The Henry Aaron Home Run Analysis

This article was written by John C. Tattersall

This article was published in the 1977 Baseball Research Journal


Now that Henry Aaron has closed out his illustrious career and there is no home run hitter of note around to challenge his record, it is a good time to sum up his contributions in the context of an over-all home run review.

As practically every baseball fan knows, Aaron closed out with 755 roundtrippers. He hit 385 on the road, and 370 at home, both of which are new career records he has taken over from Babe Ruth.  The key to his over-all performance was consistency over a long period.  He hit 341 homers in his twenties (trailing only Jimmie Foxx, Eddie Mathews, and Mickey Mantle); he hit 372 in his thirties (trailing only Ruth and ahead of Mays); and he hit 42 in his forties (trailing only Stan Musial and Ted Williams). Note that except for Aaron, the cast changes in each decade. He hit 10 or more for 23 consecutive years, easily a record.

Aaron’s chief home run victim was Don Drysdale of the Dodgers who was reached for 17 roundtrippers. The number off one hurler is not a record as Ruth hit 18 of Rube Walberg, Mays 18 off Warren Spahn, and Foxx 18 each off Red Ruffing and Al Crowder.

Henry hit extra inning homers 13 times, but trailed several in that department. Mays hit 22 after the 9th inning, Ruth and Frank Robinson 16, Foxx and Mantle 14, and Ted Williams also hit 13.

With his 755 home runs, Aaron knocked in 1240 runs, a new record. This averages out to 1.64 runs per homer, compared to 1.69 for Ruth. As might be expected, Aaron hit the most home runs with the bases empty, 399, compared to 365 for Mays and 350 for Ruth.  When it came to belting with Braves and Brewers on base, Henry could not quite get out of the shadow cast by the Bambino. The Babe edged him in 2-run homers 249 to 243, and in 3-run blasts 99 to 97, and they were locked in fourth place with 16 grand slams. Ruth’s slugging mate Lou Gehrig was out in front with 23.

A review of the career records of the top 50 or so home run hitters reveals that roundtripper run production by Ruth and Aaron was pretty typical of their different eras. Great power hitters of the 1920s and 1930s usually hit more than 50% of their fourbaggers with one or more runners on base. Sluggers of the last 25 years usually hit less than 50% of their homers with bases occupied. The main reason for that disparity is because there were more base runners and fewer homers hit in the l920s and 1930s. The reverse has been true in the last generation.

There are exceptions in both eras and I suppose clutch hitting on an individual basis might be one of the factors. Batting third or fourth also would make a difference over a career in the number of runs batted in with homers. And then certain teams have a higher on-base average.

In regard to the exceptions, it might come as a surprise that Rogers Hornsby, a central figure in the heavy-hitting era, connected slightly less than 50% of the time with men on. Bob Johnson of the Athletics, a good RBI man on a weak team, was another. Gabby Hartnett and Dolph Camilli are two more from that era.

Since Ted Williams retired in 1960, there have been very few sluggers who could connect 50% of the time with anyone on base.  Yogi Berra and Vic Wertz, who hit their last homers in 1963, did it, and Wertz was particularly productive. The pitchers decade of the 1 960s was quite rough on run production. Two batters who got through that period in pretty good shape were Harmon Killebrew and Boog Powell, neither of whom hit much for average but connected with men on base. Killebrew was the most consistent of all sluggers in hitting 2-run homers. I don’t know if it was Tony Oliva or Rod Carew who was getting on base for the Twins, but Harmon hit 223 or 39% of his 573 homers with one man on.

Two other modern players who deserve mention as productive home run hitters are Johnny Bench and Tony Perez. Both connect slightly more than 50% of the time with men on. As is well known, the Reds have had a strong batting attack with players like Pete Rose and Joe Morgan getting on base quite frequently. Bench is producing 1.74 runs on homers, which is tops among active sluggers and is almost a throwback to the old days.

At the end of this article is a breakdown of the home runs hit by the top career leaders through the 1976 season. As it is not very meaningful to compare totals when you have a spread of 500 home runs-from 755 for Aaron to 256 for Bench-it would be best to summarize on a percentage basis the top and bottom figures. For example, it might be interesting to know that among the players considered, Ted Williams connected most frequently with men on-whether it was 1, 2, or 3.  Conversely, only 44.5% of his 521 homers came with the bases empty.  At the other end of the run-producing spectrum is Jimmy Wynn, who is connecting 58% of the time with no one on base. But Wynn is only the modern reflection of a “bases empty” syndrome which includes such names as Reggie Jackson, Norm Cash, Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Orlando Cepeda, and Al Kaline.

Kaline hit the fewest grand slams, only 3 out of 399, while Gehrig was hitting 23 out of 493, or 5%. Rudy York was next with 12 out of 277 (4.3%). On 3-run homers, York and Jimmie Foxx topped the list with 18% while Norm Cash was down to 8%. On 2-run homers, Killebrew leads with 39%, followed by Del Ennis, Tony Perez, and Ted Williams. Orlando Cepeda hit only 27% of his homers with one man on.

On over-all run production with home runs, Vic Wertz averaged 1.80 RBIs per homer, York 1.78, and Gehrig 1.77. At the other end, Ted Kluszewski averaged 1.55, Wynn, Cash, and Kaline 1.56. Henry Aaron is in the mid-range with 1.64. Here is the full list.

 

 

Total
Homers

Bases
Empty

One
On

Two
On

Grand
Slam

RBIs on
Homers

RBIs/
Homer

Henry Aaron

755

399

243

97

16

1240

1.64

Babe Ruth

714

350

249

99

16

1209

1.69

Willie Mays

660

365

219

68

 8

1039

1.57

Frank Robinson

586

325

184

70

 7

931

1.59

Harmon Killebrew

573

275

223

64

11

957

1.67

Mickey Mantle

536

297

162

68

 9

861

1.60

Jimmie Foxx

534

254

167

96

17

944

1.76

Ted Williams

521

233

197

74

17

917

1.76

Ed Mathews

512

271

182

51

 8

820

1.60

Ernie Banks

512

262

160

78

12

864

1.69

Melvin Ott

511

235

187

82

 7

883

1.73

Lou Gehrig

493

231

166

73

23

874

1.77

Stan Musial

475

230

181

55

 9

793

1.67

Willie McCovey

465

252

138

59

16

769

1.65

Billy Williams

426

216

162

40

 8

692

1.62

Duke Snider

407

219

140

43

 5

648

1.59

Al Kaline

399

220

136

40

 3

624

1.56

Willie Stargell

388

196

125

57

10

657

1.69

Frank Howard

382

202

133

42

 5

614

1.61

Orlando Cepeda

379

209

103

48

 9

595

1.57

Norman Cash

377

213

123

33

 8

590

1.56

Rocky Colavito

374

192

116

59

 7

629

1.68

Gil Hodges

370

196

105

55

14

627

1.69

Ralph Kiner

369

188

121

47

13

623

1.69

Joe DiMaggio

361

170

119

59

13

635

1.76

Johnny Mize

359

172

125

56

 6

614

1.72

Yogi Berra

358

169

129

51

 9

616

1.72

Richie Allen

346

181

118

39

 8

558

1.61

Ron Santo

342

180

112

44

 6

560

1.64

Boog Powell

339

160

130

42

 7

574

1.69

Carl Yastrzemski

338

186

107

39

 6

541

1.60

Joe Adcock

336

182

106

38

10

558

1.66

Hank Greenberg

331

160

109

51

11

575

1.74

Roy Sievers

318

163

99

46

10

539

1.69

Al Simmons

307

144

109

44

10

534

1.74

Rogers Hornsby

301

152

92

45

12

519

1.72

Chuck Klein

300

140

108

45

 7

519

1.73

Jimmy Wynn

290

168

85

33

4

453

1.56

Bob Johnson

288

148

93

39

8

483

1.68

DelEnnis

288

130

111

41

6

499

1.74

Hank Sauer

288

154

91

39

4

469

1.63

FrankThomas

286

160

92

30

4

450

1.57

Ken Boyer

282

159

92

24

7

443

1.57

Reggie Jackson

281

160

83

34

4

444

1.58

Ted Kluzsewski

279

156

95

25

3

433

1.55

Rudy York

277

133

81

51

12

496

1.78

TonyPerez

277

137

106

30

4

455

1.64

Roger Mans

275

148

90

32

5

444

1.61

Lee May

273

150

83

33

7

443

1.62

Brooks Robinson

267

154

74

33

6

425

1.59

VicWertz

266

120

88

48

10

480

1.80

Bobby Thomson

264

142

88

26

8

428

1.62

Willie Horton

262

135

77

44

6

445

1.70

Bob Allison

256

147

76

28

5

403

1.57

Johnny Bench

256

124

81

45

6

445

1.74

Vada Pinson

256

148

70

30

8

410

1.60

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