The year was 2017. The date, September 20th. The record that had stood for over 30 seasons was finally broken by fan favorite Mike Moustakas. The Royals had a new home run king.
Moose struggled in September that year. Having hit number 36 to tie Balboni’s record on September 1st, the following 15 games he played in he slashed an abysmal .234/.315/.298 for a 61 wRC+ (a state where 100 is league average and more is better). There was little doubt he’d manage to get another one out of the park before the end of the season (October 1st that year) but there was some mild grumbling in the comments section here on RR, and a bit in the media when such a long time passed between homers that maybe, just maybe it would not be broken.
It’s not been discussed much this season, but Jorge Soler is on a blistering pace for a Royals hitter (and really, for any hitter) in terms of home runs. He’s averaged seven home runs each month so far (seven in April, seven in May, eight in June, six in July, and one so far in August) and is currently sitting at 29 homers with 49 games left to play. Should he continue to hit seven each month, he will end with 42, eclipsing Moose by four. Should he heat up and have another hot month or two, one could see him hitting as many as 45 by the end of the season.
Here is his progress compared to Mike Moustakas in 2017, and Steve Balboni in 1985.
Soler is doing something that not many people in baseball do. Sure, everyone is hitting home runs, but only eight men this season have more home runs than he does (and three of them are named Mike Trout, Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich, and it’s just unfair to compare anyone to those three). Yet it often feels that the fan base has not fully accepted Soler, a man who should be a fan favorite because he hits the long ball. A man who can single-handedly change the course of a game with one swing of the bat. Something exciting in an otherwise dismal season.
There have been 338 40+ home run seasons, 238 42+ home run seasons and 142 45+ home run seasons in the history of baseball. Going by “qualified” hitters, there have been 15,458 player seasons in the history of baseball. Wherever Soler ends up, he will likely have a season that is in the top 3% of all hitters, ever, in history. As far as I’m concerned, each Soler at bat is must see baseball between now and the end of the season. I’m hopeful for an explosion of power that catapults him towards the top of the league leaders. If nothing else, this will give Royals fans something to cheer about for the rest of the seasons.