandberg. Grace really should have batted second. Maybe it was a feeling that a 1B should bat behind the second basemen.

    Sandberg probably was helped a great deal batting in front of Grace in 1989 & 1990.

  32. @29, Paul,

    I never implied or meant to use Foster as a Comp to Bautista.

    I was answering Stan's questions about Foster's career.

  33. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I don't have absolute proof, but I think that HR power tends to peak just a little later than general player value. ... Whereas most players decline in win value by age 30, their HR production tends to last longer than other skills.

    I think you're right. No links to other studies but I'm sure it's been looked at more in-depth and similar results were found.

    I was always surprised that Steve Finley continued to play without being heavily criticized for possibly using steroids.

    He didn't break any records, so why would anyone care?

    Roger Maris 1961. His prior career high was 39, which then shot up to 61 and right back down to 33. Clearly, by a lot of people's standards, he had to be on steroids!

    "Going by the arguments of the steroid lynchers, we have absolutely no reason to consider Maris to not have been on steroids.

    - Went from 16-to-39-to-61 home runs.
    - Dramatic improvement in power was immediately after Dianabol, the first widely available steroid, was introduced.
    - Broke down physically, done as a full-timer by his 30th birthday.
    - Flipped off the fans and generally became hostile to the point where the Yankees questioned his courage and the media turned against him.
    - Died very early from cancer.
    - Was never tested for steroid use. "

    (poached from post 31 here:
    http://www.baseballthinkfactory.org/files/newsstand/discussion/hated_yankees_without_roger_maris_the_hall_of_fame_isnt_complete/ )

  34. rogerbusby Says:

    @ John Autin #16

    Just throwing this out there. The 2nd column is 100 game seasons played at each age - this is a semi-arbitrary cutoff, the fewest games played in a 40 HR season is, I believe, in the 110 area.

    AGE 100GM SEASs 40 HR SEASs %%%
    23 856 15 1.75%
    24 1247 16 1.28%
    25 1585 19 1.19%
    26 1764 31 1.75%
    27 1848 30 1.62%
    28 1758 31 1.76%
    29 1649 31 1.88%
    30 1515 32 2.11%
    31 1288 22 1.71%
    32 1087 18 1.66%

  35. John Autin Says:

    @34, Rogerbusby -- Good idea, adding that percentage. Thanks.

  36. It is hard to take Bautista's numbers without big grain of salt. For me, the steroid era's shadow continues to darken the game. I still love it, but I can't get as excited about players like this.
    http://pinetarandbrickbats.blogspot.com/2011/05/bautistas-amazing-run.html


  37. test

  38. Johnny Twisto Says:

    I still love it, but I can't get as excited about players like this.

    "Play worse, or I won't enjoy you as much!"

  39. Palmeiro and Giambi were juiced, and Bautista is a little suspicious, but I'm surprised no one else is linked to steroids. (Besides Big Papi, who was a mistake)

  40. Let me say this right now: Jose Bautista is NOT on steroids. This is merely Dwayne Murphy's hitting approach being put to work. Murphy encourages his hitters to look for one pitch and hit it hard. That's how Jose approached hitting last year, and it worked. He loads up early and that's where his power comes from. He developed an excellent eye because he sees pitches earlier than most. Nothing more than these things.

  41. Not one person mentioned that Granderson is likely to join this list.

    At least no one will say Grandy is roidin'.

  42. [...] Curtis’ 2011 is a lot like Ryne Sandberg’s 1990 – just one of those HR spike years at age 30?  In any event, it will be interesting to see if Granderson keeps up his pace this season.  Can [...]