Sunday June 30th, 2013

Chris Davis continued his incredible power hitting with two tape-measure blasts against the Yankees on Saturday. [AP] Chris Davis continued his incredible power hitting with two tape-measure blasts against the Yankees on Saturday night. [AP]

Chris Davis continues to crush. The Orioles' slugger homered twice on Saturday evening in his team's 11-3 rout of the Yankees, giving him 30 homers for the season. That's six more than the majors' second-highest total, that of the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, and it puts him in some pretty decent company.

According to the Elias Bureau, Davis is the fifth-fastest player to reach 30 homers, doing so in 82 team games. He's also the 34th player to reach 30 homers by the All-Star break, a milepost which in years past put a player within range of challenging Roger Maris' single-season home run record of 61. Juiced sluggers and juiced baseballs changed how we view such quick accumulations of home runs, but it's still worth pointing out.

Given that the Orioles still have 14 games to play before the All-Star break, he figures to climb higher on this list, particularly given that his longest streak of the season without a homer is eight games:

Rk Player Year G 1st Half HR 2nd Half HR Total HR
1 Barry Bonds 2001 81 39 34 73
2T Reggie Jackson 1969 91 37 10 47
Mark McGwire 1998 80 37 33 70
4T Ken Griffey 1998 88 35 21 56
Luis Gonzalez 2001 87 35 22 57
6 Frank Howard 1969 100 34 14 48
7T Roger Maris 1961 83 33 28 61
Mark McGwire 1987 80 33 16 49
Matt Williams 1994 86 33 10 43
Ken Griffey 1994 87 33 7 40
Sammy Sosa 1998 83 33 33 66
12T Frank Thomas 1994 86 32 6 38
Sammy Sosa 1999 85 32 31 63
Albert Pujols 2009 90 32 15 47
15T Willie Mays 1954 84 31 10 41
Mike Schmidt 1979 92 31 14 45
Kevin Mitchell 1989 86 31 16 47
Mark McGwire 1997 87 31 27 58
Jose Canseco 1999 82 31 3 34
David Ortiz 2006 86 31 23 54
Jose Bautista 2011 84 31 12 43
22T Harmon Killebrew 1964 76 30 19 49
Willie McCovey 1969 86 30 15 45
Willie Stargell 1971 76 30 18 48
Willie Stargell 1973 86 30 14 44
Dave Kingman 1976 86 30 7 37
Brady Anderson 1996 79 30 20 50
Ken Griffey 1997 84 30 26 56
Greg Vaughn 1998 87 30 20 50
Mark McGwire 2000 70 30 2 32
Barry Bonds 2003 80 30 15 45
Jim Thome 2006 82 30 12 42
Alex Rodriguez 2007 85 30 24 54
Chris Davis 2013 81 30 -- 30

As you can see from the table above, not everybody who reached 30 made a serious charge on the record. Mays, the first player to reach 30 by the All-Star break, did so back when Babe Ruth held the record with 60; he was at 31 by the break, but hit just 10 the rest of the way even as he earned NL MVP honors and helped the Giants bring home a world championship. Maris himself reached 33 by the break and successfully toppled Ruth.

Just about every challenger who came along between 1962 and 1998 fell off considerably in the second half. Reggie Jackson's drop was perhaps the most dramatic given that he set a first-half record (it's worth noting that the All-Star Game was played fairly late that year, on July 23), and he had 91 games under his belt (Frank Howard had 100 that year!). When Dave Kingman fell off into the single digits in the second half in 1976, he did so while missing more than five weeks after tearing ligaments in his thumb. Likewise for Jose Canseco (1999) and Mark McGwire (2000), though by that point, the latter had surpassed Maris, albeit with a little pharmaceutical help. Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey and Matt Williams, meanwhile, fell off as their bids for the record ended due to the 1994 players' strike in early August.

The bottom line is that history shows how incredibly difficult it is to maintain the kind of pace Davis is setting. He's not going to get anywhere close to Barry Bonds' 73, but at the very least, he's putting himself in position to become the first player since Jose Bautista in 2010 to top 50 homers, and making a serious case for AL MVP, even as Cabrera continues to post incredible numbers himself. Revising my chart from a couple weeks ago:

Player  PA  HR  RBI  AVG  OBP  SLG  OPS+  WAR
Davis 338 98 30 79 .333 .408 .724 195 4.0
Cabrera 365 117 24 81 .375 .463 .676 203 4.8
One way or another, the two players are 1-2 in slugging percentage, homers, runs (63-59, Cabrera), RBI, OPS and OPS+, the last of which doesn't factor in Saturday's performances. Cabrera came into the day leading the league in Wins Above replacement, with Davis third and Baltimore teammate Manny Machado second.

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