Matt Olson did it again on Monday. In the 3rd inning he launched yet another home run, this time against the Tigers in his first trip to Comerica Park. Over the weekend, he’d homered in all three games at Citizens Bank in Philly. He’s gone deep four games in a row, 5-of-6, and 7-of-9. It doesn’t get any hotter than this.
Increase the sample to the last few weeks and nothing is different. Olson is so locked in that he’s matching some impressive Oakland history.
OAKLAND A's MOST HR, 20 GAME SPAN— Mike Selleck (@MikeSelleck) September 19, 2017
14 Olson, 8/27-9/18, 2017
14 McGwire, 5/8-31, 1987
14 Reggie, 6/13-7/2, 1969
14 Reggie, 5/30-6/22, 1969
That’s a Hall of Fame slugger and a guy who can’t get votes for the Hall because he was too superhumanly good at hitting dingers. Nice company.
But really we don’t need to cherry-pick samples for Olson at all. He’s been explosive since joining the everyday lineup back on Aug. 8. He didn’t go deep that first day, but by Aug. 11 he was reeling off long balls three straight games — something he’s now done four separate times in six weeks. His current four-in-a-row ties an Oakland rookie record (Dan Johnson), with the A’s franchise record looming at six (Frank Thomas).
Add it all up, and he’s hit 22 home runs this year in 197 plate appearances over 54 games. He played a few dingerless contests last year in his debut callup, so his career numbers are 65 games and 225 PAs. Here are a couple of interesting comps:
- In 1987, Mark McGwire set the MLB rookie record for homers (49), and it still stands today (pending the ruling of Aaron Judge). It took McGwire 246 plate appearances to reach 22 HR that year. For his career, including an ‘86 cameo, it took him 228 PAs to get to that mark.
- And what about Judge? He was supremely hot to begin the season, garnering national headlines left and right. It took him 254 PAs to hit his 22nd homer of the year. Add in his brief 2016 trial, and the number for his 22nd career shot jumps up to 304 PAs.
- Since joining the lineup for good on Aug. 8, Olson’s 18 homers are the most in baseball — tied with Giancarlo Stanton, J.D. Martinez, and Rhys Hoskins. And Olson has done it in a couple dozen fewer PAs than the rest.
Each of those bullet points is amazing in its own way, but it’s the last one we’re going to run with for a moment. Here’s a full look at Olson’s numbers just since becoming a regular starter, and thus removing all the stray at-bats he picked up while bouncing back and forth between Triple-A waiting for his turn. (137 plate appearances)
Olson, since 8/8: .298/.380/.752, 193 wRC+, 18 HR, 8.8% BB, 22.6% Ks
That’s not far off from what Hoskins is doing right now (.290/.420/.733), with just a bit of lag in OBP. Drawing walks has never been a problem for Olson, so those will surely come when pitchers stop throwing him anything to hit. Here’s a look at how the league is doing since Aug. 8:
Note: Hi there Matt Joyce!
Nobody is hitting for more power than Everyday Player Olson, and only recent MVP Josh Donaldson has been better overall. Olson isn’t just hitting well right now, he’s hitting better than anybody in the entire sport.
As mentioned last time we gawked at Olson’s numbers, it’s extremely unlikely he’ll keep hitting nearly half of his fly balls over the wall — 41.5% HR/FB for the season, and 45.0% since Aug. 8. No one has ever maintained those numbers over a full campaign since the stat began in 2002. Not even Jack Cust. Only Ryan Howard even came close (39.5% in 2006), plus Gary Sanchez’s Olson-esque partial-season last year (40%). Khris Davis is at 27.5% right now.
No, eventually Olson will hit a ball and it will land within the boundaries of play for a mere double. He’s only done that twice this year, and he has as many homers as he has singles. That’s 46 hits for the season: 22 jacks, 22 singles, two doubles. The other day he was walking down the street and saw a double just sitting there on the ground and didn’t even bother reaching down to pick it up. In the time he would have spent bending over, he could have hit another dinger.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to enjoy every second of this power display as we count down the final days of the 2017 season. Then we’ll spend the winter dreaming about Olson, and his distinctive new stance in which the bat is so eager to crack another long ball that it hovers over the plate as if already in mid-swing. Hold me back, it snarls, or there might be trouble. What kinds of records might Olson break next year with a full season of playing time?
Most home runs through 65 career games in A's history:— Oakland A's ⚾️ (@Athletics) September 19, 2017
Mark McGwire - 22
Matt Olson - 22
Jose Canseco - 16 pic.twitter.com/wKZh5L1DeV
Bonus table: Full-season stats! Minimum 120 plate appearances.
Olson is homering once every 8.95 plate appearances for the season. Since Aug. 8, that number is down to 7.61 PA/HR.
Switch to the more common AB/HR, and those numbers drop to 7.81 (season) and 6.72 (recent). McGwire holds the career record at 10.61, and Barry Bonds the single-season version at 6.52.