Milwaukee Brewers: Chris Carter has shot at home run title

When the Milwaukee Brewers signed Chris Carter, they knew he would bring plenty of power. Did anyone envision a home run crown?

Carter ripped a two-run homer in the 1st inning of the Milwaukee Brewers‘ 6-4 loss Tuesday night. It was his team-best and career-high 39th blast of the season. Ryan Braun is 2nd on the club with 30 homers.

So as of Wednesday morning, that put Carter just one home run behind the NL leader, Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies. The Chicago Cubs‘ Kris Bryant also has 39 long balls, tied with Carter for 2nd.

Ironically, the Brewers face the Rockies at hitter-friendly Coors field to finish the season, so Carter and Arenado will be going head to head for a chance at the title.

Should Carter leapfrog Arenado by the end of Sunday, it would be the 6th time in franchise history that a player took home the league home run crown. Braun was the last to accomplish the feat, crushing 41 long balls in 2012 to pace the NL.

Also, with one more home run, Carter would become the sixth player to hit 40 homers with the Brewers. He would join Prince Fielder (twice), Richie Sexson (twice), Gorman Thomas, Ben Oglivie and Braun.

Carter has delivered considerable offensive value for the Milwaukee Brewers this season, especially at a relatively low price tag of $2.5 million.

He has also played in an NL-best 156 games, missing just two of Milwaukee’s contest so far in 2016.

His high strikeouts and low average will always frustrate some fans, but an .815 OPS (113 OPS+) is nothing to sneeze at.

Though Carter now has the franchise record for whiffs (200 and counting), he also ranks 11th among NL first basemen in WAR (1.1), tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Adrian Gonzalez.

With 92 RBI (13th in NL), 81 runs and a .344 weighted on-base average (wOBA), Carter has been a quality run producer for the Brewers. His wOBA – which is a catch-all advanced hitting statistic, ranks him 8th among NL first basemen (minimum 400 plate appearances).

Milwaukee Brewers

Milwaukee Brewers’ Braun and Carter have combined for 69 HR and 182 RBI this year (through Tuesday). Photo Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

So if Carter comes out on top, he would join Braun and four other Brewers to finish first in home runs.

Prince Fielder hit a franchise-record 50 bombs in 2007 to lead the NL, becoming the first Brewers’ hitter to win the title in the Senior Circuit. The Milwaukee Brewers switched to the NL in 1998.

Before that, Gorman Thomas had earned a pair of home run titles. He is the only player in club history to lead the league twice. Thomas hit 45 homers in 1979 to win the AL title outright. Then in 1982 he blasted 39 to tie Reggie Jackson for crown.

In a strange twist, the other two times the Brewers had a single-season home run champion, they each tied with Jackson as well. What was even more interesting, was that Jackson was on a different club all three times.

Ben Oglivie hit a career-high 41 long balls in 1980 to finish dead even with Jackson in the AL’s top spot. Meanwhile, the franchise’s first home run leader came in 1975. Meanwhile, George Scott and Jackson ended the year with 36 home runs apiece.

Scott’s 36 homers is the lowest output of the six Brewers’ crowns.

Also of note, each time a Brewers’ slugger has led the league, with the exception of Thomas’ 1982 title, it was that player’s career-best for a season.

That’s been the beauty of the Milwaukee Brewers’ first true rebuilding season in a long time. While there have been many frustrating days, there have been a tremendous amount of positives – including Carter.

For a team with less than 80 wins, it’s been a relatively fun season. Furthermore, fans could be in for an exciting finish watching Carter and Arenado push for the NL home run title this weekend.

Carter is under team control through 2019, so the Brewers could choose to hang onto him at a slightly higher rate for next year. Otherwise, he could be an intriguing trade chip come this offseason, should GM David Stearns be looking to sell high.