Before getting started on this list, we want to make it abundantly clear that we’re not saying that these players are bad by any means. Quite the opposite, in fact. In order to reach the 400-homer mark, a hitter not only has to be great—he has to be great for several seasons. When we say “worst” players in the 400 home run club, we of course are talking in terms of relativity. While they may be the worst in their class, they’re still some of the best baseball players of all time (several of them are even Hall of Famers).
With that in mind, here are the 15 “worst” players in the 400 home run club. In order to come up with this list, we took into consideration not just the player’s ability to hit home runs, but also their defensive value and their other offensive attributes (such as batting average, on-base percentage, and strikeouts).
15. Harmon Killebrew
Home Runs: 573
This is perhaps the most controversial (and therefore last) pick on this list. After all, former Twins slugger Harmon Killebrew, who led the league in home runs six times and finished with 573 total (second behind only Babe Ruth at the time), was one of the greatest power hitters of all time. But there’s a reason why he doesn’t often get mentioned alongside other greats of his generation, such as Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays—it’s because he was solely a power hitter. His .256 career batting average is pedestrian by Hall of Fame standards, and he struck out at a high rate for the time (he led the league in Ks in 1962).
Killebrew was also a subpar defender and a prime example of why the designated hitter was invented. In 22 seasons, he split time between first base, third base, and left field, not because he was equally adept at each position, but because there really wasn’t a place to put him.
14. Mike Piazza
Home Runs: 427
With a .308 batting average and 427 career home runs, Mike Piazza is arguably the greatest offensive catcher of all time. You won’t find too many people making that argument about his defense, however. In fact, some, including Rob Neyer of SB Nation, have argued that he was a “generally poor” backstop throughout his career, which is why he received just 58% of the vote his first time on the Hall of Fame ballot (he was eventually inducted). For example, he threw out just 23% of baserunners, roughly 13% lower than other catchers he played with.
On offense alone, Piazza is more than deserving of his place amongst the greatest players of all time, but his stock drops significantly when you consider that he played one of the most important positions in the game (and by most accounts, he didn’t play it well).
13. Reggie Jackson
Home Runs: 563
Reggie Jackson’s numbers speak for themselves: 21 seasons in the big leagues, 563 home runs, 1,702 runs batted in, four home run titles, 14 All-Star selections, and an MVP. He is deserving of his spot in the Hall of Fame.
On the other hand, Reggie Jackson’s numbers speak for themselves: 2,597 strikeouts (most all time, including leading the league in Ks five times) and a career .262 batting average (including six seasons below .240). He is deserving of his spot on this list.
12. Mark McGwire
Home Runs: 583
Mark McGwire isn’t just a member of the 400 home run club; he’s also a member of the 500 home run club. With 583 career long balls, he has the most career homers of anyone on this list, yet still we consider him one of the worst for a number of reasons.
First of all, it’s well known that McGwire was using performance-enhancing drugs throughout much of his career, which means his numbers have to be taken with a grain of asterisks-shaped salt. Second, he struck out at a high rate, averaging a K per game the year he broke Roger Maris’s single-season home run record. Lastly, McGwire hit just .263 for his career and did little else but hit the long ball (he never hit more than 28 doubles in a season).
11. Paul Konerko
Home Runs: 439
With just over 50 players, the 400 home run club is extremely exclusive, so, naturally, on a list of the 15 worst members of such an exclusive club, the term “worst” is bound to be used loosely. You’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who’d call former White Sox first baseman and captain Paul Konerko a bad player. In 18 seasons, he hit 439 home runs with a .279 batting average and a .354 on-base percentage. Still, as far as 400 home run club members are concerned, he falls on the weaker side of great (still great, mind you).
Although for the most part a consistent hitter, he did have his down years. For example, in his last season with 500 or more plate appearances, he hit just .244 with 12 home runs, and in 2003, he followed up his first All-Star season by hitting .234 and leading the league in double plays grounded into.
10. Jose Canseco
Home Runs: 462
Young baseball fans likely know Jose Canseco as the “steroid guy,” but before he wrote his tell-all book, Juiced, he was one of the game’s best all-around players. In 1988, at the age of 23, he won the AL MVP after swatting 42 homers and swiping 40 bags while hitting a career-best .307.
In 17 seasons, Canseco hit 462 home runs and averaged 40 per 162 games. But like his former “Bash Brother” Mark McGwire, his numbers are skewed by the fact that he took performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. He was also known for being a poor outfielder, once using his head to help Cleveland batter Carlos Martinez hit a home run.
9. Mark Teixeira
Home Runs: 409
Mark Teixeira’s long, successful career ended with a whimper this season when he struggled to bat above the Mendoza line and swatted just 15 home runs (a far cry from his 162-game average of 36). His 15 home runs, however, managed to lift him just above the 400 mark, putting him in a class with the likes of Hall of Famers such as Cal Ripken, Jr. and Billy Williams.
With his career .268 batting average and late-career struggles (.229 average from the age of 32 on), it seems unlikely that the switch-hitting first baseman will be joining them in Cooperstown. That said, Teixeira’s accomplishments are nothing to sneeze at. He is a World Series champ, a three-time All-Star, and a five-time Gold Glove winner.
8. Alfonso Soriano
Home Runs: 412
For the most part, Alfonso Soriano was a one-dimensional player. From 2002-06, he was one of the most exciting offensive players in the game, averaging 37 home runs and 33 stolen bases per year. Once he stopped running, however, he became something of a one-trick pony, only good at hitting home runs. Although he averaged more than 30 homers per year for his career, he regularly hit in the mid-.200s and failed to get on base at a consistent clip, finishing with a career .319 on-base percentage.
His OBP is particularly bad when you consider that he played during the “Moneyball era,” which places a great deal of importance on getting on base (for example, his career OBP would have put him in 103rd place in the league in 2016).
7. Andre Dawson
Home Runs: 438
Andre Dawson is a Hall of Famer, and no one can take that away from him. But not all Hall of Fame inductions are the same. It took him nine years to earn his plaque in Cooperstown after receiving less than 50% of the total vote his first year of eligibility, and he just barely reached the necessary 75% (77.9%) in 2010. One of the biggest arguments against his induction was his low career on-base percentage (.323). He finished with an OBP lower than .300 twice in full seasons.
Dawson’s 438 career home runs were also the result of longevity more than anything. Aside from his standout MVP season when he hit 49 homers, he only surpassed 30 twice and averaged just 27 per 162 games.
6. Andruw Jones
Home Runs: 434
While in his 20s, Andruw Jones put together some of the best years in Braves history. Not only was he a great power hitter (he led the league in home runs and RBI in 2005), but he was also a standout defender, regularly making his way onto the highlight reel for his diving catches in centerfield.
Following his 30th birthday, however, his numbers went way downhill. From 2007-12, he hit just .214 with 92 home runs, and his defense suffered greatly due to weight gain.
5. Jason Giambi
Home Runs: 440
Jason Giambi’s not on this list because he’s one of the worst players in the 400 home run club (his numbers, including a career .399 OBP, would clearly suggest otherwise); he’s on this list because it’s possible he never would have been in the club in the first place were it not for performance-enhancing drugs.
According to the testimony he gave during the BALCO investigation, he began taking steroids near the beginning of the 21st century, right around the time he evolved into one of the best home run hitters in the league. Prior to that, however, while still a great player with tremendous plate discipline, he wasn’t nearly as powerful. For example, in over 100 college games, he hit just three home runs, and he hit just 31 in nearly 300 minor league games. He also didn’t surpass the 30-homer single-season mark until the age of 28, which suggests that he was a late bloomer who likely never would have bloomed as much were it not for the help of PEDs.
4. Darrell Evans
Home Runs: 414
Darrell Evans’s 414 career home runs are a lot less impressive when you consider that they’re stretched out over 21 seasons, averaging just 25 long balls per 162 games. In fact, he only finished with more than 30 home runs in a season four times (twice over 40). He also finished with a subpar batting average of .248 (career high of .281), and drove in 100 runs just once. In over two decades of play, he was named to just two All-Star teams (1973 and ’83).
Not to paint a picture that Evans was a bad baseball player, it should be noted that he also won a World Series and was just the second player at the time to hit 100 home runs with three different teams (the other being Reggie Jackson). Evans also consistently registered a high on-base percentage, leading the league in walks on two separate occasions.
3. Ryan Howard
Home Runs: 382 (and counting)
With 382 career home runs, it’s only a matter of time before former Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard reaches 400 (assuming a team picks him up), at which point he will become one of the worst players to have accomplished the feat.
Even when you exclude his last five seasons, during which he hit a horrendous .226 while averaging just 19 home runs a season, Howard would still be considered one of the weaker players in the 400 home run club. In his 13-year career, he has only hit above .300 once (his 2006 MVP season), and he regularly finishes near the top of the league in strikeouts.
Last season he hit below the Mendoza line and saw the unforgiving Philadelphia fans turn on him, going from a once-beloved figure in the town to a source of ridicule, with one fan going so far as to throw a beer bottle at him.
2. Adam Dunn
Home Runs: 462
If ever there were a player who represented the “all or nothing” style of hitting, it would be Adam Dunn. He hit 462 home runs (thanks to six seasons with 40 or more), but he also struck out a ridiculous 2,379 times in 2,001 games. He never led the league in homers, but he did lead the league in Ks… four times.
Dunn finished his career with a lowly .234 batting average. In fact, his highest single-season average was just .267, and he once hit .159 in nearly 500 plate appearances. But when it came to hitting towering shots, no one was better than “Big Donkey.”
1. Dave Kingman
Home Runs: 442
The worst player in the 400 home run club has to be Dave Kingman (the original Adam Dunn). It’s not like he just barely reached the 400 mark, either; with 442 long balls and an average of 37 per 162 games, he easily surpassed the plateau. But he also barely surpassed .300 OBP with a .236 batting average and was notorious for striking out, leading the league in Ks three times and retiring with the fourth most all time.
In 1982, he led the league in home runs (37) while batting just .204, the lowest full-season average ever for a first baseman (even the Cy Young winner that year, Steve Carlton, had a higher BA). In 16 seasons, he finished higher than .238 just five times.
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