Matt Olson debuted for the Oakland A’s in 2016, and he didn’t become an everyday player until the tail end of 2017, at age 23. He immediately began etching his name into various record books, and he added another feat this week — this time in the realm of career milestones.
Olson clubbed his 100th career homer on Tuesday, making him the 19th player in Oakland history to reach the century mark. Two days later he added his 101st, pushing him up to 18th place on the team list. In all of franchise history (back through the Philadelphia years), he’s the 28th player to reach triple digits.
(Wait! Before you scroll down too far and see the answers, click here to try your hand at our trivia quiz for the Oakland career home run leaders!)
The milestone dinger came in the second game of a doubleheader, and it was nearly a game-winner. The three-run blast gave Oakland a 4-0 lead, but they wound up losing 5-4 for their only defeat in the five-game series against the Houston Astros.
If it seems like Olson got to 100 quickly, that’s because he did. It took him only 399 games, making him the 11th player in MLB history to do it in fewer than 400. His average of 14.12 at-bats per homer would rank seventh if he had enough playing time to qualify, behind only McGwire, Ruth, Bonds, Thome, Stanton, and Kiner, though fellow currently active 100-club members Judge, Gallo, and Gary Sanchez would also rank ahead of him.
(I’m not sure where he ranks in number of plate appearances for his first 100 homers, but if I counted right then he’s got McGwire beat by exactly one. I’ll follow up if I can find the answer.)
While it took Olson a few cups of coffee before sticking in the MLB lineup, he got to work piling up dingers immediately. He only played 59 games in his 2017 rookie season, but his 24 homers are the all-time record for anyone playing 60 or fewer games in a summer. The power binge put him on the national map right away, and he’s continued even since. His 36 long balls last year seem reasonable until you realize they came in only 127 games, after missing a month to injury. Now in 2020 he’s got a dozen in around one-quarter of a normal campaign.
His dingers are majestic, too. Since the Statcast Era began in 2015, he’s got the A’s second-longest homer (475 feet) and seventh-longest (456), plus Nos. 14, 15, 17, 21, and 22, all at 450 or more. This summer alone he’s got two of the top 40 in the majors, both over 450 again. (Trivia question for the comments section: Who has the longest A’s homer of the Statcast Era?)
On top of all that, he’s registered three walk-offs among his first 100 taters. Ironically, each came at the platoon disadvantage against a lefty reliever — Tony Sipp, Josh Hader, and Hoby Milner, with the latter being a grand slam on Opening Day this year.
Here’s the Oakland 100 Dinger Club:
- Mark McGwire, 363
- Reggie Jackson, 268
- Jose Canseco, 254
- Eric Chavez, 230
- Jason Giambi, 198
- Sal Bando, 192
- Rickey Henderson, 167
- Khris Davis, 158
- Miguel Tejada, 156
- Dwayne Murphy, 153
- Terry Steinbach, 132
- Matt Stairs, 122
- Gene Tenace, 121
- Joe Rudi, 116
- Tony Armas, 111
- Marcus Semien, 105
- Dave Henderson, 104
- Matt Olson, 101
- Dave Kingman, 100
* Jack Cust just misses at 97, but what am I just gonna not mention him in a dinger article?
By the end of a full, healthy 2021, Olson could be in 11th place and creeping up on Murphy for the Top 10. If he sticks around through free agency (after 2023), he could climb to the Top 5 and maybe even challenge Chavez for fourth place. The real question is whether he can put up a season of 50 once he gets another crack at a full 162-game campaign.
And while appreciating Olson’s homers, also remember that he’s the best defensive first baseman in the sport, having won both the Gold Glove and Fielding Bible awards in each of his first two full MLB seasons. Among A’s infielders named Matt, he is firmly in the Top Two.
Wait, we can make that sound more impressive. Matt Olson is the best first baseman in baseball. There we go.