When it comes to the Pirates all time home run leaders, the very top of the leaderboard includes some of the organization’s most legendary players. What’s interesting here is that each of the hitters in the top five all come from a different era of Pirates baseball.
Sure, there’s a bit of overlap between the players we’ll be talking about. But even though some were teammates along the way, it feels like they each had their own time to shine in Pittsburgh. We’ll talk in detail about the top five below, and then also list out the rest of the top 20 most powerful hitters in Pirates history.
Pirates All Time Home Run Leaders: Top 5
Willie Stargell: 475 Home Runs
Willie Stargell accomplished a lot in his 21-year Hall of Fame career. He spent the entirety of his time as a big leaguer with the Pirates. With that opportunity, he racked up seven All-Star Game appearances, an NL MVP Award, a World Series and NLCS MVP Award, and two World Series titles.
He’s also Pittsburgh’s all-time home run leader by an incredibly healthy margin. It looks like his spot at the top of this career home run leaderboard will be safe for quite some time, too.
Stargell’s first full MLB season came in 1963 as a 23-year-old. He slugged 11 homers in 108 games played. The next time he finished a year with fewer than 11 dingers was in 1981. For those who don’t want to do the math at home, that was his age-41 campaign. Between these two periods of time, the left-handed slugger posted 15 years with 20-plus homers (13 of them came consecutively).
His consistency is what helped him land in the Hall of Fame. However, there was a clear power peak in the middle of Stargell’s career between 1970 and 1973. He led the league in homers twice with two efforts of 40-plus homers, but this was the only time he strung consecutive seasons together with 30-plus homers. He did it in four straight years. While slashing .288/.374/.587 in this time, Stargell averaged 39 homers and 110 RBI per season.
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Ralph Kiner: 301 Home Runs
Ralph Kiner‘s big-league career lasted just 10 seasons, but he made them as powerful as possible. The outfielder led baseball in homers during each of his first seven years in the league. This included a 54-homer effort that’s the Pirates’ single-season home run record. Kiner enjoyed another four other seasons with 40-plus homers, which all land within Pittsburgh’s top 10.
During this run of power dominance with the Pirates, it’s quite interesting how Kiner changed his approach at the plate. He led the league in homers as a rookie in 1946 with 23. However, he posted just a .775 OPS and finished 30th in MVP voting. In 579 plate appearances, the right-handed slugger struck out 109 times while drawing 74 walks.
In the six seasons that followed, he never struck out more than 81 times, he drew more walks than he struck out each year, and he finished with 100-plus walks five times. Actually, Kiner never struck out more than 90 times in a season for the rest of his career. It was only until the final two years (one with the Cubs, one with Cleveland) that he struck out more often than he walked again.
Roberto Clemente: 240 Home Runs
Although he spent 18 years in the big leagues, Roberto Clemente‘s tragic death on New Year’s Eve 1972 will make many fans wonder exactly how much baseball the Puerto Rican outfielder had left in him before retiring. But still, what he provided was more than worthy of the plaque dedicated to his achievements in Cooperstown.
The 1966 NL MVP Award winner was elected to 15 All-Star Games, won 12 Gold Gloves, took home four batting titles, and was a part of two World Series-winning clubs with Pittsburgh. He also managed to collect 3,000 career hits on the dot before the 1972 season was complete. What’s interesting to look at regarding his power was how it eventually came into form after a few years in the big leagues.
From 1955 through 1959, Clemente posted a .706 OPS with 26 total home runs. He never hit more than seven dingers in a single season and actually collected more triples than homers in four of those seasons. But from 1960 through 1972, his performance elevated to the levels we’re accustomed to talking about these days. His OPS rose to .878 (while hitting .330) and he averaged 16 homers during this time. That included three years of 20-plus homers, with two of those occurrences happening consecutively (29 in ’66, 23 in ’67). These performances also included his only campaigns of 100-plus RBI.
While averaging 26 homers and 114 RBI per season, Clemente added in a sparkling .336/.379/.545 triple slash for good measure during this stretch.
Andrew McCutchen: 203 Home Runs
It doesn’t matter how long it’s been or how many other teams he’s played on in his career. Andrew McCutchen will always be synonymous with the Pirates for me. After all, he spent his first nine MLB seasons there, and when looking back on his career someday, they will be looked upon as his most fruitful.
Cutch always had decent power, but it really developed in his third season. He slugged 28 combined homers in his first two years. From there, he then rattled off eight straight years of 20-plus homers and has reached that number nine times overall entering 2022.
At this point in time, McCutchen has finished with an OPS greater than .900 three times in his career. They happened in consecutive years from 2012-14. This includes his NL MVP performance of 2013. In this 1,995-plate-appearance sample, the outfielder slashed .320/.405/.534 while averaging 26 homers, 35 doubles, 22 steals, 88 RBI, and 98 runs scored. His 2012 production was especially memorable because he set single-season career-high marks in homers (31), RBI (96), hits (194), and OPS (.953), among others.
Barry Bonds: 176 Home Runs
When one thinks of Barry Bonds and his accomplishments, the first thoughts likely include him in a San Francisco Giants uniform. There’s a good reason for that. He’s not only the Giants’ career home run leader, but he also set the single-season and career home run records while playing by the Bay. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t a force during his time in Pittsburgh, though.
Bonds won two of his MVP awards, three of his Gold Gloves, and three of his Silver Sluggers with the Pirates. He also enjoyed five seasons of 20-plus homers, but the last three were different than the first two. The outfielder slugged 25 homers in ’87 and another 24 in ’88. From 1990-92, though, he took things to another level. He didn’t hit fewer than 25 dingers in a single season and surpassed 30 twice.
While hitting .301/.424/.566 during this time, Bonds averaged 31 homers, 32 doubles, 45 steals, 111 RBI, and 103 runs scored per season. It’s not shocking that he won his two MVPs during this span of time (’90 and ’92). He actually almost made it three in a row, coming in a close second to Terry Pendleton in 1991.
Pirates All Time Home Run Leaders: The Rest
Here’s what the remainder of Pittsburgh’s top-20 looks like when it comes to the organization’s career home run leaders:
- Dave Parker: 166 Home Runs
- Brian Giles: 165
- Frank Thomas: 163
- Jason Bay: 139
- Bill Mazeroski: 138
- Kevin Young: 136
- Al Oliver: 135
- Pedro Alvarez: 131
- Richie Hebner: 128
- Andy Van Slyke: 117
- Dick Stuart: 117
- Bobby Bonilla: 114
- Paul Waner: 109
- Bill Robinson: 109
- Starling Marte: 108
Check out the Pirates’ full career home run leaderboard on FanGraphs.