A home run record is a home run record, regardless of where those dingers are hit. It’s rather amusing, though, that Christian Yelich’s record-tying 14th homer before May 1 was his first road tater of the year.
As if it wasn’t enough for the reigning National League MVP to do something only Albert Pujols (2006) and Alex Rodriguez (2007) had previously accomplished, Yelich’s fourth-inning solo shot off Mets righthander Noah Syndergaard felt like the perfect way to spite those who pointed to his home-road splits as an ineffective way to discount his incredible start. The Brewers’ 8–6 win Saturday at Citi Field was Yelich’s 28th game (27th start) of the season.
Pujols, too, was coming off an MVP season when he launched 14 home runs before May 1, 2006. It took the Cardinals' first baseman 24 games to hit his 14th blast. He slashed .350/.495/.925, and amazingly, drew 24 walks and struck out just seven times in that span. In the 28 games it took Yelich to reach the 14-homer mark, he posted a .350/.459/.810 slashline, 20 walks and 20 strikeouts.
A-Rod was hitting home runs at an absurd pace to start 2007, the final of his three MVP seasons. Rodriguez needed 18 games to hit his 14 dingers, and he slashed .400/.453/1.053 in that stretch. (Of course, the Yankees' third baseman couldn't keep astounding rate up. He hit just one home run in his next 18 games.) Rodriguez led MLB with 54 homers in 2007; Pujols’ 49 blasts in 2006 did not lead the National League, but they were the most he ever hit in a single season. As far as home-road splits go, A-Rod’s 2007 home-road splits were not drastic—26 homers at Yankee Stadium, 28 in away games. Pujols hit one fewer home run at home in Busch Stadium III’s inaugural year than he did on the road.
Hitting more home runs before May 1 is easier now than ever before because MLB is starting the season earlier. This shoudn’t take away from what Yelich is doing, it’s just that May 1 as a checkpoint doesn’t mean as much as the number of games played.
Yelich has three more games to get to 15 homers and set the new before-May record. If it takes those three games for him to get there, he’d be at 31 games (30 starts). In this case, the best comparison would be Pujols, whose 15th homer of 2007 came in his 30th game (all of which he started). If you take away the lone game that Yelich played in but didn’t start—when he pinch-hit and struck out for the final out of the game against the Cardinals on Wednesday—and he hits No. 15 on April 30 vs. the Rockies, it would have taken 30 starts for both Pujols and Yelich to reach 15 dingers.
Either way, there has been no sign of regression from Yelich after his all-time great second half to 2018. And Yelich continues to mash the way Pujols and Rodriguez did in 2006 and 2007, respectively, there’s a good chance a second straight MVP award awaits him come November.