Many St. Louis Cardinals fans are aware of infielder Jedd Gyorko’s long-ball success in his first season with the club. In fact, his 30 home runs led the entire squad in 2016. Yet, digging deeper into his numbers indicates a major oddity.
Gyorko’s slugging percentage of .495 was just third-highest on the squad, after Aledmys Diaz and Matt Carpenter. The primary reason is because the team’s leader in home runs ranked just 11th on the roster in doubles.
Specifically, over his 438 plate appearances in 2016, home run slugger Gyorko had just nine two-base hits.
In contrast, five Cardinals stroked 28 or more doubles in 2016, with Yadier Molina’s 38 topping the list. Gyorko’s total of nine was just two more two-base hits than pitcher Adam Wainwright, who had just 69 plate appearances.
As one would suspect, hitters normally accumulate more doubles than home runs. Yet, the reverse is not even unprecedented for Gyorko. In his final season with San Diego, in 2015, Gyorko had 15 doubles and 16 homers.
Even so, the huge difference in 2016 – 21 more homers than doubles - led me to wonder how unique Gyorko’s extreme feat really is. With the help of researcher Tom Orf, I have the answers.
In St. Louis Cardinals team history, there is only one hitter to accumulate at least 21 more home runs than doubles in a single season - none other than Mark McGuire. In his case, it is far from a fluke.
In fact, the delta between the two power stats was 21 or more in each of Big Mac’s five Cardinals seasons – including his first partial year in 1997 (24 homers vs. three doubles). In 1998 and 1999, McGwire dwarfed Gyorko’s gap, at 49 and 44, respectively (70 HR/21 doubles and 65/21). Those would be the team “record” - if this was an official stat. Of course, McGwire’s 70 long balls is the club’s single-season record.
Next closest to McGwire and Gyorko with a one-year gap of 17 are two former Cardinals: Jim Edmonds in 2000 (42 HR, 25 doubles) and Dick Allen in 1970 (34/17).
In terms of any Cardinals player having a season with at least 20 homers and even one more home run than doubles, it is not rare. Specifically, it has occurred 40 times in history. Matt Holliday almost joined that list in 2016, finishing with 20 home runs and 20 doubles.
Not Unusual Across MLB
Even the 21-gap feat is not all that rare across MLB. Since 2000 alone, Gyorko’s power gap of 21 (or more) has occurred 22 other times (including McGwire’s final two seasons). It was most common in the heyday of the steroids era, as 11 - half of the 22 - were bunched together during the three years of 2000 through 2002.
In contrast, prior to Gyorko, there had only been three since 2008 (Adam Dunn and Curtis Granderson in 2012 and Nelson Cruz in 2015).
As you might guess, the names who dominated that 2000-2002 group are the triumvirate of Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and McGwire. Others to make the list were Jim Thome, Alex Rodriguez, Richie Sexson and Luis Gonzalez.
The largest individual spread between home runs and doubles in a single season since 2000 is 41, generated by Bonds in 2001, when he hit 73 long balls and just 32 doubles. Of course, 73 stands to this day as MLB’s single-season home run record, as Bonds’ eclipsed McGwire’s 70, set three years prior.
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