There were 6,776 homers in 2019, the most in baseball history. 58 players hit 30 or more bombs, but who hit them at the highest rate?
5. C Gary Sánchez, New York Yankees
Plate appearances: 446
Home runs: 34
Sánchez’s odd reverse splits continued in 2019. He homered nearly 8% of the time against righties and 6.5% against lefties. He appeared in only 106 games due to head and groin injuries throughout the year. He homered in 29 of them. He punished the poor Orioles for 10 homers in only 14 games.
Sánchez may potently hit homers, but his inability to consistently reach base is glaring. Since 2018, Sánchez has failed to reach base in 69.5% of his plate appearances. Out of 220 players with at least 700 plate appearances since 2018, Sánchez ranks 191st with a .305 on-base percentage. Among 17 catchers in that sample, he ranks 13th.
4. 1B Pete Alonso, New York Mets
Plate appearances: 693
Home runs: 53
The polar bear had a magical rookie season in 2019. He led baseball in homers and got on base at a respectable .358 clip. The right-handed Alonso had an identical .941 OPS against righties and lefties alike and homered at similar rates against both arms. Alonso ranked second in bWAR (5.2) among first basemen who played at least 100 games there, behind only Matt Olson of the Oakland Athletics (5.4).
Alonso barreled up the ball in 9.5% of his plate appearances, tying him with George Springer for the 11th highest rate in the league. He showed off his sheer pop on May 11 when he hit a ball 118.3 MPH into dead center, the hardest hit homer of the year for any player.
3. 3B Miguel Sanó, Minnesota Twins
Plate appearances: 439
Home runs: 34
From June 28 on, Sanó homered in 8.17% of his plate appearances. He hit .271/.376/.618 during that span. He tied Milwaukee’s Keston Hiura for the 26th best on-base percentage, ahead of teammate Luis Arráez and Cubs star Kris Bryant. Sanó ranked eighth in slugging percentage and led American League third basemen in homers.
The offensive expectations for first basemen, although closer in recent years, exceeds that of third basemen because of the defensive difficulty. In the final 3+ months of the 2019 season, Sanó would’ve ranked second among all first basemen in wRC+ (156), and homers (25), and fifth in on-base percentage (.376).
2. DH Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
Plate appearances: 521
Home runs: 41
Since 2013, Cruz leads the league in homers with 271. Among qualified hitters, Cruz is tied with teammate Josh Donaldson and Cardinals bopper Paul Goldschmidt in wRC+ (144) during that span. 168 hitters have had at least 2,500 plate appearances since 2013, and Cruz ranks 32nd in on-base percentage (.357).
Nelly has been one of the games greatest sluggers for years, but 2019 was historic. Cruz hit .311/.392/.639, getting out in only 60.8% of his plate appearances, the ninth lowest in the league. Only Mike Trout posted a higher OPS than Cruz among qualified American Leaguers. He had a top five age-38 season in baseball history.
1. C Mitch Garver, Minnesota Twins
Plate appearances: 359
Home runs: 31
Are you not entertained? Yes, another Twin. Garver was miraculous in 2019, homering in 28% of games played. Only one catcher with at least 80% of games spent at the position has hit 30 homers in a season more efficiently than Garver: Javy López hit 43 homers in 495 plate appearances in 2003 (8.69%). In other words, no catchers in baseball history have hit 30+ homers in less plate appearances than Garver did in 2019.
Garver’s insane rate stats are backed up well by deeper figures. He tied Hiura and Donaldson for the seventh highest hard-hit % (50%) among hitters with at least 200 batted-ball events. Garver caught a barrel in 9.7% of his plate appearances, the 10th most in baseball. Garver ranked behind only six players in average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives (97.2 MPH). It was a special year for the Sauce.
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