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Leading off a post-season game with a homer

Posted by Andy on September 30, 2009

With the playoffs quickly approaching, I got curious to see the list of players to lead off a post-season game with a home run. This was done using the Post-season Batting Event Finder.

  Car#  G# Date          Series G Batter            Tm   Opp Pitcher           Score       Inn RoB Out Cnt Pit RBI Play Desc.
+-----+---+-------------+------+-+-----------------+---+----+-----------------+-----------+---+---+---+---+---+---+-------------------------+
     1   1 1909-10-13    WS     5 Davy Jones        DET @PIT Babe Adams        tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0  -        1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Deep CF)
     2   1 1953-10-04    WS     5 Gene Woodling     NYY @BRO Johnny Podres     tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0  -        1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Deep LF)
     3   1 1954-09-30    WS     2 Al Smith          CLE @NYG Johnny Antonelli  tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0  -        1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Deep LF)
     4   1 1968-10-06    WS     4 Lou Brock         STL @DET Denny McLain      tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0  -        1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Deep CF-RF)
     5   1 1972-10-20    WS     5 Pete Rose         CIN @OAK Catfish Hunter    tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0  -        1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Deep CF-RF)
     6   1 1973-10-07    ALCS   2 Bert Campaneris   OAK @BAL Dave McNally      tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0  -        1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (LF-CF)
     7   1 1978-10-06    ALCS   3 George Brett      KCR @NYY Catfish Hunter    tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 1-1   3   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
     8   1 1986-10-21    WS     3 Lenny Dykstra     NYM @BOS Oil Can Boyd      tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 1-1   3   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep RF Line)
     9   1 1989-10-28    WS     4 Rickey Henderson  OAK @SFG Don Robinson      tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 2-0   3   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep LF)
    10   1 1991-10-12    NLCS   3 Orlando Merced    PIT @ATL John Smoltz       tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 0-0   1   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep CF)
    11   1 1995-10-04    NLDS   2 Marquis Grissom   ATL @COL Lance Painter     tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 0-0   1   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF)
    12   1 2000-10-07    NLDS   3 Fernando Vina     STL @ATL Kevin Millwood    tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 0-1   2   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    13   1 2000-10-25    WS     4 Derek Jeter       NYY @NYM Bobby Jones       tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 0-0   1   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    14   1 2001-10-17    NLCS   2 Marcus Giles      ATL @ARI Miguel Batista    tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 0-0   1   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    15   1 2002-10-04    ALDS   3 Ray Durham        OAK @MIN Rick Reed         tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 1-1   3   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Inside-the-park Home Run to CF
    16   1 2004-10-21    NLCS   7 Craig Biggio      HOU @STL Jeff Suppan       tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 1-2   4   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    17   1 2004-10-27    WS     4 Johnny Damon      BOS @STL Jason Marquis     tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 2-1   4   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    18   1 2007-10-04    ALDS   1 Johnny Damon      NYY @CLE C.C. Sabathia     tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 3-1   5   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    19   1 2007-10-06    NLDS   3 Chris Young       ARI @CHC Rich Hill         tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 0-0   1   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    20   1 2007-10-08    ALDS   4 Grady Sizemore    CLE @NYY Chien-Ming Wang   tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 1-1   3   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run
    21   1 2008-10-05    NLDS   4 Jimmy Rollins     PHI @MIL Jeff Suppan       tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 3-2   6   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Line Drive to Deep RF)
    22   1 2008-10-15    NLCS   5 Jimmy Rollins     PHI @LAD Chad Billingsley  tied   0-0  t 1 ---   0 3-2   8   1 *LEADOFF GM*:Home Run (Fly Ball to Deep CF-RF)

Lots and lots of good players populate this list, both the batters and pitchers.

I checked the record of the teams in these games. Here are the outcomes of the 22 games (from the point of view of the team hitting the leadoff HR) as you read down the column above.

LWLWWWLWWLWWWWWLWLWWWW

So that's a record of 16-6 (.727) in those 22 games. Not too surprising--with run-scoring at a premium in the playoffs, single runs have a bigger impact on the outcome.

A few other tidbits:

  • There is one series--the 2007 ALDS--that appears twice here, with the Yankees' Johnny Damon and the Indians' Grady Sizemore both leading off different games in that series with homers. The Indians won both games, as well as the series.
  • Just 1 out of these 22 games was Game 1 of its series. That's a little surprising, although so many Game 1's are pitched by aces that it's not too surprising.
  • Finally, I would remiss if I didn't mention how much more common the leadoff HR has become, with more than half of these games coming since the 1990s. While there are more playoff games now thanks to the extra layers of playoffs (meaning more total playoff games per year and hence more chances for leadoff HR) the more recent era is over-represented, thanks to the increased overall prevelance of home runs in the game.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 30th, 2009 at 7:22 am and is filed under Event Finders, Postseason. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Leading off a post-season game with a homer”

  1. KC had George Brett leading off??? I always thought he middle of the order guy his whole career. Takin' a look at his 1978 splits now... wow, he started 39 games in the leadoff spot, more than any besides the 3rd spot in the order. I never imagined.

  2. DoubleDiamond Says:

    I must confess to being old enough - and already a working adult at that - to remember Pete Rose's lead-off homer on a Friday afternoon game in Oakland in 1972.

    It may seem strange now to hear about daytime World Series games, but the first such night game wasn't played until the previous year, 1971. And then, I think it was only one game of what became a 7-game World Series.

    But in 1972, I think that all three scheduled weekday games were supposed to be night games. These were games 3, 4, and, if needed, 5, scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Since these were going to be played in the American League city, and Oakland was the AL team, the games were probably scheduled to start in the late afternoon there.

    Game 3, scheduled to be played in Eastern Time Zone prime time in Oakland, was rained out. Yes, it sometimes rains in Northern California, particularly at that time of year. So, game 5, which did become necessary, with the A's holding a 3-1 lead over Cincinnati at the time, was played on Friday afternoon, probably starting around 4:00 p.m. Eastern time.

    My boss brought a little black-and-white T.V. to work that day so that he could watch the game. Once it got underway, he called out to the rest of us that Pete Rose had led off the game with a home run. Rose was known for many things, but home run hitting was not one of them. But I guess with his team facing elimination, he came out ready to lead them to victory. And indeed the Reds did stave off elimination that day and the next one, played back home in Cincinnati, before falling in game 7.

    I see that Rose's "victim", Catfish Hunter, gave up another such homer later in his career, but as in 1972, his team still won the World Series that year.