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In context: Nelson Cruz's 40 home run year

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Dingers are fun and Nelson Cruz has hit a lot of them for the Mariners

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

He did it, you guys. He did it. Yesterday, after missing the previous six games with a right quad injury, Nelson Cruz stepped into the batter's box against Derek Holland (who does not suck) and launched his 40th home run of the year the opposite way.

With that two-run shot, Cruz became just the second Mariner in the Safeco Field Era with 40+ home runs since Alex Rodriguez hit 41 in 2000. With 21 games remaining in the season, it is hardly a stretch to expect Cruz to surpass ARod's 2000 total. For the record, I'm anticipating all your steroid jokes and finding all of them hilarious. Seriously, you're the best. You don't even have to leave them in the comments. It's been an awfully long time since we've seen a hitter like Cruz in a Mariners uniform. But Cruz's achievement is even more impressive when you consider the company he's keeping. This marks back-to-back seasons of 40+ home runs for Cruz, and that puts him in some pretty rarified air.

Using Baseball-Reference, I went back and looked at how many hitters have produced 40+ home run seasons. This is a pretty fun list to be on. Since 1901, 132 players have posted 40+ home run seasons. 69 (#sexystats) have had multiple seasons with 40+ home runs, with Babe Ruth leading the pack with 11 such years. Babe Ruth: pretty good at hitting the baseball. Here is the top-12 (ties and steroids, man):

Player

Seasons with 40+ Home Runs

Babe Ruth

11

Barry Bonds

8

Harmon Killebrew

8

Alex Rodriguez

8

Hank Aaron

8

Ken Griffey

7

Sammy Sosa

7

Mark McGwire

6

Albert Pujols

6

Jim Thome

6

Adam Dunn

6

Willie Mays

6

Hitting 40+ home runs multiple times is Very Cool and Pretty Difficult, but doing so in back-to-back seasons is, in some ways, Even Cooler, because of the consistency of the dominance. Just 53 players have posted at least one back-to-back 40+ home run season. Where does Nelson Cruz fit into that club? He's got some ground to cover. 26 players have hit 40+ home runs in back-to-back years multiple times. Some of these stretches are longer than others, but Babe Ruth is once again the paragon. He left the park 40+ in 1920-1921, then again in ‘23-'24, took a sleepy time season in 1925 when he hit a Kyle Seager-esque 25 home runs (what, this is a totally reasonable comparison, don't worry), then went nuts, posting 40+ home run years from 1926-1932. To highlight a few in the modern era, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and ARod astericks'ed their way through the late nineties and early two thousands (insert joke here), while Ken Griffey Jr. posted back-to-back years in ‘93-'94, before ripping off a run of 40+ from 1996-2000. Quite The Kid, that Kid.

Obviously, simply listing 40+ home run seasons isn't giving a complete picture; these players existed across eras, played in different parks, and hit against pitching of varying degrees of quality. But it is pretty fun that there's now another Mariner is in this club. Cruz's year has been a joy to watch. He's slashing .312/.381/.593. He has a 170 wRC+. He's a 5.0 fWAR player. He's knocking the ball around pretty good. I mean, you could essentially replace this heatmap with a flames emoji:

According to ESPN's home run tracker, his average stadium distance on those 40 home runs is 402.2 feet. His average speed off the bat? 104.4 mph. He's second in MLB in total home runs behind former teammate Chris Davis,but has appeared in five fewer games. And while others have hit the ball farther (Giancarlo Stanton, you are insane), Cruz is in a five-player tie for third most "No Doubt" home runs. ESPN defines these home runs as: "The ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet AND landed at least 50 feet past the fence. These are the really deep blasts." Translation: You don't have to hit in New Little League Yankee Stadium for this to be a home run. And in your quirky stat of the week, we get this from Fox Sports

To jog your memory, here is Cruz's 40th home run for Baltimore last year

Earlier this week, I wrote about how great players transcending failing teams help us to mark, measure, and appreciate the season. Nelson Cruz and his 40 home runs have been an awful lot of fun, and I can't wait for 41.

Go M's