Editor's Note: I thought it would be interesting to pull this article, written in spring training, out of the archives as we now have a resounding answer to the question posed.
Edwin Encarnacion and Ian Stewart are certainly impressing so far in spring training. The young third basemen for the Reds and the Rockies have, respectively, six and five home runs so far. At just about the half-way point of spring training, their totals would have been enough to get them onto the spring leader boards in most of the past few years.
However, they are not the power hitting story so far this spring. No, that would be our own Ryan Howard. With 8 home runs in 12 spring games, Howard is making Phillies fans happily say "Jim who?"
But, will this spring home run spree translate to regular season success?
We of course have no way of knowing what exactly will happen with Howard in the regular season, but we can look to past spring leaders to get a sense of what spring home run totals mean for the year going forward.
So, here's a list of the top spring home run leaders from the past 6 springs, along with their spring totals, their regular season totals, and their MLB season rank in home runs when notable:
|Barry Bonds, SFO||8||49||2|
|Magglio Ordonez, CHA||8||32||t-33|
|Sammy Sosa, CHN||8||50||1|
|Sammy Sosa, CHN||9||64||2|
|Carlos Delgado, TOR||8||39||t-13|
|Russell Branyan, CLE||8||20|
|Luis Gonzalez, ARI||9||28||t-34|
|Jeff Bagwell, HOU||7||31||t-23|
|Alex Ochoa, MIL||7||8|
|Pat Burrell, PHI||7||37||t-13|
|Lance Berkman, HOU||7||42||t-6|
|Damon Minor, SFO||7||10|
|Barry Bonds, SFO||10||45||t-3|
|Aramis Ramirez, PIT||7||27||t-44|
|Mark Teixeira, TEX||7||26||t-48|
|Mike Sweeney, KAN||7||16|
|Abraham Nunez, FLA||10||6|
|Eric Chavez, OAK||7||29||t-38|
|Bobby Crosby, OAK||7||22|
|David McCarty, BOS||7||4|
|David Ortiz, BOS||7||41||t-8|
|Andruw Jones, ATL||10||51||1|
|Carlos Lee, MIL||8||32||t-20|
|Gabe Gross, TOR||8||1|
For the most part, players that have hit a lot of spring home runs have also hit a lot of regular season home runs. For instance, Andruw Jones last year paced the majors with 51 regular season home runs after he did the same in the spring with 10. Barry Bonds in 2000 and 2003 prefaced his excellent power seasons with league leading home run totals in the spring. (The juice flowed in February and March as well?) Sammy Sosa did the same in 2000 and 2001.
But, it's notable that there are also a few clunkers on this list. The other Abraham Nunez (who actually accomplishes the quite difficult task of making the Phillies' Abraham Nunez look good) tempted every fantasy owner with his 10 spring home runs in 2004, but he was blocked on the depth charts in the regular season and only hit 6 home runs the entire year in his limited playing time for two teams. He hasn't been in the majors since. Gabe Gross played most of the year in the minors following his 8 home runs last spring. Alex Ochoa and Damon Minor of 2002 and David McCarty of 2004 also remind us that spring power doesn't necessarily translate to regular season playing time or success.
However, most of the players who top the spring charts have, over the past six years, produced very noteworthy home run totals in the regular season. Half of them (12 of 24) hit 30 or more home runs in the regular season, and 7 of the 24 hit 40 or more.
It's fair to say that, based on Howard's track record, Phillies fans would be disappointed if he didn't do what half of the past spring leaders have done and hit 30 or more home runs this eason. But, it's also quite likely that given what's happened so far in Clearwater and its surrounding cities, fans are now hoping Howard takes after the smaller group of spring leaders who have hit 40 or more in the regular season.
Think Andruw Jones, and forget Abraham Nunez.