When it comes to home runs hit by San Francisco Giants players, there are probably two names that immediately come to mind: Barry Bonds and Willie Mays. That happens for a good reason, too — they’re not only two of the most dominant players to ever grace a field (yea, I said it), but they also dominate the Giants’ single-season home run leaderboard.
They leave very little space for anyone else to join them within the top 22.
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Giants Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Barry Bonds: 73 Home Runs in 2001
Bonds’ 73-homer barrage in 2001 is the most obvious one to discuss here. It’s the most home runs in a season by any player in MLB history. The outfielder’s overall numbers look like they came straight out of a video game, too — Bonds slashed .328/.515/.863 (!) with those 73 dingers, 137 RBI, and 129 runs scored. He won his fourth NL MVP award that year, and it began a streak of four straight seasons where he brought home the hardware.
Obviously, to put together a season like this, you have to dominate pretty much from start to finish, and that’s what Bonds did. His monthly OPS never dropped below 1.100, and it even got above 1.400 in three separate months. The only time he hit fewer than 11 home runs in a month came in July when he slugged six. What’s most eye-popping to me is that his OPS in wins (1.569) and losses (1.154) were both incredibly high. Bonds hit 47 of his home runs in games the Giants were victorious, which helped him post a 1.012 slugging percentage in that situation. And, no — that’s not a typo.
Willie Mays: 52 Home Runs in 1965
Bonds may have the top spot on San Francisco’s single-season home run leaderboard, but his godfather has three of the four next spots. While Bonds’ 73 homers are the most ever, it was the only time in his career he hit more than 50 in a single season. As we see here, hitting 50-plus dingers is something May did twice during his Hall of Fame career. He had to rack up those types of numbers to remain the Giants’ all-time home run leader, ya know.
The 1965 season was the fourth and last time May led the league in homers, and he won his second and final NL MVP award off the strength of a .317/.398/.645 line with those 52 dingers, 112 RBI, 118 runs scored, and a Gold Glove for his defensive work in the outfield.
What’s interesting about his performance in ’65 is that he did the majority of his damage in the power department over the span of three months. He hit double-digit homers in May (12), August (17), and September (11), but in the other three months? He didn’t hit more than five and combined to slug just 12 dingers. Either way, hitting just over half of your 52 home runs during the season’s final two months is the best way to put an exclamation point on an MVP performance.
Willie Mays: 51 Home Runs in 1955
Mays stepped up to the plate 50 fewer times in the second half compared to the first half in 1955, but he really elevated his game in such a way that he nearly achieved identical overall statistics by the end. Let’s explain that a bit — in the first half of play, he slashed .298/.389/.628, which led to a 1.017 OPS, 27 homers, and 64 RBI. In the second half, his line improved dramatically to .343/.413/.694, which produced a 1.107 OPS, 24 homers, and 63 RBI. See what I mean?
The young outfielder had posted a 1.000-plus OPS in five of the six months during 1955, and while July was his most powerful month (he hit 13 home runs), it was September that was the most eye-popping of all. Over his final 98 plate appearances, Mays hit .396/.429/.879 with 11 homers, 31 RBI, and 20 runs scored. Now that’s how you finish a season strong.
This was his second consecutive season of 40-plus homers, and it was a number he’d ultimately pass six total times throughout his career.
Johnny Mize: 51 Home Runs in 1947
Like so many ballplayers in the 1940s, the prime of Johnny Mize‘s career was spent serving his country in World War II from 1943-45. He came back to the Giants in 1946 in time to suit up for 101 games. Mize posted a 1.013 OPS with 22 home runs and 70 RBI during this campaign, but his first full season back in ’47 was the big one.
Mize slashed .302/.384/.614 with 51 home runs and 138 RBI, which enabled him to finish third in MVP voting. Those homer and RBI totals not only led the league, but they were single-season career-high marks for him. On a monthly basis, the first baseman was quite consistent in the power department. He didn’t hit fewer than six dingers in a month, and he hit exactly seven on three occasions. However, July and August are where he did his best work, hitting a combined 24 dingers during this period of time.
Willie Mays: 49 Home Runs in 1962
Willie Mays was so good — especially during the prime of his career — that incredible seasons likely just became what people expected of him. His 1962 performance is a great example of that. He led the league in homers, drove in 141 runs, slashed .304/.384/.615, went to the All-Star Game, finished in the top-10 of NL MVP voting, and won a Gold Glove.
What I found interesting was how even his offensive performance was, regardless of how many outs there were when he stepped to the plate. With no outs, Mays had a 1.004 OPS with 15 home runs and 35 RBI. With one out, he had a .926 OPS with 17 homers and 55 RBI. With two outs, his OPS went up slightly to 1.074 to go along with 17 homers and 51 RBI.
It’s also worth noting Mays’ performance with runners in scoring position because it was so good. He slashed .361/.450/.728 with 14 homers and 91 RBI.
Giants Single-Season Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the remainder of the Giants’ top-22 most powerful seasons in franchise history looks like:
- Barry Bonds, 2000: 49 home runs
- Willie Mays, 1964: 47
- Kevin Mitchell, 1989: 47
- Barry Bonds, 1993 and 2002: 46
- Orlando Cepeda, 1961: 46
- Barry Bonds, 2003 and 2004: 45
- Willie McCovey, 1969: 45
- Willie McCovey, 1963: 44
- Matt Williams, 1994: 43
- Barry Bonds, 1996: 42
- Mel Ott, 1929: 42
- Willie Mays, 1954: 41
- Barry Bonds, 1997: 40
- Willie Mays, 1961: 40
- Johnny Mize, 1948: 40
Check out the remainder of this home run leaderboard on FanGraphs.
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