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10 Things I Didn’t Know About Home Runs Allowed by Deadball Pitchers

Posted by Chris J. on August 13, 2007

I like doing goofy searches on the Play Index.  Here's one - which deadball pitchers allowed the most homers?  These guys did.  Some thoughts:

1) No hitter blasted as many homers as Clarkson & Nichols gave up.  For perspective, Robin Roberts allowed the most homers ever, (505), but that would only tie him with Frank Thomas, who is currently 20th on the all-time list.  Oh, and Cy Young allowed exactly as many as Connor hit.  This has more to do with changing in hitting philosophies than a sign of how homer-ific those olden pitchers were.  As great a bopper as Connor was, not nearly as much of his value came from his homers compared to modern sluggers.  As you get the liveball, homers increase a player's value, and hitting strategies change causing some men to really go all out for it more.

2) The impressive guy on that list isn't Nichols or Young or Clarkson.  It's Jack Stivetts in fourth place.  He was in the top 5 for homers allowed every time he tossed 200 IP.  131 HR allowed in under 2900 IP?  In his career the game averaged about a homer every 32 IP.  He averaged one every 22.  He and Nichols were teammates

3) From 1900-19, (the real deadball years) the pichers who allowed the most were Christy Mathewson (91)  and Jack Powell (85).

4) I don't know who Hub Perdue was, but while pitching less than 1000 IP in the 1910s, he allowed more homers than Eddie Plank and as many as Mordecai Brown.  He was actually on a Stivetts-ian pace, despite the fact that homers were much rarer in the Progressive Era than the Gilded Age.

5) Of all those 19th century 300 game winners, Tim Keefe was the hardest to homer off of, and it's not even close.  He allowed 81 homers, and all the other guys (Welch, Young, Clarkson, Nichols, Galvin, Radbourn) are over 100.

I'm going to switch it up a little.  Let's cut it in half: 1876-99, & 1900-19, because homers were more plentiful in the former era.  And let's look at HR/9IP here.

6) In the 1890s, Jack Stivetts really was the easiest guy to homer off of.   (Min: 1500 IP)

7) The guys on the very bottom of that list are all from the 1870s, but looking up it you can see that Jumbo McGinnis was the hardest to homer off of during the 1880s, and Billy Rhines was the big groundballer in the 1890s.

8) Really, there's no one close to Billy Rhines.  He's at 0.12, and next lowest (Sadie McMahon) is at 0.18, 50% higher.

9) Mathewson may have allowed the most homers from 1900-19, but that was a product of IP.  Going by IP/9, his teammate Doc Crandall was the easiest to homer off of.  Rube Marquard was also up there.  Third on the list, Hooks Wiltse, also was a Giant.  I'm smelling park effect.

10) Toughest to homer off of was Ed Killian.  He once went 3 seasons in which he pitched almost 800 IP without allowing a homer.  Neat trick.  The next four guys on the list - Joss, Walsh, Johnson & Plank - are all Hall of Famers.  They're all also AL pitchers, as was Killian.  The next two were also AL pitchers.  Sam Leever was the hardest NL pitcher to homer off of.  Highest AL pitcher was Bill Dineen.  He did pitch in the NL in 1901, but that was within his normal HRA rate that year.

One Response to “10 Things I Didn’t Know About Home Runs Allowed by Deadball Pitchers”

  1. birtelcom Says:

    Great stuff. Just for sake of comparison, Hub Perdue, the pitcher you identified with the highest HR rate in the 1900-1919 period, gave up homers at a 0.42 homers per 9 IP rate. The currently active pitcher with the lowest career HR rate (min. 200 career IP) is Mariano Rivera, whose career HR/9 IP rate is just a tiny amount higher than Perdue's at 0.46. Perdue and Mariano have just about the same number of IP in their careers as well, Perdue at 918 career IP, and Rivera currently at 931 IP. In raw data terms, Mariano has given up 48 HRs, Perdue gave up 43.