Last Updated on October 4, 2023 by Matt Musico
If you’ve ever wondered which players are among the Pirates single season home run leaders at each position, then you’re in the right place. Outside of pitcher and designated hitter, each player had to man their position for at least 100 games (or 75% of games played) for the season in question.
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Pirates Single Season Home Run Leaders
Catcher: Jim Pagliaroni, 17 Home Runs in 1965
Jim Pagliaroni enjoyed an 11-year MLB career with four different teams. The squads he spent the most time with were the Pirates (five years) and the Boston Red Sox (four years). Pagliaroni slugged 90 homers during his career, which was powered by six straight seasons of double-digit dingers between 1961 and 1966.
He split his home run production pretty much right down the middle between the first half (nine) and the second half (eight) in ’65. However, he was a much different hitter on the road as compared to home. In Pittsburgh, Pagliaroni posted a .669 OPS with five homers, compared to a .861 OPS with 12 homers as a visiting player.
Pitcher: Pink Hawley, 5 Home Runs in 1895
Thanks to the Universal DH, Pink Hawley — a man who spent the majority of his big-league career in the 1890s, will live on in Pirates home run history forever. He started 56 games on the mound and ended up with a 31-22 record and a 3.18 ERA in 444.1 innings… in 1895.
Hawley helped himself quite often at the plate, slashing .308/.326/.497 with five home runs and 42 RBI in 193 plate appearances. Nearly half of his career homers (11) came during this season. His .824 OPS was a single-season career-high mark, and it was much better than the .615 number he produced over his career.
First Base: Josh Bell, 37 Home Runs in 2019
When Josh Bell produced this 37-homer campaign for Pittsburgh, it looked like just the beginning. After all, it was accompanied by a .936 OPS as a 26-year-old. He’s surpassed the 20-homer plateau just once since then, though.
I’ll never be able to look past how different his performance was before and after the All-Star break in 2019. In the first half, Bell slashed .302/.376/.648 with 27 homers, 30 doubles, and 84 RBI in 388 plate appearances. Across his final 225 trips to the plate, those numbers dropped to .233/.351/.429, 10, 7, and 32, respectively.
Second Base: Neil Walker, 23 Home Runs in 2014
Neil Walker quickly found himself a home with the Pirates thanks to how well he handled the bat. Between 2010 and 2015, the second baseman never finished a year with fewer than 12 homers or 24 doubles. The 2014 season is extra special because those 23 homers are a career-high mark, and he won his only career Silver Slugger Award.
Walker occupied Pittsburgh’s cleanup spot for 53 games that season. The majority of his home runs came from that part of the lineup, slugging 10 dingers. He didn’t hit more than five in any other lineup spot. And, for whatever reason, he enjoyed hitting with one out. When there were no outs or two outs, Walker’s OPS sat in the .720 range. With one out, though, it shot up to .980 thanks to a .339/.402/.577 line.
Shortstop: Arky Vaughan, 19 Home Runs in 1935
Soon enough, Oneil Cruz will be the Pirates’ single-season home run leader at shortstop. The honors will stay with Arky Vaughan for at least another year, though. The Hall of Famer spent the first 10 seasons of his 14-year career with Pittsburgh, and he racked up quite a few personal accomplishments. Vaughan finished in the top 25 of MVP voting six times, including twice in the top three. He was also a nine-time All-Star, with eight of those occasions coming with the Pirates.
Vaughan posted just two seasons of double-digit home runs. They came consecutively from 1934-35. He finished third in MVP voting in ’35 thanks to a .385/.491/.607 line, all of which led the league. The same could be said for his 1.098 OPS. Along with those 19 homers, the shortstop added 34 doubles, 108 runs scored, and a career-high 99 RBI. Vaughan spent 123 of his 137 games played as the team’s cleanup hitter. That’s where he hit 17 of his 19 dingers.
Third Base: Pedro Alvarez, 36 Home Runs in 2013
Pedro Alvarez enjoyed four seasons of 20-plus homers. That included two 30-homer campaigns, which came consecutively between 2012 and 2013. Those 36 taters in ’13 earned Alvarez a share of the National League Home Run Crown with Paul Goldschmidt.
He also earned an All-Star nod and eventually won a Silver Slugger that year. It was powered by his first half of play. By the midsummer classic, Alvarez already had 24 home runs with a .828 OPS. He hit his final 12 after the break while watching his second-half OPS settle in at .700.
The only month of the year where Alvarez produced an OPS higher than .794 was June. He slashed .309/.380/.680 (a 1.060 OPS) with 10 home runs and 24 RBI in 108 trips to the plate.
Pirates Single Season Home Run Leaders
Left Field: Ralph Kiner, 54 Home Runs in 1949
As you can see from the Pirates’ overall single-season leaderboard, Ralph Kiner is Pittsburgh home run royalty. He led the league in dingers each of the first seven years of his MLB career. This streak included five straight years of 40-plus homers, with two of those occurrences finishing beyond the half-century mark.
The bulk of Kiner’s power production in 1949 came over the final two months of the season. He did post three months of at least eight homers heading into August, but none in double digits. The outfielder accomplished that twice to finish out his campaign, slugging 11 in August and then 16 in September/October.
His home run production was spread rather evenly throughout the course of a game. However, Kiner’s favorite inning to go yard was the third. He slugged nine dingers during that frame, with only the first inning being the second-most popular (six).
Center Field: Brian Giles, 39 Home Runs in 1999
Brian Giles slugged 30-plus homers in each of the four full seasons he spent in Pittsburgh with the Pirates. None of them surpassed 1999, though, which was his first year with the organization. He doubled his career homer total, as he came into that year with 39 dingers across parts of four seasons.
Giles really enjoyed providing that two-out dagger when he stepped into the batter’s box in ’99. Of the 39 homers he hit, 20 of them came with two outs. He also collected 51 of his 115 RBI in that situation.
Right Field: Bobby Bonilla, 32 Home Runs in 1990
Before he became best known for collecting a check every July from the Mets, Bobby Bonilla was actually a pretty good ballplayer. He had two All-Star campaigns under his belt heading into 1990, but that campaign was his true breakout. He finished second in NL MVP voting while hitting 32 home runs and 39 doubles with 120 RBI.
You always love to see a little symmetry in his numbers, too. Bonilla hit 13 homers at home and 19 on the road, while 19 came in the first half, which was followed by 13 in the second half. The symmetry nearly continued into another category — Bonilla hit 20 solo home runs and another 12 with men on base.
Designated Hitter: Daniel Vogelbach, 12 Home Runs in 2022
His 2022 home run production was evenly spread out during the year. He never hit fewer than two or more than four in a single month. Vogey slugged two homers in a month, three homers in a month, and four homers in a month twice each.
Want to see some homers in person this season? Of course you do. Grab MLB tickets from our friends at Vivid Seats. And before you get to the stadium, make sure you’re decked out in the right gear. Get your favorite team’s official merch from the MLB Shop or a ‘Big Dinger Energy’ shirt from our apparel store.