When it comes to Padres home run leaders for a single season, there have been just a handful of 40-homer seasons since 1969. For the moment, they all fit neatly into the top-five of the franchise’s single-season leaderboard, and it had been a while since the last time it occurred…until it was done last year.
As we’ll see below, Fernando Tatís Jr.‘s 42 home runs from 2021 marked the first time a Padres player surpassed 40 since 2009. While it likely won’t happen again this year, it’s not outrageous to think he’ll be all over this leaderboard within the next few years. Be sure to also see where these sluggers land on the Padres’ all-time home run leaderboard, as well.
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Padres Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Greg Vaughn: 50 Home Runs in 1998
Of Greg Vaughn‘s 355 career home runs, 136 came in three seasons. He enjoyed 40-homer efforts on each occasion, but his 1998 campaign for the NL champion Padres was easily the apex. This performance certainly flies under the radar because even though it was a single-season home run record for the Padres, he did it during a year in which two other guys — Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire — both hit 60-plus.
However, Vaughn was awarded his only career Silver Slugger award and his third All-Star Game selection (out of four total). He also finished fourth in NL MVP voting.
This record-setting performance was powered by a three-month tear Vaughn went on between May and July. During this time, which spanned 350 plate appearances, the outfielder slashed .313/.400/.720 with 33 homers, 79 RBI, and 71 runs scored. That was all good for a 191 wRC+.
Fernando Tatís Jr.: 42 Home Runs in 2021
While his 2022 season will be delayed because of a wrist injury, you just have to think Fernando Tatís Jr. is going to at least continue challenging Vaughn’s record in the near future.
The 2021 campaign was Tatís’ second straight year finishing in the top-five of NL MVP voting, and he also brought home his second straight Silver Slugger. San Diego started out strong as a squad, but its playoff chances faded with a tough second half, which was sort of how the young shortstop’s performance went, as well. He owned a 1.020 OPS with 28 home runs and 60 RBI prior to the All-Star break but saw his OPS drop just over 100 points to .916 during the final stretch.
His impact (or lack thereof) is a big part of the Padres’ success or failure. In wins last season, Tatís slashed .365/.458/.799 with 26 homers and 67 RBI. In losses, his line was .212/.277/.452 with 16 homers and 30 RBI. He was typically penciled into the one-, two-, or four-hole in the lineup, so having him wreak havoc at the top of the order is crucial for San Diego.
Phil Nevin: 41 Home Runs in 2001
Phil Nevin‘s power progression to this 41-homer barrage in 2001 was interesting to look at. His first full season’s worth of plate appearances came in 1999 when he stepped up to the plate 441 times. He slugged 24 home runs with 85 RBI. The following year? Those numbers improved to 31 and 107, respectively. The year after that? They went up again to 41 and 126, respectively.
But after that point, which was Nevin’s age-30 campaign, he’d rack up just two 20-homer performances over his final five seasons.
His most powerful two-month stretch in 2001 came in June and July when he slugged 18 homers with 51 RBI. Outside of that, he hit eight homers in September and didn’t hit more than six in the three other months of the season.
Ken Caminiti: 40 Home Runs in 1996
The 1996 season was a banner year for Ken Caminiti in many ways. He not only posted career-high marks virtually across the board, but he also won a Gold Glove, won a Silver Slugger, and took home NL MVP honors. In 639 plate appearances, Caminiti slashed .326/.408/.621 with 40 home runs and 130 RBI. He’d come close on a couple of other occasions, but this was the only year he’d finish with 30-plus dingers and at least 100 RBI.
The third baseman split his home runs right down the middle between home and away games, but he took things to another level in the second half to win the MVP. After hitting .294/.371/.488 with 12 home runs and 48 RBI prior to the All-Star Game, those numbers jumped up significantly down the stretch to .360/.443/.760, 28, and 81, respectively. Each of Caminiti’s final three months included an OPS above 1.100, but August is the one that stands out the most. His 1.271 OPS was the highest he produced in any month that year, and the same could be said for the 14 homers he slugged and 38 RBI that were collected.
Adrián González: 40 Home Runs in 2009
After having a couple of cups of coffee with the Texas Rangers to begin his big-league career, Adrián González immediately became a power source for the Padres. His first full season came in 2006 when he slugged 24 home runs with 82 RBI. In the four seasons that followed, he never hit fewer than 30 dingers and finished with fewer than 100 RBI once.
Coincidentally enough, that non-100-RBI performance came when he hit a career-high number of homers, as he collected 99 RBI in 2009. Baseball, man.
González took advantage of certain opportunities to reach that magical number of 40. He slugged 28 of his dingers away from Petco Park, and 24 of them came prior to the All-Star break. But if we drill down a little more, April and May are what really set him off on this path of achievement, as he collected 20 homers and 40 RBI in that time.
Padres Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Nate Colbert (38 in 1970 and 1972), González (36 in 2008), Fred McGriff (35 in 1992), Dave Winfield (34 in 1979), and Phil Plantier (34 in 1993) make up the remainder of this leaderboard. Want to see how other Padres player performance stack up? Check it out here on FanGraphs.