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Santana the Late-Blooming Hitter July 7, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Last night, Johan Santana hit his first home run in his 87th career game as a batter. (Granted, he’s played far more than that many games because he played a few years in the American League.) Out of curiosity, I checked Baseball-Reference.com’s Play Index to see how many home runs have been hit by pitchers in their first 87 games as batters.

Since 1961, there have been 431 home runs (although the Play Index only lists games starting at 1970, so that may or may not be accurate). Four pitchers have hit home runs in their first games, including Yankee pitching coach Dave Eiland in 1992 and Rockies pitcher Jason Jennings. Like Johan, Jennings pitched a complete game shutout for the win that night.

The all-time leader in home runs by a pitcher in the first 87 games (how’s that for esoteric?) is Yovani Gallardo, who’s in his fourth season pitching for the Brewers. He’s hit seven of them, and as of July 4 he’s only hit in 71 games. He’s got a lot of time to pick up the pace and possibly hit the triple-digit mark when he gets back from the disabled list some time after July 20.

At the other end… June 22, 2010

Posted by tomflesher in Baseball.
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Although AJ Burnett had a bad first inning last night, the Oakland As had a bad tenth inning. After taking a 2-2 game into extra innings, the Cincinnati Reds knocked three out of the park against pitchers Michael Wuertz and Cedrick Bowers. The first was hit by Ramon Hernandez; Joey Votto and Scott Rolen went deep back to back. Although extra-inning home runs aren’t very rare (there have been 35 so far this year), only three pitchers have surrendered more than one, and neither of the other two (Chad Durbin and Matt Belisle) gave them both up on the same night.

Last year, everyone’s favorite balk-off artist, Arizona’s Esmerling Vasquez, gave up two home runs in extra innings against the Texas Rangers on June 25th. Those were two of 83 free-baseball homers in 2009. Extra-innings home runs are more common in the tops of innings, because in a tied game a home run for the home team is a walk-off whereas the road team will get the chance to capitalize on their momentum, but I would have expected the proportions to be much more different than they are. In 2009, for example, of those 83, only 44 were hit by the away team with 39 hit by the home team (and 33 of those were game-enders).

So far, no batter has more than one extra-innings home run this year, but last year there were several. Andre Ethier led the pack with 3, with a bunch of batters who had 2.