Mickey Mantle’s highest single season slugging pct was .705 back in 1956. Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis is slugging .720 through 72 games this season.
We are isolating just 303 plate appearances so expect Davis to regress quite a bit in the second half of the year, but if he kept this pace up it would be historic. Besides one-off seasons by Mark McGwire and Frank Thomas, Davis’ .720 slugging would be the highest in the American League since Ted Williams in 1957 (.731 SLG).
Dave Cameron at FanGraphs makes a terrific point about actual HR power during the “steroid era”. To quote Cameron:
“If you put forth the current run environment as an example of what baseball looks like without PEDs, please understand that you are arguing that PEDs caused hitters to be able to make contact more often, not hit the ball over the wall more often when they did make contact.”
His chart is very informative since it actually uses data instead of wild guesses about what happened in baseball during the 1990s.
A few additions to add to Cameron’s fine work:
- The HR/PA rate in 2012 was identical to that of 1998 (2.7% each season).
- The year Mark McGwire hit 70 home runs, 1998, 7.8% of fly-balls went over the fence. This number jumped to 8.1% in 2012.