When you think of Cardinals home run leaders, who are the first two players that come to mind? If your answers weren’t Mark McGwire and Albert Pujols, then I don’t know what to tell you. We’ll go through the top-10 home run-hitting seasons in Cardinals history below, and unsurprisingly, those two dudes are heavily featured.
Who else snuck into the top 10? Let’s find out before detailing the top-24 single-season home run hitters in Cardinals history.
Cardinals Home Run Leaders: Top 10
The two most powerful seasons in Cardinals history belong to McGwire, and they’re also among the most home runs in a season in MLB history, as he hit 70 dingers in 1998 and followed that up with another 65 in 1999. Those were also his first two full seasons in St. Louis. Talk about a good first impression, right?
This was also part of a stretch where McGwire hit at least 50 home runs in four consecutive seasons, which made him the first MLB hitter to accomplish such a feat. These two seasons in particular from 1998-99 spanned over 12 months. McGwire hit at least 10 dingers in a month on nine separate occasions. He actually slugged at least 15 three times: May of 1998 (16), September of 1998 (15), and July 1999 (16).
In addition to this honor, Big Mac has also hit the most home runs all-time as a first baseman.
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Although he couldn’t overtake McGwire at the very top of the Cardinals’ leaderboard, Pujols took half of the top-10 just for himself with the following performances:
- 49 home runs in 2006
- 47 home runs in 2009
- 46 home runs in 2004
- 43 home runs in 2003
- 42 home runs in 2010
Obviously, his first tour in St. Louis is one of the most dominant 11-season stretches for a player in MLB history. If Pujols just retired after 2011 and never moved on to the Los Angeles Angels, he would’ve already been a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He still is, and his 685 dingers are among the most home runs all time, along with ranking second all-time in Cardinals history.
Pujols’ 2006 season couldn’t have started off much better. In April of that year, he hit .346/.509/.914 with 14 home runs and 32 RBI. He then followed that up with another 11 dingers and 33 RBI, giving him 25 homers and 65 RBI by the beginning of June for those keeping track at home. If he wasn’t limited to 10 games (and one homer) in June, he would’ve easily surpassed 50 homers in a year and could’ve even challenged 60.
Before Johnny Mize went off to serve in World War II and come back to insert himself into the Giants‘ single-season home run leaderboard, he did it for the Cardinals by hitting 43 home runs in 1940. This was the second straight year Mize finished second in MVP voting, and he led the league in both homers and RBI (137) while slashing .314/.404/.636.
Mize was consistent in many aspects of his performance, and I loved seeing that his offensive production got progressively better as the outs increased in an inning. When there were no outs, Mize owned a .990 OPS with 13 home runs and 30 RBI. With one out, those numbers increased 1.068, 11 (I know, not an increase), and 40, respectively. When there were two outs, his OPS continued to go up and settled in at 1.105 with 15 home runs and 51 RBI.
If we look at Baseball-Reference’s Clutch Stats, his OPS was consistently elite in just about every situation. In “late and close” situations, his OPS was .939, but it was above 1.000 in all others. This includes with two outs and runners in scoring position, a tie game, and if the score was within (or beyond) four runs. It also didn’t matter if St. Louis was ahead (1.022 OPS) or behind (.995 OPS), Mize was just as productive at the plate.
It feels like Jim Edmonds is most well known for his glove work in the outfield. Eight Gold Glove awards will do that. However, the man could swing the bat, too. In the 17 years he played big-league baseball, Edmonds posted 11 performances of 20-plus homers. His two most powerful seasons were the ones that landed on this list, as he slugged 42 dingers in both 2000 and 2004. In between these two years, the outfielder never hit fewer than 28 homers.
Both of the above performances were elite, but it was 2004 that was better from the standpoint of wRC+ (168) and fWAR (8.3), so let’s talk about that.
Although the left-handed hitter posted an OPS above 1.000 against both lefties and righties in 2004, all but five of his homers came when facing southpaws. His first-half production (21 homers, 56 RBI) was just about identical to what he did in the second half (21 homers, 55 RBI), but he did level up after the All-Star Game. That can be evidenced by the .323/.452/.705 line he produced over his final 279 plate appearances.
He enjoyed a two-month stretch in July and August where he posted double-digit homers and produced an OPS better than 1.300, but July was easily the better month. His 13 homers and 27 RBI were the most of any month that year, and he paired it with a rather ridiculous .381/.475/.982 triple slash.
Looking at Rogers Hornsby‘s Baseball-Reference page is just insane. From 1920-25, he led the league in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. He hit better than .400 on three occasions, and his average triple slash for this period settled in at .397/.467/.666. Phew.
The 1922 season was the most powerful of Hornsby’s career, as it included a league-leading 42 home runs. His 152 RBI were the most in baseball, giving him his first Triple Crown (he’d win it again in 1925). He also led the league in doubles (46), runs scored (141), and hits (250). It was the first time he finished with a batting average higher than .400 (he checked in at .401).
Hornsby had four different months with a slugging percentage better than .700, but July and September were head-and-shoulders above the rest. In July, he slashed .383/.428/.752 with 10 homers and 42 RBI, while he finished with a flourish in September with a .444/.468/.785 line, 10 homers and 30 RBI.
Cardinals Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the rest of the Cardinals’ top-25 single-season home run leaders looks like:
- Albert Pujols, 2005: 41 home runs
- Stan Musial, 1948: 39
- Rogers Hornsby, 1925: 39
- Jim Edmonds, 2003: 39
- Albert Pujols, 2008, 2001, 2011: 37
- Ryan Ludwick, 2008: 37
- Stan Musial, 1949: 36
- Matt Carpenter, 2018: 36
- Paul Goldschmidt, 2022: 35
- Stan Musial, 1954: 35
- Ripper Collins, 1934: 35
- Jack Clark, 1987: 35
If you’re curious as to who falls behind this group, check out the full list on FanGraphs.