There’s no hotter hitter in Major League Baseball right now than Giancarlo Stanton, and the Miami Marlins slugger suddenly is positioned to do some damage to the record books.
Stanton has launched home runs at a borderline historic pace for about a month now, reaching the latest milestone Sunday when he blasted his 50th home run of the season, capping a weekend series with the San Diego Padres in which he homered three times. He now has an absurd 17 home runs in his last 23 games, a casual 120-home run pace if kept up for an entire 162-game season, and has an outside chance of breaking Sammy Sosa’s record for most home runs in a month.
Since Stanton reached the 50-mark before Sept. 1, it’s left some to wonder whether Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record of 73 might be in jeopardy — with the key word being “might.” Obviously, Stanton, even with 50 under his belt, would have some work to do in order to run down Bonds before the season ends.
The Marlins have 33 games left to play entering Monday. Over his last 33 games, arguably the best stretch of his career, Stanton has hit “only” 20 home runs (a 99-home run pace). If he keeps up that pace, and that’s a monumental “if” even for the sport’s most legendary sluggers, Stanton still would fall three home runs short of tying Bonds.
On Aug. 28, 2001, Bonds and the Giants had just 30 games left, and he ended up hitting 17 home runs over that final 30-game stretch. That means he had 56 home runs on Aug. 28, obviously a few more than Stanton’s 50. So the Marlins outfielder will somehow need to take his game to an even higher level in order to have the slightest chance of catching Bonds.
Here’s the other thing: Of the Marlins’ remaining 33 games, 15 are against playoff contenders, including three series with the Milwaukee Brewers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies. In large part thanks to Stanton, the Marlins have joined those three teams in the wild card hunt. That’s the good news. The bad news, at least as it pertains to Stanton’s chase, is there’s really no reason for any of those teams in the playoff hunt to risk pitching to Stanton in the middle of a pennant race. Stanton is walking just 12 percent of the time, which is in line with his career mark … but most of those games haven’t mattered. With something on the line, you have to think teams will become a little more selective with how they pitch the 27-year-old star.
While Stanton isn’t nearly the overall hitter Bonds was in his prime, it’s worth noting Bonds walked 46 times in his final 33 games of 2001 … nearly one for every three plate appearances.
So unless Stanton somehow finds an even higher gear, Bonds’ record looks safe for at least one more season. Roger Maris, Sosa and perhaps even Mark McGwire, on the other hand, might soon have company in one of baseball’s most select neighborhoods.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images