Broken Record

Brad Johnson

It happened. The leaguewide home run record set in 2017 was topped last Wednesday. Fittingly, in this season in which anybody can be a home run threat, Jonathan Villar provided the coup de grâce. In addition to a career-best 21 home runs, Villar is among the league leaders in soft contact rate. Incidentally, he has one of the lowest hard contact rates along with an over-50 percent ground ball rate. It’s no wonder the home run record was shattered if this punchless speedster can pound out 20 home runs.

The new record to beat is 6,214 home runs and counting. We’re on pace to see another 606 home runs before all is said and done.

Shall we dive right in?

Weekly Leaders

Matt Olson, 5 HR

George Springer, 5 HR

Jorge Soler, 4 HR

Jose Abreu, 4 HR

Rougned Odor, 4 HR

Mitch Garver, 4 HR

20 others, 3 HR

No surprises here. Olson would have had an outside chance at the home run crown if he hadn’t missed the early portion of the season with a broken hamate. Using our trusty home run calculator (from the next section), Olson projects to hit 45 home runs per 650 plate appearances.

Springer was also in the home run hunt earlier in the season before injuries ruined his chances. Now at 35 big flies, it’s almost certain he would have been among the league leaders if he had a full campaign. Even with just 512 plate appearances, he’s set a career high. There’s no obvious change to his approach this year – he’s simply hitting the ball much hard, leading to a near-doubling of his home run to fly ball ratio (HR/FB).

Half a decade after he was supposed to arrive, Soler is finally at the finish line of a big league season. While the Royals offense was deeply terrible, Soler did his part. After hitting his 41st through 44th dingers in the last week, he has an outside chance at 50 home runs. Mike Trout (45 HR) is the only other American League hitter over the 40-homer plateau. Or anywhere near it.

Odor has awoken with just enough time to confuse matters for the Rangers next year. Do they plan to start him or move on to a new option? He’s on a mini-hot streak since the end of August, hitting .313/.389/.729 with five home runs and five doubles in his last 54 plate appearances. He was on the cusp of losing his job to Nick Solak.

Garver turned out to be the bargain bin version of Gary Sanchez. He’s up to 30 home runs in a mere 324 plate appearances. Always an offense-first catcher, this onslaught of power was nevertheless completely unexpected. He adjusted his batted ball profile to an extreme pulled, fly ball approach just in time to run into juiced baseball. Frequently facing the hapless pitchers of the AL Central certainly helped too.

Last season, it looked like Father Time had sunk his fangs into Abreu. The Cuban bopper has bounced back with a solidly above average campaign. There’s still risk of a precipitous decline, but he’s done enough to ensure some sort of contract in free agency. He’s currently three blasts shy of his career high – 36 home runs set in his 2014 rookie campaign.

Honorable mention goes to Eugenio Suarez. He was one of the sluggers to pop three home runs. That brings his three-week total to 11. The onslaught has put him in the conversation for the home run crown – he’s currently tied in second place with Trout.

My Top 10 Projected Home Run Leaders

Pete Alonso, New York Mets: 47 HR, 51 HR projected

Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels: 45 HR, 49 HR projected

Cody Bellinger, Los Angeles Dodgers: 44 HR, 48 HR projected

Eugenio Suarez, Cincinnati Reds: 45 HR, 48 HR projected

Jorge Soler, Kansas City Royals: 44 HR, 47 HR projected

Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies: 40 HR, 44 HR projected

Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers, 44 HR, out for season

Ronald Acuna, Atlanta Braves: 39 HR, 43 HR projected

Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves: 38 HR, 41 HR projected

Josh Bell, Pittsburgh Pirates: 37 HR, 41 HR projected

We’re past the point in the season when projections can provide much information. It all comes down to those unpredictable weekly variations. In all cases, projections call for three or four more home runs over the final two-plus weeks. Who will provide a fireworks show? Who will limp to the finish line?

Sadly, Yelich won’t get a chance to strive for the home run crown. At times, it looked like he had a shot at matching Roger Maris. Undoubtedly, you’ve heard Yelich fractured his knee cap last week. He’s still likely to finish among the Top 10 sluggers. Meanwhile, Bell narrowly edged out Gleyber Torres and Josh Donaldson for the 10th spot in the list. Max Kepler was here last week but fell off after failing to homer.

Injured

***Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (knee surgery, out for season)

***Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers (fractured knee, out for season)

***Hunter Renfroe, San Diego Padres (ankle soreness, possibly out for season)

***Edwin Encarnacion, New York Yankees (oblique strain, out for season)

***Gary Sanchez, New York Yankees (groin strain, possible late-September return)

Javier Baez, Chicago Cubs (thumb fracture, out for season)

Hunter Pence, Texas Rangers (lower back strain, TBD)

Stephen Piscotty, Oakland Athletics (right ankle sprain, late-September return)

David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks (shoulder surgery, out for season)

Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians (broken right hamate, out for season)

Gio Urshela, New York Yankees (left groin tightness, mid-September return)

Carlos Correa, Houston Astros (back stiffness, third week of September)

Domingo Santana, Seattle Mariners (elbow inflammation, late September return)

Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins (fractured hand, out for season)

Fernando Tatis, San Diego Padres (stress reaction in lower back, out for season)

Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Toronto Blue Jays (quad strain, imminent return)

David Dahl, Colorado Rockies (high ankle sprain, out for season)

Aaron Hicks, New York Yankees (flexor strain in right arm, out for season)

Michael Chavis, Boston Red Sox (sprained shoulder with setback, out for season)

Dominic Smith, New York Mets (stress reaction in left foot, late-September return)

Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers (broken hamate, late-September return)

Tommy La Stella, Los Angeles Angels (right tibia fracture, shoulder surgery, mid-September return)

Brandon Lowe, Tampa Bay Rays (shin contusion, quad strain, possible playoff return)

Gregory Polanco, Pittsburgh Pirates (shoulder inflammation, out for season)

Giancarlo Stanton, New York Yankees (PCL knee strain, mid-September return)

Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners (ruptured testicle, back strain, out for season)

Kendrys Morales, Free Agent (calf strain, return unknown)

Andrew McCutchen, Philadelphia Phillies (torn ACL, out for season)

Ryon Healy, Seattle Mariners (spinal stenosis, out for season)

Miguel Andujar, New York Yankees (labrum team, out for season)

Greg Bird, New York Yankees (left plantar fascia tear, out for season)

Steven Souza Jr., Arizona Diamondbacks (multiple knee ligament tears - out for season)

Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets (broken ankles, out for season)

*** denotes new injury

The big news is the loss of Yelich which we already covered to some extent. He won’t require surgery on his fractured knee cap and should have a very normal offseason. The Yankees can’t catch a break. They only recently got Encarnacion and Sanchez back from the injured list. Now they’re both likely out for the season. Sanchez is talking about making it back in time for the playoffs. Since this is a recurrence of a past injury, I have my doubts. Ohtani is out after knee surgery. It doesn’t sound like Renfroe will return either.

Springer’s concussion turned out to be exceptionally mild. He returned so rapidly that it’s fair to wonder if he was actually concussed in the first place. Gurriel is expected back today or tomorrow. Keston Hiura, Max Muncy, and Mike Moustakas all returned to action over the last week.

Quite a few notable players are temporarily sidelined including Freeman, Trout, Justin Turner, Justin Upton, and Matt Adams. With the possible exception of Adams, they’re all expected to return in short order.

Power Spotlight

There is a veteran power hitter only six percent owned in Yahoo! leagues. He’s hit 21 home runs in 457 plate appearances. More recently, he’s on a tear, having hit .366/.447/.829 since August 28. Over the span, he’s popped five home runs and four doubles in 47 plate appearances. And as an added bonus, he’s about to start a three-game series at Coors Field followed by a visit to homer-happy Great American Ballpark. His name… is Todd Frazier.

The ToddFather fits many of the criteria we frequently hunt in a power hitter. Much of his contact consists of pulled fly balls. While age has sapped his raw power, the juiced baseball has more than mitigated the losses. Moreover, he appears to be locked in at the moment. He’s set to face a trio of bad Rockies starters backed by one of the worst bullpens in the league. And while the Reds do have much better pitching than the Rockies, Frazier still has a good chance to contribute some yakkers in Cincinnati. This could be a huge week for head-to-head playoffs.