• Giancarlo Stanton's latest home run tear, which resulted in his 50th of the season on Sunday, raises one big question: how close can he get to Barry Bonds's record of 73?
By Jay Jaffe
August 27, 2017

The home runs keep coming for Giancarlo Stanton, putting him in ever-more select company. On Sunday, the 27-year-old Marlins slugger clubbed his 50th of the year, a two-run, go-ahead shot to centerfield off the Padres' Clayton Richard at Marlins Park, where he set off the gloriously permanent sculpture, “Homer” (a/k/a the Dinger Machine and the Marlinator). Behold:

Stanton is the 28th player to reach 50 home runs in a season; those players have done so a total of 44 times. That said, he’s just the third in the past 10 years, after the Blue Jays' Jose Bautista in 2010 and the Orioles' Chris Davis in 2013, and the first to 50 in the NL since the Brewers' Prince Fielder in 2007.

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Even more impressive is that number 50 came when the calendar still says August, which places Stanton alongside five other players who did so a total of eight times. Listed chronologically:

Player Date of 50th Team Game Final HR
Roger Maris 8/22/61 125 61
Mark McGwire 8/20/98 125 70
Sammy Sosa 8/23/98 130 66
Sammy Sosa 8/21/99 121 63
Mark McGwire 8/22/99 124 65
Barry Bonds 8/11/01 117 73
Sammy Sosa 8/26/01 130 64
Luis Gonzalez 8/29/01 132 57
Giancarlo Stanton 8/27/17 129  

By team game, Stanton is the sixth fastest to 50, after Bonds, Sosa (1999), McGwire ('99), Maris and McGwire again ('98).

The home run was just the latest in an extended binge—29 in 46 games—that dates back to July 5. After hitting seven homers apiece in April, May and June, Stanton went on a tear just before the All-Star break, going yard five times in four starts (plus a pinch-hitting appearance), bookended by multi-homer outings against the Cardinals and Giants. With that stretch, he surpassed Dodgers rookie Cody Bellinger and tied the Reds' Joey Votto for the NL lead. From July 17 through August 15, he hit 18 homers in 27 games, a stretch that included 11 in a 12-game span and ended with a career-best streak of six straight games with a homer. During that barrage, he surpassed his previous career high of 37, set in 2014, and the franchise record of 42, set by Gary Sheffield in 1996.

He’s bingeing again. Sunday's homer was Stanton’s sixth in his last eight games and his 17th of the month, which again puts him among elites. The record for home runs in a single month is 20, set by Sosa in June 1998. Tigers slugger Rudy York hit 18 in August 1937, while six players besides Stanton have homered 17 times in a month: Babe Ruth (September 1927), York (August 1943), Willie Mays (August 1965), Albert Belle (September 1995), Bonds (May 2001) and Sosa (August 2001). Stanton has four more games this month to move up that list, three against the Nationals in Washington and then one at home against the Phillies.

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Of course, the bigger question isn't whether Stanton can set the single-month record but the single-season one. To surpass Bonds, he would need to hit 24 in the Marlins' final 33 games. That isn't so far off his recent pace—his last 24 homers have come over a 37-game span—but doing it again certainly seems unlikely, to say nothing of picking up the pace. To get to 62, a number which some will point to as being a "pure" record, as though the McGwire, Sosa and Bonds seasons, PED tainted though they may be, never happened (spoiler alert: they did, and they’re still on the books, without asterisks) would require 12 homers in 33 games, a much more gentle pace; Stanton has 19 homers in his last 33 games.

If Stanton were merely to finish the season while keeping a pace that matched his overall total through Sunday, he would finish with 63 homers, tying him with Sosa for sixth in the record books. If he were to continue his second-half pace, 24 homers in 42 team games, he would finish with 69, the third highest single-season total behind Bonds and McGwire. If he were to continue his August pace, 17 homers in 25 games, he would finish with 72, trailing only Bonds.

Thanks to a rare bout of good health, Stanton has finally fulfilled the promise that he’s shown throughout his eight-year career, albeit in doses far shorter than 162 games. Due to injuries, he’s surpassed 123 games only in 2011 (150), ’14 (145) and this year. Record or no, his has already been a season for the ages, placing him among some of the game’s power-hitting greats. August company, indeed.

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