10 Monster Hitters That Frightened Pitchers

  • 10. Albert Belle

    1989-2000

    With several players all but deadlocked for the No. 10 spot on the list, we’ll go with Belle, perhaps now remembered more for his stormy personality and the hip condition that forced him into premature retirement than for the fearsome bat that terrorized American League pitching for a decade. One of only six players ever to put up eight consecutive seasons with 30 homers and 100 runs driven in, Belle was one of the driving forces behind the star-studded Cleveland lineups of the mid-1990s. He later moved on to Chicago and Baltimore, and in his 10 full seasons, never once did he hit fewer than 23 homers.

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  • 9. Giancarlo Stanton

    2010-present

    As anyone who watched the 2014 Home Run Derby knows, the massive — listed at 6-6, 240 pounds — Stanton is baseball’s most respected source of power, currently leading the sport in the longest average “true distance” of his homers, at 423 feet, and since his first full season in 2011, no National Leaguer has more home runs. Once sought by USC to play wide receiver, Stanton is already in the top 15 all-time as far as career homers hit at 24 or younger, and with a productive finish to 2014, could find himself in the top 10.

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  • 8. Albert Pujols

    2001-present

    If we’re focusing on the overpaid and slowed-down version of Pujols we see today, then it’s our mistake, because Pujols is not only a no-doubt Hall of Famer, he’s very likely going to end up as one of the five best right-handed hitters who ever played the game. During his St. Louis career, 2001-2011, Pujols wasn’t just the most feared hitter in baseball, he topped that list by a considerable margin. He slugged .624 when no one else even came near .600; he hit 160 home runs when no one else made it to 140; he scored 500 runs when no one else made it to 450. As the only player in history to hit at least .300 with 30 homers and 100 driven in for 10 consecutive seasons, Pujols is the kind of bat we’ll one day be telling our grandkids we saw.

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  • 7. Alex Rodriguez

    1994-present

    The rare player to debut in the big leagues at 18 years old, Rodriguez has three 50-homer seasons to his name, a mark topped by only three others, and is currently fifth on the all-time home run list with 654. He’s the owner of 13 consecutive 30-homer seasons, and unlike most lumbering power hitters, he also has 322 stolen bases. Three times an MVP, Rodriguez was easily the top power hitter of the first decade of the 21st century, hitting 435 homers between 2000-2009; the next-biggest total, by Jim Thome, was a mere 368.

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  • 6. Jim Thome

    1991-2012

    One of the top home run hitters of all time — 612, seventh-best ever, plus 17 more in the playoffs — Thome is easily remembered for the way he came to the plate, pointing his bat towards right field in a scene right out of The Natural. Perhaps somewhat underrated due to spending the bulk of his career in Cleveland, playing for five clubs after, and rarely playing defense for the second half of his career, Thome’s six 40-homer seasons are topped by only seven other players ever, and he still owns the record for longest home runs hit at Progressive Field and Target Field.

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  • 5. Ryan Howard

    2004-present

    It’s easy to forget now, as a nearly 35-year-old Howard, ruined by injuries, has become an expensive anchor on the sinking Phillies ship, but for a four-year period, he was as feared as any hitter in the game. Between 2006 and 2009, Howard was the leading home run hitter in baseball, and the gap wasn’t small, outhomering No. 2 Pujols by 33. He owns a share of four of the top six home run seasons in Phillies history, which dates back to the 19th century, and has a World Series ring to go along with his Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.

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  • 4. Barry Bonds

    1986-2007

    We could talk about the all-time home run record (762), or the single-season home run record (73 in 2001), or the record-setting seven MVP awards, or the 15 consecutive seasons — and 19 overall — of at least 24 home runs. Any of those things taken alone show how dominant Bonds was at the plate, and to put them all together shows how clearly overwhelming he was for so long. But if we really want to understand just how exceptional and feared he was at the plate, think about what might have happened if he were actually allowed to swing the bat. Bonds collected 100 walks or more in 14 different seasons, and holds the record both for all-time walks (by nearly 400 over Rickey Henderson) and the three biggest all-time walk seasons. When pitchers won’t even come near you, it’s the ultimate sign of respect.

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  • 3. Juan Gonzalez

    1989-2005

    A player who had more of a very good career than a great one, Gonzalez nonetheless spent a decade as one of the biggest mashers in the game. In the 1990s, only four players hit more long balls than Gonzalez’ 339; his 434 career home runs in just 7,155 plate appearances gives him one of the highest home runs per plate appearances rates ever. Easily the best power hitter in Rangers history, Gonzalez is also the owner of six of the team’s top 14 home run seasons. Gonzalez didn’t age well, but the two-time MVP can rightfully be remembered for his power feats during his prime.

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  • 2. Sammy Sosa

    1989-2007

    “Slammin’ Sammy” has the eighth-most homers in baseball history, helped, of course, by a record three different seasons of 60 or more homers. Though it seems like it took him a while to become a power hitter, that perception is partially fueled by the fact that he made his debut in 1989 at a mere 20 years old; he was still only 24 the first time he hit more than 30 homers. That was followed by 10 more seasons reaching that mark or more; even at age 38 in 2007, after a year off, he still managed to hit 21 homers. Sosa is easily the all-time Cubs leader for home runs, a mark that should last for decades, unless Ernie Banks decides to come out of retirement.

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  • 1. Mark McGwire

    1986-2001

    As the classic The Simpsons bit goes, yes, we do want to see McGwire hit some dingers, and he did so at a rate unmatched by anyone in recent baseball history. From the 49 he hit as a 23-year-old Rookie of the Year in 1987 to the 23 more he put up while limping out as a 37-year-old Cardinal in 2001, the four-time home run champ put one out once every 13.13 plate appearances. To put that in perspective, everyone else on this list had a number starting with 16 or 17. So respected that he drew 100 or more walks five different times, McGwire’s power captivated a nation in 1998 and helped lead his teams to six playoff appearances.

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  • Albert Belle
  • Giancarlo Stanton
  • Albert Pujols
  • Jim Thome
  • Ryan Howard
  • Barry Bonds
  • Juan Gonzalez

There’s a reason that when Major League Baseball takes a break for the All-Star Game, there’s only one other activity aside from the game itself that anyone cares about. It’s the Home Run Derby, and for good reason; it’s impossible not to get excited by the sight of baseball’s deadliest power hitters crushing baseballs into the night.

Sometimes, like with Josh Hamilton in Yankee Stadium in 2008, the power display is more memorable than the game itself. Twenty-five years ago, in 1989, we saw the best of both worlds. Bo Jackson, inarguably one of the finest physical specimens to ever play the sport, homered in both the Derby and the game itself, earning himself the All-Star MVP and making him one of the very few players to ever go deep on multiple days of the All-Star break. Along with Willie Mays, he is one of only two players to ever homer and steal a base in an All-Star Game. In his short time in the majors, Jackson’s power feats became legend, including hitting the longest homer in Royals history in his first month in the bigs; becoming the first righty hitter ever to reach the upper deck of Minnesota’s Metrodome in 1989; hitting what was at the time the longest home run in Texas history, off none less than Nolan Ryan; and, reportedly, hitting massive home runs in batting practice while swinging left-handed.

Though Jackson’s prime was unfortunately cut short due to a hip injury suffered while playing in the NFL, we’re still talking about in awe, decades later, about his raw physical skills, and one can only wonder what might have been had he been able to stay healthy. With that in mind, today we’re taking a look at the 10 most powerful home run hitters of the last three decades, the players that pitchers hated to face for fear of serving up a ball that landed in the next county.

First, the criteria. We’re using the last 30 seasons of baseball, from 1985 through now. To qualify, a player must have had 2,000 plate appearances, or roughly four full seasons, and we’ll sort it by fewest plate appearances required per home run. With apologies to Bo, Manny Ramirez, Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey, Jr., Adam Dunn and others, here are the 10 biggest home run threats of the last 30 years.

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