The youngsters are doing yardwork, and they’re raking up history

Los Angeles Dodgers' Cody Bellinger smiles after hitting a three-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the New York Mets, Monday, June 19, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Sports Op-Ed

(WTNH) — Dingers, tators, goners, and no doubters. Blasts, bombs, big flies, or deep flies. Call ’em what you want, but fans are going home with more souvenirs these days, as we are seeing one of the best seasons in Major League Baseball history in terms of home runs hit across the league.

The head-scratcher this year is that the two leaders among those going yard right now are both rookies.

Twenty-one year-old Cody Bellinger, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, hit two home runs Monday night against the New York Mets, before the third inning! That put him in first place among all hitters in the N.L. with 21 home runs.

In the American League, 25-year-old Aaron Judge, with the New York Yankees, has been leading the entire league for a few weeks. He’s up to 24 now.

These ‘kids’ are cleaning up like we’ve rarely seen before.

aj The youngsters are doing yardwork, and theyre raking up history
New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge bats against the Toronto Blue Jays , March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Last season in the MLB was the year of the long ball. There was a resurgence of home runs.

In the years from 2010 through 2015, the total number of home runs among all 30 teams was between 4,186 and 4,934. In 2016, there were 5,610, according to Baseball-Reference.com. Second highest ever. Every team right now is around 70 games into the season. Another two weeks and we’ll be at the halfway point. As of today, all teams have combined to hit 2,652 home runs.

While the current pace doesn’t project to surpass 2016 totals, it seems that it will be above the norm we are used to seeing in the past decade. If the progression rate stays the same, we are on our way to seeing somewhere around 5,304 home runs this season. That would be 7th best all-time.

In 1998, MLB added two extra teams giving the league 30, which has obviously helped increase the home run numbers. That was the first season that home run totals passed the five-thousand mark at 5,064.

Since ’98, there have been 11 seasons with over 5,000 home runs.

Here’s the list, sourcing Baseball-Reference.com:

5,693 HR in year 2000
5,610 HR in year 2016
5,528 HR in year 1999
5,458 HR in year 2001
5,451 HR in year 2004
5,386 HR in year 2006
5,207 HR in year 2003
5,064 HR in year 1998
5,059 HR in year 2002
5,042 HR in year 2009
5,017 HR in year 2005

With the two rooks Bellinger and Judge leading the way, it’s no wonder that the long ball is back. Bellinger broke two records in Monday night’s game. He became the fastest player to ever hit 20 home runs, then became the fastest player to 21.

cb The youngsters are doing yardwork, and theyre raking up history
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, left, watches his two-run home run off Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl, May 10, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

That’s 21 home runs in Bellinger’s first 51 games of his major league career. He and Albert Pujols are the only two players ever to hit 20-plus homers before the All-Star break at 21-years-old or younger. He turns 22 in just over three weeks.

Judge has been making some history of his own this year. The number 21 seems to be the magic number with these guys, as Judge’s 21st was the most by a Yankee hitter under the age of 26-years-old before the All-Star Weekend since Roger Maris did it in 1960, according to ESPN. Judge was also the youngest to hit 13 home runs in a team’s first 26 games of a season, according to MLB.com.

The Yankee rookie record for home runs was set in 1936, with 29 homers by Joe DiMaggio. Judge is only five shy of that right now. Don’t worry lonely-eyed nation, Joltin’ Joe fans will be happy to know that DiMaggio did that when he was 21 years of age. So he’s got that over Judge.

joe The youngsters are doing yardwork, and theyre raking up history
Joe DiMaggio, of the New York Yankees. June 29, 1941. (AP photo)

Even last season we saw a first-year phenom crack the record books when Gary Sanchez became the quickest batter to reach 20 home runs in a major league career. Like Bellinger, he made history with two home runs in the same game to accomplish the feat.

Sanchez tied the record of fastest to 18 in the 45th game of his career, then broke that record in the same game with his 19th home run. Sanchez wasn’t done after that, though. He also tied the record of fastest to 20 home runs in the 50th game of his career.

While the homers we are seeing from Bellinger and Judge are splendid, we can’t easily assume they’ll continue on their torrid pace. Anything can happen from now through the rest of the season. A number of factors could contribute to slow them down.

To begin with, they are rookies. And pitchers do adjust to hitters through the course of a season. None more so than players in their first seasons. Teams could also decide to walk them more often in key situations. And injuries are an everyday unfortunate facet that might curtail their numbers.

However, if they continue to relentlessly steamroll through the league, and their ongoing onslaught sustains, both Bellinger and Judge will be in rarefied air among baseball’s first year elite long hitters.

Lets take a look at some of the players who in their rookie seasons have hit the most home runs in the history of the game, according to MLB.com.

mcgwire The youngsters are doing yardwork, and theyre raking up history
Mark McGwire of the Oakland Athletics poses at Anaheim Stadium lockerroom on August 15, 1987 with the bat and ball he used on Friday night when hitting his 39th home run and setting new Major League record for homers as a rookie. (AP Photo/Bob Galbraith)

The all-time rookie raker is Mark McGwire, with 49 home runs in 1987, while playing with the Oakland Athletics (A’s).

Big Mac broke Frank Robinson’s record of 38 from 1956, which was a tie with Wally Berger set in 1930 when Berger played with the Boston Braves.

Albert Pujols while with the St Louis Cardinals in 2001, and Al Rosen (aka, the Hebrew Hammer) in 1950 playing for the Cleveland Indians, each had 37 in their rookie years.

Jose Abreu, who was a 27-year-old as a MLB rookie, smacked 36 home runs in 2014.

In 1993, L.A. Dodger catcher Mike Piazza cracked 35 home runs. Joining this list are Ron Kittle (White Sox, 1983), Hal Trosky (Indians, 1934), and Rudy York (Tigers, 1937).

There are a handful of others with 30 or more home runs in their rookie seasons, with names like Mike Trout, Ryan Braun, Jose Canseco, and the Splendid Splinter himself, Ted Williams.

Even with a minor set-back from either Bellinger or Judge, we can expect both to reach the 30-plus rookie club plateau. However, they have their courses charted and their sails positioned in the right direction to further their climb up into the history books if all goes well.

Will either of them knock off the legendary A’s slugger, and make an attack on the Big Mac?

Let us know.

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