Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Couple Quick Notes

Just a couple things to pass along:
  • Plunk Everyone is a blog dedicated to the humble hit by pitch. It's well worth reading. The author mentioned both on his blog and in a post at Brew Crew Ball on Tuesday that Jason Kendall became only the second player to be hit by all 30 major league teams (can you guess the first without looking? I'm guessing you'll be surprised). The Brewers backstop has now been hit 235 times by 184 pitchers.

  • Elias Says..., a column at, notes that nine different Mets have tripled over the teams last nine games coming into today. The Mets are the first team to do that since 1983. Right on cue, Jeremy Reed hit his first triple of the season today to become the tenth player in ten games, but it wasn't enough to stop New York from losing to Florida.

  • Yovani Gallardo of the Brewers was the winning pitcher in his team's 1-0 victory. He also hit the game-winning home run in the bottom of the 7th inning. He departed after the 8th inning, having thrown 116 pitches. Had he pitched a scoreless ninth, he would have joined the following pitchers since 1954 who homered in all their team's runs while throwing a shutout:

    There are a couple honorable mentions as well. Juan Pizarro drove in both Cubs runs during his 2-0 shutout on May 10, 1963 but only one came via the long ball. Also, though Roger Freed drove in one run, that shouldn't take away from Rick Wise's 3 RBI on 2 HR for the Phillies on June 23, 1971 -- all while he was no-hitting the Reds.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two or Fewer Total Bases

After going 1 for 4 in tonight's game, Jason Kendall of the Brewers is hitting .143/.245/.167. He's got six hits (five singles and a double), five walks, and one hit by pitch. His lack of power is well-known around baseball, thanks in large part to his 6 HR in 2453 plate appearances since leaving Pittsburgh. So far this season Kendall has played in thirteen games and has had fewer than two total bases in each.

I'm sure he'll manage to hit three singles, a double and a single, or even a home run at some point, but it might take a while. So that thought made me curious about the longest streak of games with two or fewer total bases to start a season, especially among starters.

Given that he's both punchless and a catcher, Kendall isn't likely to pinch-hit much. I'm not that interested in a list that includes pinch-hitters anyway, because I don't think a guy should be penalized for not hitting pinch-hit triples or home runs very often. Therefore I've looked only at games where the player in question had two or more plate appearances. Obviously, a triple or home run could be overlooked, but that's okay.

As usual, this covers players from 1954 to the present.

Most Consecutive Games with Two or Fewer Total Bases to Start a Season
(minimum 2 PA in each game)
So not only does Kendall have months to go to match Amaro, he's got a ways to go before he reaches his dad's mark. Fans who were around in the 1970's no doubt recognize lefthanded knuckleballer Wilbur Wood. He actually started 49 games in 1972 but was pulled before batting twice in three of them.

It's been nearly two decades since someone went 45 games into the season without 3+ total bases in a game, though, so let's look at a list of players since 2000. Unsurprisingly, the list is littered with pitchers, so I'm going to drop them.

Most Consecutive Games with Two or Fewer Total Bases to Start a Season
(since 2000; minimum 2 PA in each game)
Jason Kendall reached 28 games to start the 2007 season, one year after going 23 games without three total bases. Two doubles and a single in the second game of last season messed up the trend, but 2009 might still be his year.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Giving Up Home Runs To Pitchers

In the third game of the season, Brewers pitcher Yovani Gallardo hit a home run off Giants starter Randy Johnson. It was quickly noted that this was the first homer hit by a pitcher off the Big Unit. Pitchers had faced Johnson 500 times in his twenty-two year career and not a single one had hit a home run. No opposing pitcher had ever knocked one of Randy Johnson's offerings over the fence. Are you impressed yet?

It turns out other pitchers have faced opposing pitchers 500 times without giving up a home run. Since 1954, thirteen different hurlers have done so. Two of those pitchers were active in 2008.

500+ PA Against Pitchers, Zero Home Runs Allowed
  1. Don Drysdale, 1016 PA
  2. Tommy John, 861
  3. Andy Benes, 757
  4. Dwight Gooden, 622
  5. Jon Lieber, 603
  6. Sonny Siebert, 573
  7. Jack Billingham, 550
  8. Shawn Estes, 548
  9. Bob Welch, 542
  10. Jim Rooker, 534
  11. Bob Walk, 520
  12. Gary Nolan, 514
  13. Vida Blue, 511
Somehow Randy Johnson facing pitchers 500 times and not giving up a home run seems less impressive when you realize Jon Lieber and Shawn Estes have done the same thing. Actually, I take that back: the real question is how guys like Lieber and Estes made it onto this list of pretty darn good pitchers.

There have been plenty of pitchers who missed that list by only one home run. Thirty-three pitchers allowed only one home run to an opposing pitcher in 500 or more plate appearances since 1954:
  • Greg Maddux, 1451 PA
  • Jerry Reuss, 972
  • Juan Marichal, 961
  • John Smoltz, 913
  • Jerry Koosman, 843
  • Whitey Ford, 841
  • Burt Hooton, 754
  • Darryl Kile, 685
  • Rick Rhoden, 671
  • Pedro Astacio, 664
  • Rick Wise, 660
  • Dean Chance, 627
  • Terry Mulholland, 616
  • Ray Burris, 582
  • Ray Herbert, 577
  • Joaquin Andujar, 567
  • Zane Smith, 566
  • Bob Shaw, 559
  • Bob Veale, ~557
  • Al Leiter, 554
  • John Candelaria, 553
  • Mike Morgan, 550
  • Denny Neagle, 537
  • Steve Renko, 532
  • John Denny, 528
  • Pete Harnisch, 526
  • Sid Fernandez, 525
  • John Burkett, 523
  • Mike LaCoss, 514
  • Bob Miller, 512
  • Dave Roberts, ~511
  • Randy Johnson, 509
Whitey Ford and Ray Herbert both pitched before 1954, so it's possible they don't actually belong on the list. Bob Veale and Dave Roberts both made appearances that lack play-by-play accounts and it's hard to estimate how many times they faced opposing pitchers in those games, so their exact place on the list is a little uncertain.

Finally, there is one more pitcher who averaged 500 PA or more between opposing pitcher home runs: Bob Gibson. The Cardinals ace faced opposing hurlers 1150 times and gave up a home run only twice.

Here are some pitchers who may join one of these lists in the relatively near future:
  • Royals RHP Jamey Wright has faced 494 pitchers without giving up a home run.
  • Brewers RHP Jeff Suppan has faced 394 pitchers without giving up a home run. It will take the better part of two seasons for him to reach 500.
  • Veteran RHP Brett Tomko has allowed one homer to an opposing pitcher in 483 career PA against. He's currently playing for the Yankees' AAA club.
That's it.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Junior Squad

My dad and I were talking about this the other day. Baseball players seem oddly drawn to naming their sons after themselves. No data to back this up, but it seems like there are a heck of a lot more First Last, Jr.'s among the baseball population than the general population.

Enough to field a full squad, in fact:

C - Sandy Alomar
1B - Billy Sullivan
2B - Jerry Hairston
3B - Ed Sprague
SS - Tony Pena
LF - Jose Cruz
CF - Gary Matthews
RF - Ken Griffey
SP - Jim Bagby
RP - Pedro Borbon

You could have Ruben Amaro, Tony Gwynn and Ozzie Virgil on the bench with Mel Queen, Lew Krausse, and Fred Rath (of course) supporting Borbon out of the 'pen.

First base was the toughest position to fill. There just aren't many good options. I was going to move Sprague there, but there aren't many options at third either. That left a choice between 1930's backup catcher/first baseman Billy Sullivan and the forgettable Pete Rose. You can see which way I went.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Opening Day Oddity

You may have heard about Felipe Lopez and Tony Clark's performance in today's Rockies-Diamondbacks game. The two switch-hitters each had two home runs and they both hit one from each side of the plate. As the AP recap noted,
Lopez and Clark became the first switch-hitting teammates to homer from both sides of the plate in a game since Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams did it for the New York Yankees on April 23, 2000. It had never been done on opening day.
In fact, today and that Yankees game are the only two times that's happened since 1954. More generally, two switch-hitters have each homered twice in the same game only five times in that span:
  • Today, obviously - Lopez homered off RHP Aaron Cook in the 1st inning and LHP Glendon Rusch in the 4th inning. Clark homered off Cook in the 3rd and Rusch in the 5th.

  • September 25, 2008 - The Rays' Ben Zobrist hit two home runs off RHP Armando Galarraga, one in the first inning and one in the eighth. Meanwhile, the Tigers' Ramon Santiago homered off LHP Scott Kazmir in the 1st inning and the 3rd inning. Obviously each guy's home runs were from the same side of the plate.

  • July 4, 2003 - Bill Mueller and Jason Varitek both homered twice for the Red Sox against the Yankees. Mueller homered off LHP David Wells in the 6th inning and RHP Dan Miceli in the 9th inning. Varitek homered off Wells in the 3rd and 6th.

  • The aforementioned April 23, 2000 game - Bernie Williams homered off Blue Jays RHP Frank Castillo in the first inning and LHP Clayton Andrews in the fourth inning. Jorge Posada hit round-trippers off the same pitchers but in the second and fourth innings.

  • August 14, 1996 - In the second-last season of his career, Eddie Murray hit a home run off RHP Jeff D'Amico in the third inning of a game against Milwaukee. He followed it up with a home run off RHP Ricky Bones in the 8th inning. His teammate Roberto Alomar drove one out off D'Amico in the 2nd inning and hit a homer off LHP Ron Villone in the 8th.
The long and short of it: for at least forty years there weren't any games featuring 2 HR by two switch-hitters but today saw the fifth one since 1996.