He led the league twice in home runs, which isn’t a lot for the 600-homer club. Thome did it once, and Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa also did it twice. The rest of the club (Willie Mays, Alex Rodriguez, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey, Jr., Babe Ruth) led their respective leagues at least four times each.
It’s that geological grind that’s so tough. Pujols has 14 different seasons with 30 homers or more (one behind Aaron and Rodriguez … for now). His story of 600 homers is a story of incredible skill, health, and a gradual decline. The other possible story is that of incredible skill, an unfathomable peak, and just enough health to accumulate the stats. Once he missed the four-season stretch of 60 homers, he had to chip away.
And, again, this isn’t including the players who are still in their mid-20s. Justin Bour is a beastly fellow at the moment, but, fine, he’s developing. Aaron Hicks was always a top prospect, even if this is getting a little freaky. The Rays acquired Corey Dickerson for a reason, so it’s not like his success should be that surprising. Chris Taylor was overlooked in the minors, perhaps, where he generally found success.
Start with Zack Cozart. He was a poor man’s Brandon Crawford for years, and that was fine. He was valuable defensively and hit just enough. Now, at the age of 31, he’s hitting .351 and slugging .623. Just for good measure, he’s six walks away from his career high. Now instead of a poor man’s Crawford, he’s a rich man’s Carlos Correa.
SABERMETRICIAN: Actually, it’s all about the launch angles. See, last year Cozart’s …
That’s not the point. He’s Zack Cozart. He’s 31. There are rules.
For five seasons, Marwin Gonzalez was a nice utility infielder. His career line was .257/.298/.389. He was a known quantity. That’s the key phrase with a lot of these players. Known quantity.