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Giancarlo Stanton Will Need To Slug Like Barry Bonds To Beat Roger Maris

Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton is on some kind of hot streak. With yet another home run on Sunday (he’s homered in four straight games and nine times this month), Stanton now has 42 on the 2017 season — and 21 in his last 33 games. Just when it looked like Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees was going to usurp Stanton’s crown as the game’s top power hitter, Stanton has reclaimed it with a vengeance.

Stanton’s season is already historic; only 11 times in the 162-game-schedule era1 has a batter hit 42 or more home runs in his team’s first 116 ballgames. But Stanton can set his sights on another historic mark: the pre-steroids single-season home run record of 61, set by Roger Maris in 1961.

Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds later surpassed Maris’s mark.2 But McGwire and Sosa either admitted to or tested positive for using performance-enhancing drugs, and Bonds was mentioned prominently in the Mitchell Report (which investigated the use of steroids in baseball), thus tainting their accomplishments in the eyes of many fans. So for Stanton, breaking Maris’s “record” would bring cachet even if it isn’t technically the record anymore.

And by the numbers alone, Stanton — who needs 20 more home runs by the end of the season to best Maris — has an outside shot at the feat. For every batter who hit at least 35 homers in the first 116 games of a 162-game season,3 I recorded how many homers each managed over the rest of the season. About 11 percent managed to hit at least 20 more home runs.

So there’s a chance. But if you look at who did the homering over the rest of the season, Stanton’s odds might need to be adjusted downward more than a little. Of the eight hitter-seasons in our sample with 20 or more home runs between Game 116 and season’s end, all came in the steroid era, and only one — the great Ken Griffey Jr. — belonged to a player never associated with performance-enhancing drug use. The most by a recent player was the 18 late-season homers that Jose Bautista hit in 2010.

Want a late-season home run barrage? Juice up.

MLB players who hit the most home runs before the end of the season after hitting 35 or more home runs through 116 games

2001 Barry Bonds SF 49 24 73
1998 Mark McGwire STL 46 24 70
1998 Sammy Sosa CHC 43 23 66
2001 Sammy Sosa CHC 41 23 64
1997 Mark McGwire OAK/STL 35 23 58
1999 Mark McGwire STL 44 21 65
2002 Alex Rodriguez TEX 37 20 57
1997 Ken Griffey Jr. SEA 36 20 56
2010 Jose Bautista TOR 36 18 54
1999 Sammy Sosa CHC 46 17 63
1961 Roger Maris NYY 44 17 61
2006 Ryan Howard PHI 41 17 58
1990 Cecil Fielder DET 35 16 51
1998 Ken Griffey Jr. SEA 41 15 56
2007 Alex Rodriguez NYY 39 15 54
2007 Prince Fielder MIL 35 15 50

Based on 72 hitters. For 162-game seasons only. Implication of PED use based on the Mitchell Report, failed drug tests and player admissions.

Sources:, Lahman database

That means Stanton will need the kind of performance not seen since the steroid era to beat Maris’s old record — a tall order, even for one of history’s greatest power hitters. Of course, maybe juiced balls are the equivalent of steroids for today’s batters, which would certainly boost Stanton’s odds. Either way, to get there, he’ll have to stay nearly as hot as he’s been in this recent streak over the entire rest of the year.

Check out our latest MLB predictions.


  1. Since 1961.

  2. Bonds holds the current record with 73 home runs, set in 2001.

  3. This sample included 72 players.

Neil Paine was the acting sports editor at FiveThirtyEight.