SIX STATS you may not know: Looking back at the 1998 Home Run Chase between McGwire and Sosa
I recently watched “Long Gone Summer,” an ESPN “30-for-30” that looked at the 1998 MLB Home Run Race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and their quest to pass Roger Maris’ long-standing single-season home run record of 61 homers. McGwire ended that year hitting 70 while Sosa finished with 66.
Here are six stats you may not know about that home run race.
- As stated above, McGwire led the league with 70 HRs and Sosa was second with 66. But do you know who came in third in the National League that year in home runs? If you guessed San Diego’s Greg Vaughn, you are correct. Vaughn ended the campaign with 50 HRs that year. In addition to McGwire, Sosa and Vaughn, there were also two more N.L. players who had 40 homers that season: Colorado’s Vinny Castilla (46) and Atlanta’s Andre Galarraga (44). There were, however, eight players who hit 40 or more home runs in the American League that season: Ken Griffey, Seattle, 56; Albert Belle, White Sox, 49; Jose Canseco, Toronto, 46; Manny Ramirez, Cleveland, 45; Juan Gonzalez, Texas, 45; Rafael Palmeiro, Texas, 43; Alex Rodriguez, Seattle, 42; and Mo Vaughn, Boston, 40.
- The most HRs McGwire had hit in a season before his 70 in 1998 was 58 the previous season. He then hit 65 in 1999. The most Sosa had hit in a season before the 66 he slugged in ’98 was 40 in 1996. The most he hit after that ’98 season was 64 in 2001.
- McGwire not only led the National League in HRs in 1998 but he also led the league in walks with 162. Sosa led the league in strikeouts that season with 171.
- In the 1998 season, the longest McGwire went without hitting an HR was eight games. The longest Sosa went without a homer was 11 games. The longest stretch of games with a home run for McGwire was four (he did it twice). Sosa had a season-long streak of five games with a home run.
- When their careers came to an end, Sosa won the battle between the two with 609 career home runs. McGwire ended his career with 583.
- It’s interesting to note that both McGwire and Sosa each hit HR #64 that season off the same pitcher, Milwaukee’s Rafael Roque. On September 18 in Milwaukee, Roque surrendered HR #64 to McGwire. Five days later, also in Milwaukee, Sosa hit #64 off of Roque. (At that time I was a Scoreboard Statistician for the Milwaukee Brewers working at County Stadium. Part of my job was keeping a scorecard for games. I worked both the games on September 18 and September 23 and kept both scorecards from those two games, with a note on the card that both McGwire and Sosa had hit HR #64 in those games. I gave those cards to my daughter, Amy, who put the scorecards in a frame. A nice piece of memorabilia!)
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One of the biggest stories of baseball’s off-season was home run champ Giancarlo Stanton becoming a New York Yankee. Stanton led the majors last year with 59 HRs with the Miami Marlins.
Is it possible that Stanton is “striking out” in his short tenure with the Yanks? Figuratively speaking, we are only 14 games into the season and the jury is still out about whether or not Stanton will have a major impact on the Bronx Bombers. A 7-7 record is nothing to get too concerned about two weeks into the 2018 season.
But from a literal sense, Stanton is “striking out” with the Yankees; in fact, he leads the majors with 25 strikeouts in 59 at-bats. He has already had two games this season where he struck out five times (more on that in a moment). On the plus side, he has hit three home runs.
But let’s look at the strikeouts. Last season Stanton’s current teammate, Aaron Judge became the first player in MLB history to have 50 or more home runs and over 200 strikeouts in the same season (he had 52 HRs and 208 strikeouts). With 25 strikeouts in 14 games, Stanton is on a pace to strike out 289 times this season… the MLB record is 223 strikeouts in a season by Mark Reynolds with Arizona in 2009.
Here’s a look at the players who hit 50 or more home runs in a season and had the most strikeouts that same season.
Aaron Judge, NY Yankees, 2017, 52 HRs-208 strikeouts
Chris Davis, Baltimore, 2013, 53 HRs-199 strikeouts
Cecil Fielder, Detroit, 1990, 51 HRs-182 strikeouts
Ryan Howard, Philadelphia, 2006, 58 HRs-181 strikeouts
Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 1998, 66 HRs-171 strikeouts
Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 1999, 63 HRs-171 strikeouts
Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 2000, 50 HRs-168 strikeouts
Giancarlo Stanton, Miami, 2017, 59 HRs-163 strikeouts
Mark McGwire, two teams, 1997, 58 HRs-159 strikeouts
Mark McGwire, St. Louis, 1998, 70 HRs-155 strikeouts
Sammy Sosa, Cubs, 2001, 64 HRs-153 strikeouts
For the record, the fewest number of strikeouts in a season by a player who hit 50 or more home runs is 42 by Johnny Mize. He hit 51 HRs in 1947. He is the only player with 50 or more home runs in a season that had less than 50 strikeouts that same campaign.
As mentioned above, Stanton has already struck out five times in a game twice this season. The MLB record is three games with five or more strikeouts in a game, held by Ray Lankford in 1998.
Stanton became the 14th player in MLB history to strike out five of more times in a game multiple times in his career. Sammy Sosa holds the MLB record… he fanned five or more times in four games in his career. Lankford is next with his three games. The 12 players who did it twice in their careers are: Jim Thome, Mark Teixeira, Ron Swoboda, Stanton, Richie Sexson, George Scott, Alex Rios, Benny Kauff, Andruw Jones, Deron Johnson, Chris Davis and Dick Allen.
One last note: Sosa, Lankford and Brian Dozier are the only three players in baseball history to strikeout five times in a game and hit a home run that same game.
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Last baseball season, Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton and New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge each hit 50 home runs … Stanton had 59; Judge had 52. (These two are now teammates with Stanton’s trade to the Yankees in the off-season.) It was the first time since the 2007 season that two players hit 50 in a season; that year Alex Rodriguez had 54 and Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder had 50.
Stanton and Judge became the 44th and 45th players to hit 50 in a season. Of the 45 times it has happened in MLB history, there have been 29 different players who have reached the 50-HR milestone. Here are the nine players who have hit 50 or more home runs in multiple seasons:
4: Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth, Sammy Sosa
3: Alex Rodriguez
2: Jimmie Foxx, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ralph Kiner, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays.
Stanton and Judge will look to become only the sixth and seventh players to hit 50 HRs in consecutive seasons. The five players who have consecutive seasons with 50 homers: Rodriguez (2001 and 2002), Ruth (1920 and 1921, also 1927 and 1928), Griffey (1997 and 1998), McGwire (1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999) and Sosa (1998, 1999, 2000, 2001).
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Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’ is a sports statistics blog published with a focus on stats that go beyond the numbers.
With 36 games left in the Orioles 2013 schedule, Baltimore first baseman Chris Davis looks like a shoo-in to hit 50 or more home runs this season. He would become the first Orioles player with 50-plus homers since Brady Anderson hit 50 in 1996.
There is an outside chance that Miguel Cabrera will reach the 50-HR mark. Cabrera has 40 round-trippers with 36 games left. If he could reach the 50-mark, he would become the first Tigers players to reach 50 home runs since Cecil Fielder hit 51 in 1990.
Looking at each of the current 30 MLB franchises, 11 of them have never had a player hit 50 or more HRs in a season. Here are those 11 teams; also listed is the player who holds the club record for home runs in a season.
Team (Franchise HR record)
Chicago White Sox (Albert Belle, 49 in 1998)
Colorado (Todd Helton, 49 in 2001; Larry Walker, 49 in 1997)
Houston (Jeff Bagwell, 47 in 2000)
Kansas City (Steve Balboni, 36 in 1985)
Los Angeles Angels (Troy Glaus, 47 in 2000)
Los Angeles Dodgers (Shawn Green, 49 in 2001)
Miami (Gary Sheffield, 42 in 1996)
Minnesota (Harmon Killebrew, 49 in 1969)
New York Mets (Carlos Beltran, 41 in 2006; Todd Hundley, 41 in 1996)
Tampa Bay (Carlos Pena, 46 in 2007)
Washington (Alfonso Soriano, 46 in 2006)
Of the remaining 19 teams, the Pittsburgh Pirates have had the longest wait for a 50-HR player. The Pirates last player to hit 50 or more homers in a season was in 1949 when Ralph Kiner slugged 54.
Here’s a look at the last time the other 19 teams had a player hit 50 or more HRs in a season.
Team (Player, HRs, season)
Pittsburgh (Ralph Kiner, 54 in 1949)
Cincinnati (George Foster, 52 in 1977)
Detroit (Cecil Fielder, 51 in 1990)
Baltimore (Brady Anderson, 50 in 1996)
Oakland (Mark McGwire, 52 in 1996)
Seattle (Ken Griffey, Jr., 56 in 1998)
San Diego (Greg Vaughn, 50 in 1998), 65 in 1999)
St. Louis (Mark McGwire
Arizona (Luis Gonzalez, 57 in 2001)
Chicago Cubs (Sammy Sosa, 64 in 2001)
San Francisco (Barry Bonds 73 in 2001)
Cleveland (Jim Thome, 52 in 2002)
Texas (Alex Rodriguez, 57 in 2002)
Atlanta (Andruw Jones, 51 in 2005)
Boston (David Ortiz, 54 in 2006)
Philadelphia (Ryan Howard, 58 in 2006)
New York Yankees (Alex Rodriguez, 54 in 2007)
Milwaukee (Prince Fielder, 50 in 2007)
Toronto (Jose Bautista, 54 in 2010)
Did you know? As you might expect, the Yankees have the most season with a player hitting 50 or more home runs with 8. The Cubs are next with five; the Giants have had four.
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“SIX STATS…” is a bonus feature of Sports Stats ‘on Tapp’
1. The Cubs made the playoffs in the first full season of a new manager three times since 1984. They went to the playoffs in 1984 in Jim Frey‘s first year; in 2003 in Dusty Baker‘s first season; and in 2007 in Lou Piniella‘s first year as Cubs’ skipper. Can they do the same in Dale Sveum’s first year at the helm?
2. In the last 28 seasons, the Cubs have won 85 or more games eight times. They made the playoffs in six of those seasons. The two years when they did not make the playoffs after winning 85 or more games? In 2001 they won 88 games; in 2004 they won 89 games.
3. The Cubs are one of only two franchises to have played in 20,000 or more major league games. Can you name the other franchise? Answer at the end of the blog.
4. Five players played 2,000 or more games with the Cubs: Ernie Banks (2528), Cap Anson (2277), Billy Williams (2213), Ryne Sandberg (2151) and Ron Santo (2126).
5. Here’s a few “last times”… Last time Cubs player won the N.L. MVP was 1998 (Sammy Sosa)… Last time a Cubs pitcher won the N.L. Cy Young Award was in 1992 (Greg Maddux)… Last time a Cubs rookie won the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award was 2008 (Geovany Soto)… Last time a Cubs reliever won the N.L Rolaids Relief Pitcher of the Year Award was in 1993 (Randy Myers)… Last time a Cubs manager won the N.L. Manager of the Year Award was in 2008 (Lou Piniella)..
6. The Cubs won 71 games last season. Since 1996, the Cubs have won fewer than 70 games in the season. Here’s how well they did after those five sub-70 win seasons.
1997: 68 wins (they won 90 games the next season)
1999: 67 wins (they won 65 games the next season)
2000: 65 wins (they won 88 games the next season)
2002: 67 wins (they won 88 games the next season)
2006: 66 wins (they won 85 games the next season)
Answer to item #3: The Atlanta Braves franchise has played 20,215 games in the majors. The Cubs have played 20,250. The Cubs and Braves are the two remaining charter members of the National League.