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Highest HR rate

Posted by Andy on August 18, 2007

For players with fewer than 200 career hits, here are the leaders among home runs:

  Cnt Player             HR   H  From  To
+----+-----------------+---+----+----+----+
    1 Bobby Estalella    48  195 1996 2004 
    2 Chris Duncan       43  172 2005 2007 
    3 Frank Fernandez    39  145 1967 1972 
    4 Jack Graham        38  179 1946 1949 
    5 Dave Hostetler     37  187 1981 1988 
    6 Mike Simms         36  163 1990 1999 
    7 Earl Wilson        35  144 1959 1970 
    8 Bob Thurman        35  163 1955 1959 
    9 Ken Hunt           33  177 1959 1964 
   10 Brian Buchanan     32  198 2000 2004 

This list was created with a summed Batting Season Finder with the restriction of not more than 200 total hits.

Doing a little extra math on my own, we can re-order this list by percentage of those hits that were homers:

   88 Kevin Roberson     20   61 1993 1996  32.8%
   79 Jack Harshman      21   76 1948 1960  27.6%
    3 Frank Fernandez    39  145 1967 1972  26.9%
    2 Chris Duncan       43  172 2005 2007  25.0%
  141 Jim Baxes          17   69 1959 1959  24.6%
    1 Bobby Estalella    48  195 1996 2004  24.6%
   57 J.R. Phillips      23   94 1993 1999  24.5%
    7 Earl Wilson        35  144 1959 1970  24.3%
   35 Jack Cust          25  104 2001 2007  24.0%
  167 Josh Hamilton      15   63 2007 2007  23.8%

Wow, this is an interesting list. Duncan, Cust, and Hamilton are the active players on here, and are probably likely to have their HR rates drop off. Hamilton's got an interesting backstory, overcoming drug addiction to make it to the majors. Cust was a highly-regarded power hitter in the minors who has bounced around a lot (5 teams in 6 major league seasons!) but perhaps will stick with Oakland. Chris Duncan might be the most impressive guy on this list because he's close to 200 hits already but has maintained such a high home-run rate of exactly 25%. (Incidentally, Chris' brother Shelley Duncan has 6 HR in 13 career hits so far, a ridiculous rate of 46%, and for the sake of completeness, their dad Dave Duncan had 109 HR in 617 career hits, 17.7%)

Does anybody out there know the story of Jim Baxes? He had one very productive season and then never played again. All I could see was that he passed away in 1996.

Here are the leaders for players with between 201 and 500 hits in their career:

  Cnt Player             HR   H  From  To   Ages
+----+-----------------+---+----+----+----+-----+
    1 Ken Phelps        123  443 1980 1990 25-35 
    2 Russell Branyan   119  420 1998 2007 22-31 
    3 Ryan Howard       115  381 2004 2007 24-27 
    4 Luke Easter        93  472 1949 1954 33-38 
    5 Phil Plantier      91  457 1990 1997 21-28 
    6 Shane Andrews      86  375 1995 2002 23-30 
    7 Willie Greene      86  446 1992 2000 20-28 
    8 Pat Seerey         86  406 1943 1949 20-26 
    9 Adam LaRoche       83  454 2004 2007 24-27 
   10 Bubba Trammell     82  469 1997 2003 25-31 
   11 Roger Repoz        82  480 1964 1972 23-31 

And again with some math added in, here are the leaders from the 201-500 hit group by HR percentage:

    3 Ryan Howard       115  381 2004 2007 24-27  30.2%
    2 Russell Branyan   119  420 1998 2007 22-31  28.3%
    1 Ken Phelps        123  443 1980 1990 25-35  27.8%
   68 Marcus Thames      58  218 2002 2007 25-30  26.6%
   80 Dave Ross          55  211 2002 2007 25-30  26.1%
   49 Sam Horn           62  250 1987 1995 23-31  24.8%
   32 Johnny Blanchard   67  285 1955 1965 22-32  23.5%
    6 Shane Andrews      86  375 1995 2002 23-30  22.9%
   38 Kevin Maas         65  287 1990 1995 25-30  22.6%
   27 Prince Fielder     67  297 2005 2007 21-23  22.6%

Interesting that this list (as compared to the one for <200 hits) is much more focused on more recent players. That's due to the regression to the mean. The more hits a player has, the harder it is to maintain a HR rate higher than league average, so the closer the rates tend to regress to the league average for the era they played in. Since HR rates are much higher in the 1990s-present than earlier in baseball, it's not surprising that players from the current era are represented more.

This list is also pretty neat. The Phillies currently have #1 (Howard) and #2 (Branyan) on this list. Yankee fans in their 30s or later will remember Ken Phelps and Kevin Maas.  Interesting to see two current journeymen, Thames and Ross, here. Sam Horn is so famous he has a website named after him (well--him plus a famous serial killer...) I wonder about Prince Fielder. He's got amazing talent, but he also seems possible that he might have a temper issue. So far he reminds me of Joey Belle (not yet of Albert Belle.)

Here are the leaders for career hits 501 to 1000:

  Cnt Player             HR   H  From  To   Ages
+----+-----------------+---+----+----+----+-----+
    1 Adam Dunn         230  803 2001 2007 21-27 
    2 Rob Deer          230  853 1984 1996 23-35 
    3 Pat Burrell       205  997 2000 2007 23-30 
    4 Todd Hundley      202  883 1990 2003 21-34 
    5 Glenn Davis       190  965 1984 1993 23-32 
    6 Steve Balboni     181  714 1981 1993 24-36 
    7 Woodie Held       179  963 1954 1969 22-37 
    8 Jim Gentile       179  759 1957 1966 23-32 
    9 Ron Kittle        176  648 1982 1991 24-33 
   10 Nate Colbert      173  833 1966 1976 20-30 

And again by percentage:

    1 Adam Dunn         230  803 2001 2007 21-27  28.6%
    9 Ron Kittle        176  648 1982 1991 24-33  27.2%
    2 Rob Deer          230  853 1984 1996 23-35  27.0%
    6 Steve Balboni     181  714 1981 1993 24-36  25.4%
    8 Jim Gentile       179  759 1957 1966 23-32  23.6%
   31 Bo Jackson        141  598 1986 1994 23-31  23.6%
    4 Todd Hundley      202  883 1990 2003 21-34  22.9%
   85 Carlos Pena       112  502 2001 2007 23-29  22.3%
   34 Travis Hafner     136  628 2002 2007 25-30  21.7%
   10 Nate Colbert      173  833 1966 1976 20-30  20.8%

By the way, Teixeira missed this list by 6 thousandths of a percentage point (20.768% for Colbert and 20.762% for Teixeira.)
Rob Deer is the guy we all think of for lists like this. Nice to see him where he belongs. Carlos Pena has muscled his way onto this list with his breakout season this year (26 HR in just 92 hits.)

I notice that as the hit threshold has gone up across these lists (from <200 to 201-500 to 501-100), the players who make up the top percentage lists are guys who hit more career homers. In other words, if you look right above at the 501-1000 list, all players except Pena rank in the top 34 for career HR among that group. But if you go back to the 201-500 list, Horn, Thames, Ross, and Maas all rank lower than that. And in the first list (<200), there are several guys in the range 70 to 170.)

Why would this be? I'm guessing that the issue is playing time.  To have at least 500 career hits, most players need at least 3-4 seasons. If your HR% is high enough to make it into the top 10 on this list, and you've already played at least 3-4 seasons, you are going to be a pretty significant star, because you've already hit at least 100 career MLB homers. That means you are likely to play more, and if you can maintain close to the same HR rate, you'll also end up ranking high in total homers. Does that make sense? If not, please post your own theory.

If anybody's interested, I can post the leaders for > 1000 hits.

This entry was posted on Saturday, August 18th, 2007 at 6:53 am and is filed under Season Finders. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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