Baseball’s a funny sport. As the old cliché goes, it’s the only sport where a person can fail seven out of ten times and still be considered successful. One minute a batter’s hot, hitting everything that’s thrown at him, and the next minute he’s in a slump, unable to hit even a beachball. It’s the nature of the sport. For the most part, however, the statistics have a way of averaging out in the end so that there is at least a degree of consistency to the game. But sometimes a player has a season that is exceptionally bad, and sometimes he has one that is exceptionally good.
Hitting 40 home runs in a single season is no easy feat. Only a select few in the game can lay claim to being a member of the 40 home run club. So you’d think that every member of the club would be a great player. But that’s not always the case.
Here’s the list of the 15 worst players to have ever hit 40 home runs in a single season. To be clear, we’re not saying that these players are bad by any stretch of the imagination. Just the opposite, in fact. In order to make it to the majors you have to be a good baseball player. And, of course, in order to hit 40 home runs you have to be a great baseball player. This list is therefore merely relative. All of these players had above average big league careers, but, as you’ll see, the seasons in which they hit 40 or more home runs were by far their best.
15. Tony Batista
Blue Jays fans will well remember the name of Tony Batista. He played for a little under three years in Toronto and put up some of his best power numbers in that time, including a season in which he swatted 41 home runs. He had 31 doubles and 114 runs batted in to go along with his career high in homers, good enough for his first visit to the all-star game. Although Batista, who was famous for his unorthodox stance wherein he would face the pitcher and then twist toward the plate, hit 30 or more homers four times and made two all-star appearances, his overall numbers weren’t great. For example, he had a career on base percentage below .300 and he did little else aside from hit the long ball.
14. Brady Anderson
Not only did Brady Anderson surpass the 40 home run mark, he also surpassed the 50 home run mark. His breakout season came in 1996, when he hit 50 home runs, drove in 110, batted nearly .300, and got on base nearly 40 percent of the time. No question, it was a great season. The problem is, it was an anomaly for his career. Before and after his incredible ’96 season, he failed to hit even half as many home runs in a year, leading many to draw the conclusion that he was a one-season wonder. In fact, nearly a quarter of his career home runs came during that one season. That said, Anderson still managed to put up pretty solid numbers throughout his time in the big leagues, including a .362 on base percentage.
13. Jesse Barfield
Jesse Barfield’s 40 home run season sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of his career stats. Before the 1986 season, which saw him drive in 108 runs with a career high batting average of .289 to go along with his 40 long balls, Barfield had only hit as many as 27 home runs in a season, which is still nothing to sneeze at, but it’s a far cry from 40. After the ’86 season, he was back to his usual self, topping out at 28 home runs and coming nowhere near triple-digit run production. For his career, he batted .256 with 241 home runs. Pretty good numbers, but not quite indicative of what he was able to do with the Jays in 1986.
12. Rico Petrocelli
You’d be forgiven if you didn’t know who Rico Petrocelli is. A solid player in the ‘60s (and to a lesser extent the ‘70s), Petrocelli spent his entire career with the Boston Red Sox. Before hitting 40 home runs in 1969, he had never even reached the 20 home run mark. His success from ’69 somewhat carried over into the next few seasons, when he hit 29 and 28 home runs and drove in a career high 103 RBIs in 1970, but he would never put together a season quite like the one he had in 1969, which also saw him reach an on base percentage of .403, over 70 points higher than his career average.
11. Wally Post
Wally Post had a lengthy career that spanned three decades, from 1949-1964. He put together a few decent seasons, but nothing compared to the one he had in 1955, in which he hit 40 home runs, batted .309 and drove in 109 runs. Aside from that season, he was a mid-.200 hitter with slightly above average power (he hit 36 home runs a year after his 40 homer campaign, but failed to hit more than 22 after that). He also led the league in strikeouts three times, had below average speed, and was all but done by the age of 32. A good ballplayer, no doubt, but hardly an all-star, let alone a Hall of Famer.
10. Curtis Granderson
There are probably more than a few people who will scoff at the inclusion of Curtis Granderson’s name on this list. After all, he hit 40 home runs more than once. And that’s true, but he did it at the sandbox that is Yankee Stadium, with it’s ridiculously short porch in right field, perfect for a left-handed pull hitter like Granderson. His highest home run total came in 2012, when he cleared the fences 43 times. But he also batted an abysmal .232 that year and set another career high: strikeouts, with 195. Since leaving the Yankees for the Mets and their decidedly less hitter friendly Citi Field, he has struggled at the plate, batting a combined .239 with 55 home runs in two and a third seasons.
9. Todd Hundley
Although he hit 41 home runs at a position (catcher) not normally associated with offensive output, Hundley still earns a spot on this list because of his low career batting average (.234), and because he only had more than 100 hits in a season twice. At the time, Hundley’s 41 home runs was a franchise record and a record for all catchers, tying the mark set by Dodgers great Roy Campanella. Unlike Campanella, however, Hundley was no Hall of Famer. He was inconsistent and once Mike Piazza came along the Mets had no room for him.
8. Travis Hafner
Travis Hafner, otherwise known as “Pronk” or “Shrek,” was a fan favorite in his 10 seasons with the Cleveland Indians. He took an unlikely path to the big leagues, playing for a small community college in Kansas and getting drafted in the 31st round. But he defied the odds and became one of the game’s best power hitters for a few years, hitting a career high 42 home runs in 2006. He led the league in slugging percentage and OPS that year, but his numbers fell off drastically beginning with the next season, which saw his home run numbers more than cut in half. Injuries would plague the second half of his career, and his season high home runs after 2006 was 16.
7. Jim Gentile
Jim Gentile is what you might call an early bloomer. His best seasons came at the very beginning of his career. He was named runner up for the rookie of the year award in his first full season, and he placed third in MVP voting the falling year. During his sophomore campaign, he put up some incredible numbers, hitting 46 home runs and driving in a league leading 141 RBIs with a staggering on base percentage of .423. The only reason he didn’t win MVP was because it happened to be the year that Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth’s single season home run record, and Mickey Mantle was right on Maris’s tail with 54 homers of his own. It was all downhill for Gentile after 1961, as his offensive output declined with each passing year. He still managed to hit 179 career home runs, but he was never able to regain his early career form.
6. Mark Reynolds
Mark Reynolds is the definition of an all-or-nothing hitter. From 2008 to 2011 he hit 28, 44, 32, and 37 home runs, respectively, but he also led the league in strikeouts each year, with 204, 223, 211, and 196. That’s 834 Ks in 4 seasons! He also batted under the Mendoza line one of those years. Although he walks a lot, he still has a career batting average of just .232. In recent years, he has been striking out significantly less, but he’s also hit significantly less home runs. So far in 2016, he’s having an uncharacteristic season, batting over .300 with less than a strikeout per game, yet with only two home runs.
5. Richard Hidalgo
Considering the fact that his career was over by the age of 30, Venezualan-born Richard Hidalgo put up some pretty good numbers, with 171 home runs and 560 RBIs in under 1,000 games. But nothing about his career suggested that he was capable of the kinds of numbers he put up in 2000. At 25, while playing with the Houston Astros, he hit an incredible .314 with 44 home runs and 122 RBIs. He followed that season with 19 home runs and then 15 home runs. He showed signs of greatness again in 2003, when he batted .309 with 28 home runs, but he fell off again the next year, batting just .239. His power numbers were good near the end of his career, but his average remained in the low .200s.
4. Carlos Pena
Like many of the players on this list, Carlos Pena had a cluster of good seasons in the middle of his career surrounded by a whole bunch of subpar seasons. After coming up in the Texas Rangers’ system, Pena was traded to the Oakland Athletics and then the Detroit Tigers. He showed signs of power with the Tigers, but it wasn’t until he got to Tampa that he really broke out, hitting 46 home runs in his first season with the Devil Rays. His power numbers remained high the next couple years (31 and 39 home runs), but his batting average dipped dramatically. After batting below the .200 in 2010, Pena signed a one-year contract with the Cubs. He would go on to bat around or below the Mendoza line for the rest of his career, which ended with the team that had drafted him, the Rangers. He was released after during the 2014 season after batting just .136.
3. Gorman Thomas
With a name like Gorman, you better be a good baseball player. And he was… for a short while, at least. Thomas crushed a career high 45 home runs with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1979, but he also struck out a career high 175 times. “Stormin’ Gorman” fanned at a rate of nearly once per game throughout his career, with a batting average of just .225. He batted below .200 on five separate occasions, albeit during seasons in which he wasn’t playing regularly. His 268 career home runs seem less impressive when you consider the fact that he struck out 1,339 times.
2. Dave Kingman
Dave Kingman hit 442 career home runs. He hit over 30 home runs seven times, including one season in which he hit 48. So you might be asking yourself, how can a guy with those kinds of numbers be considered a bad player? Well, he also struck out at a ridiculous rate, leading the league three times, and he also regularly batted in the low .200s. He led the league in home runs twice, yet in one of those years he batted .204, which was lower than the batting average of that year’s Cy Young winner, and the lowest batting average for any home run leader. At the time of his retirement, he had the fourth most strikeouts in MLB history, and this was before players were striking out as much as they are today.
1. Davey Johnson
Number one on this list has to be Davey Johnson. Seemingly out of nowhere, Johnson hit 43 home runs for the Atlanta Braves in 1973, well above his previous career high of 18. And he would only hit 27 more home runs after that, finishing his career with a total of 136. To be fair, Johnson was named to four all-star teams and he was a three-time world champ and a three-time gold glover. But as far as 40 home run club members go, he might just be the worse. After his playing career ended, he became a manager, serving as the skipper for the Mets, the Reds, the Orioles, the Dodgers, and most recently the Nationals. He also spent some time near the end of his playing career in the Nippon Professional Baseball league of Japan.
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