This is our old blog. It hasn't been active since 2011. Please see the link above for our current blog or click the logo above to see all of the great data and content on this site.

Pitchers with the best ratio of HR hit to HR given up

Posted by Andy on April 29, 2011

Since 1901, there are 196 pitchers who've hit at least 5 HR in their careers. These are guys who appeared in at least 50% of their games as a pitcher (so, no Babe Ruth or Brooks Kieschnick.)

I used a two-tier search to then find the career HR yielded by each of these guys, and then in Excel found those with the best ratios of HR hit to HR yielded.

Reb Russell	3.14
Ed Karger	0.50
Harry Howell	0.45
Clay Bryant	0.38
Dixie Howell	0.38
R Winegarner	0.38
Claude Hendrix	0.34
Garland Buckeye	0.33
Pete Schneider	0.31
Wes Ferrell	0.29

Now, Reb Russell really shouldn't count. According to his BR Bullpen article, he was a pitcher with the White Sox in the 1910's but came back as a full-time outfielder after blowing out his arm.

26 Responses to “Pitchers with the best ratio of HR hit to HR given up”

  1. Eric Says:

    Off the top of my head for current pitchers, Yovani Gallardo is at .19, Micah Owings .164, and Carlos Zambrano .162. That's all HR hit by Owings; I didn't weed out any ones hit as a pinch hitter.

  2. Gerry Says:

    So, Reb Russell's ratio is pi? That's enough reason for counting him, as far as I'm concerned.

  3. John Autin Says:

    @2 -- Wait a sec ... if Reb Russell's ratio is pi, then are we talking about pi R squared?

    I'd say the discussion has come full circle, but that's not really my area....


  4. John Autin Says:

    Andy -- Fun idea. I'd be interested in seeing more live-ball pitchers, though. About half these guys pitched only in the dead-ball era.

    Other notes:
    -- In 1925, Garland Buckeye allowed 3 HRs in 153 IP and hit the same number himself, all while pitching. That's a rare feat in any time, but especially for the live-ball era. (BTW, with that name, it was only natural that he pitched for Cleveland.)
    -- Claude Hendrix hit 6 of his 14 career HRs in the not-so-major Federal League.

  5. Neil L. Says:

    A tangent..... not the point of Andy's blog but why is good hitting not "encouraged" in modern-era NL pitchers? Is batting practice time so limited that pitchers can't take their cuts for the fences like everybody else? Do NL pitchers only practice sacrifices in the batting cage?

    Where are the modern day Rick Rhoden's with his 75 career RBI and 0.576 OPS?

  6. John Autin Says:

    Forgive me ...
    Random notes from Friday:
    -- Pittsburgh 3, Colorado 0: First Pirates shutout in 74 games in Denver.
    -- Break up the Mariners! They won their 4th straight, and more surprisingly, they scored 5+ for the 4th straight game -- their first 4-game streak since 2007.
    -- Jason Marquis tossed Washington's 3rd CG shutout from 2007-present. Five hits, no walks, 96 pitches. He's 3-0, 2.62, surpassing his win total from last year (2-9, 6.60 in 13 starts).
    -- Cleveland won their 11th straight at home on a walk-off salami. It's their longest home win streak since 1996.
    -- No ribbies for Ben Zobrist.
    -- I recently asked if Jose Bautista had entered the Barry Zone. For April at least, the answer is yes. His last 10 games: 14-29, 6 HRs, 16 walks, 4 Ks. He's on a 174-walk pace for the year; Barry's the only man who's gone there. His 1.337 OPS is strictly Bonds/Ruth territory. And still no GIDP.
    -- Phillies 10, Mets 3: That's 18 grand slams allowed since the last one the Mets hit (August 1, 2009).

    Good night, everyone.

  7. Neil L. Says:

    JA, WRT Bautista's season, I haven't wanted to comment at risk of appearing to be a booster because I live in his market.

    However, he is putting up some unusual, even crooked numbers. For example, tied for the ML lead in runs scored (not counting tonight) not to mention all the offensive categories!

    Still early in the year.

  8. John Autin Says:

    @5, Neil L (you're keeping me awake and interested!) --
    I think there are several factors in the (real) decline in hitting by pitchers:
    -- The DH is now used in almost every league from high school on up, except for the NL and their minor-league teams. There are still some college pitchers who are also serious hitters, but not many. And with some pitchers being tracked into relief specialization in college, fewer college pitchers are even expected to work on their hitting.
    -- With the added time that today's pitchers devote to physical training and watching video, there is less time to work on their hitting.
    -- Because they rarely go the distance, individual pitchers get fewer PAs. In 1975, 27 pitchers got at least 80 PAs; in 2010, just 7 pitchers had that many. And because relievers are rarely allowed to hit, teams average fewer PAs by their pitchers in total. In 1980, NL teams averaged 425 PAs by pitchers; by 2010, that average had declined by 16% to 355.
    -- And yes, I do think there is an "expectation" component. Which is disappointing.

    I would be satisfied if pitchers could be relied on to sacrifice. A well-executed sacrifice is hardly exciting, but at least it's less frustrating than the sorry flailing we see in a lot of sacrifice attempts.

  9. Neil L. Says:

    John A., you are probably bang on but why expect pitchers to be a bust in the lineup? After all they occupy a batting order position so isn't it sabermetrically advantageous for them to be offensively productive.

  10. Nash Bruce Says:

    @9: my guess, is that, "sabermetrically", it would be to the advantage of all clubs, to have your pitchers, actually pitching, rather than dealing with the potential of a career-ending injury, suffered by one of your investments, being forced to "hit"......of course, I don't feel that this is the way, that the game should be, but money ruins everything, and I'd suspect, that NL clubs would take the DH, tomorrow(if not yesterday).

  11. BalBurgh Says:

    The DH is evil. That is all.

  12. Morten Jonsson Says:

    79, .65

    65, .635

    @5 Neil L. asks, "Where are the modern day Rick Rhoden's with his 75 career RBI and 0.576 OPS?"

    I'm sure you're right that hitting by pitchers has declined since the seventies. That's part of a much longer-term trend ("longer-term" meaning since the beginning of organized baseball), and we probably haven't seen the end of it. But there are still some good-hitting pitchers around--better hitters than Rick Rhoden, in fact. Mike Hampton had 75 career rbi and a .650 OPS. Carlos Zambrano has 65 career rbi and a .635 OPS. If he doesn't spontaneously combust or something in the next few years, he's going to get close to 100 rbi. Yovani Gallardo is only 25, and he's already got 26 rbi, with a .678 OPS.

  13. David Bilodeau Says:

    Considering the fact that the last man on an 11 man pitching staff is basically a mop up, come in when it's 12-1 and save the staff kind of guy, will someone explain to me why Micah Owings in not in the Majors with his ability to pinch hit?

  14. Johnny Twisto Says:

    the last man on an 11 man pitching staff

    What do you think this is, 2001? Doubt you'll find any staff smaller than 12 these days.

    With regard to poor pitcher hitting....there were good reasons listed above (and why the hell is there a DH in high school? Idiotic). But I think the most important is that pitchers just don't get enough reps. Two PA every 5-6 days won't keep you sharp, even if you are a talented hitter (and knowing that hitting doesn't pay your bills will allow those skills to regress further). There is evidence that batters don't perform as well when pinch hitting. I think the sporadic playing time is as reponsible as anything for causing pitchers' hitting skills to atrophy. Add on the low expectations, and we're celebrating the couple guys who manage a .600+ OPS.

  15. David Bilodeau Says:

    Check your National League rosters...

  16. Jeff J. Says:

    I still like the fairly extensive list of pitchers who have hit at least as many HR in one season as they've given up.

  17. John Autin Says:

    @13 / @15, David -- I checked the NL rosters, but I still I don't get it. Was your point that Micah Owings should be on the Phillies? They're the only NL team that's currently carrying just 11 pitchers.

    Number of pitchers on current NL rosters, per
    13 -- Brewers
    12 -- Braves, Marlins, Mets, Nationals, Cubs, Reds, Astros, Pirates, Cardinals, Diamondbacks, Rockies, Dodgers, Padres, Giants
    11 -- Phillies

  18. John Autin Says:

    I actually agree with the gist of David Bilodeau's point, though.
    I long to see Micah Owings and his career .293 BA / .538 SLG back in the majors.

    And maybe we won't have to wait long. He's pitching pretty well with Reno in the PCL, with a 3.68 ERA and 3.8 K/BB ratio, in a very high-scoring context. (6.00 team ERA, .324 team BA, .942 team OPS.)

    It's just his bad luck (so far) that he signed a minor-league deal with Arizona this year. The D'backs had a historically bad bullpen last year, but this year they've been halfway decent (4.01 ERA, 13th in the NL).

  19. Neil L. Says:

    JA, who needs relievers when you have the Phillies starting rotation?

    Johnny Twisto, I'd like to get to the bottom of these lower batting expectations for pitchers. JA mentioned them in post 8 also.

    Whatever happened to a pitcher "helping his own cause"? Did these decreased batting expectations coincide with larger contracts in the 1990's?

    JA has suggested in @8 that pitchers have more important things to do than practice hitting. Imagine a hitiing coach working with the pitchers.

    I get trying to protect your investment and prevent injury, but it is still a batting order position and a potential source of offence for the team. Why just concede an out from the nine spot?

  20. John Autin Says:

    Neil L -- While I commiserate with you about the state of pitchers' hitting and believe that some improvement could be achieved, I'm also going to throw something out there for your consideration. It's a passage from the Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract:

    "I have a theory that the quality of play in major league baseball, over time, could be tracked by what we would call 'Peripheral Quality Indicia'.... Hitting by pitchers is a peripheral quality indicator; the higher the quality of play, in my opinion, the less the pitchers will hit. ... [I]f you track major-league baseball from 1876 to the present, all of these indicia, without exception, have advanced steadily." (emphasis added)

    That quote is from the Bob Lemon player ranking, on pp. 876-77 of the 2001 edition. He puts "hitting by pitchers" at the top of his list of 16 peripheral quality indicia.

    While we're chewing on that, I'm going to take a snapshot look at pitchers' hitting relative to the league over the past 60 years.

  21. John Autin Says:

    Here is a comparison of pitchers' OPS to league OPS, looking at 1 year in every 10, starting with 1950. (I started with 1950 because that's the first year for which batting splits are available by position played, rather than by batting order spot.) For the years before the DH, I used data from both leagues; for the years with the DH, I used NL only.

    Pitchers' OPS, League OPS, Pitchers as a % of league:
    1950 -- .459, .748, 61.4%
    1960 -- .401, .712, 56.3%
    1970 -- .380, .711, 53.4%
    1980 -- .390, .695, 56.1%
    1990 -- .342, .704, 48.6%
    2000 -- .381, .773, 49.3%
    2010 -- .353, .723, 48.8%

    (1) Pitchers' hitting has held pretty from 1990 to the present,

    (2) There are two big drops -- 1950-60, and 1980-90. Since these are 1-year snapshots, there is of course the possibility that a year-by-year graph would look smoother. But, treating those drops (for now) as if they were real, and off the top of my head ... If Bill James's theory is right (see #20), the substantial decline in pitchers' hitting from 1950-60 might be traced to an increase in the overall quality of play due to integration, which was still just a trickle in 1950 but had reached full bloom by 1960. I have no instant theory on the 1980-90 decline that is worth sharing at the moment.

    BTW, I did look at the "batting 9th" data for 1920, '30 and '40, even though they include pinch-hitters and so don't properly integrate with the later data. Performance of the #9 spot relative to the league declined from 72.4% in 1920 to 66.1% in 1940.

  22. David Bilodeau Says:

    My point was not that NL rosters have only 11 man staffs. It's clear if you look at the individuals that a reasonable person would assume to be the 11th or 12th or even the 13th man on the staff, you would find that he would be of much greater value if he had another way to contribute. Micah Owings is the poster boy for my argument, but there are most assuredly others as well.

  23. DoubleDiamond Says:

    The Phillies are at 11 temporarily in order to carry 3 catchers.

    The new 7-day DL for concussions ought to set a precedent for a 7-day (or even shorter) minor-injury-to-a-catcher DL. Teams tend to only carry two catchers these days. When any other player suffers a slight injury or discomfort that requires having him sit for a few days, the team usually can go without him for that length of time, with enough depth on the roster. But if it's one of the team's two catchers, they have to bring in another catcher to avoid being stuck with only one player for a position that no one on the team is really qualified to serve as a backup.

    Right now, Carlos Ruiz has a not-serious-enough-for-the-DL condition and is expected back in a few days. So the Phillies sent down a reliever and brought up Dane Sardinha.

  24. Larry R. Says:


    Pi are not squared...pi are round.

  25. Whiz Says:

    @21, surely the 1980 to 1990 decline is due to the DH -- it might take a few years for the DH factor to take effect as better-hitting pitchers retire. A year-by-year list might give more insight there.

  26. Whiz Says:

    @21 again, I looked at yearly numbers for AL and NL separately from 1950-1972 and NL 1973-1990, and I think the 1950-1960 drop-off is more complicated -- it happens for the AL, but not the NL:

    Pitcher ops/League OPS in %:
    NL AL
    1950 57.1 65.2
    1951 56.9 71.5
    1952 55.2 60.6
    1953 58.4 64.6
    1954 54.4 59.4
    1955 63.7 58.7
    1956 56.2 63.9
    1957 55.7 60.2
    1958 56.2 60.1
    1959 51.0 60.7
    1960 55.7 56.8

    The AL % is consistently above the NL %, except for 1955. The NL % is fairly flat, while the AL % goes starts out above the NL % and comes down to meet it.

    The AL % and NL% track each other fairly well from 1960 to 1970 and are fairly flat, with a slight dip in the mid 60's when pitching was dominant. The DH started in 1973, so just looking at the NL % from 1970 to 1986:

    1970 53.1
    1971 56.1
    1972 54.4
    1973 54.3
    1974 59.5
    1975 54.3
    1976 54.8
    1977 55.7
    1978 53.5
    1979 52.9
    1980 56.1
    1981 55.2
    1982 54.2
    1983 51.7
    1984 52.6
    1985 51.3
    1986 49.5

    After 1985 it remains flat, at around 50%. It starts to show weakness in 1978-79, and 1980 was actually an upward fluctuation, but the main drop occurs in the early 80's. Maybe a delayed effect from the introduction of the DH, as the older pitchers retired and the new ones did not concentrate on hitting as much.