That other October tradition, Major League Baseball's World Series, is upon us, so I thought I'd discuss that a little. And for those readers who prefer my posts about weird and repugnant foods, don't fret, next week I'll return to those.
To baseball fans, one of the neat things about the World Series is that it's a short series (best of 7 games, and a few in the distant past that were best of 9), so sometimes odd, unpredictable events happen. A star hurler might pitch poorly, or a terrible hitter might inexplicably do very well. Hitting a home run is a good example of this. No one's that surprised when Babe Ruth goes yard in a World Series game, but plenty of people are when Tito Landrum does (even, probably, Tito Landrum). Last night, in Game 1 of the current Series between the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs, Indian catcher Roberto Perez hit two home runs, even though he only hit a total of three in the entire regular season. I got to thinking, who were the most unlikely Series home run hitters? Therefore, I went back through the records, and looked at every player who hit at least one. Then I looked at their lifetime accumulation of home runs in their regular season careers. I broke ties by going by number of at bats. Obviously, pitchers tend to be much worse hitters than position players, so they are well represented in this category. Since I was interested in poor position players, too, I'm including two lists--one including pitchers, and one with just position players. I'll list the information for each players as follows:
Player name, position, team and year they hit their World Series home run(s), lifetime regular season home runs, lifetime at bats, lifetime batting average/on base percentage/slugging average, and lifetime adjusted OPS (on base percentage plus slugging average, adjusted for playing era, ballpark, etc., with 100 being average, abbreviated OPS+). Also, note that the years from about 1900-1920 are known as the Dead Ball Era. During this time, due to a variety of factors, home runs were hard to come by--sometimes the season leader might be less than 10. So I'll note those players who played solely or mostly during this time, with this limiting factor, with a DB abbreviation.
Here's the position abbreviations: P= pitcher, 1B= first baseman, 2B=second baseman, 3B= third baseman, SS= shortstop, C= catcher, OF= outfielder PR= pinch runner PH= pinch hitter INF= infielder
So here's the list with pitchers included:
1) Mickey Lolich, P, Detroit Tigers, 1968. 0 home runs. 821 at bats, .110/.215/.121 OPS+ (-2)
2) Joe Blanton, P, Philadelphia Phillies, 2008. 0 home runs, 216 at bats, .106/.153/.106 OPS+ (-29)
3) Rosy Ryan, P New York Giants, 1924. 1 home run, 268 at bats, .190/.249/.231 OPS+ 28
4) Jose Santiago, P Boston Red Sox, 1967. 1 home run, 162 at bats, .173/.211/.228 OPS+ 24
5) Tom Thevenow, SS,2B,3B, St. Louis Cardinals, 1926. 2 home runs, 4164 at bats, .247/.285/.294 OPS+ 51 (Also, all 3 or his lifetime home runs were inside the park ones.)
6) Jim Bagby, P Cleveland Indiatns, 1920. 2 home runs, 660 at bats, .218/.256/.298 OPS+ 52 DB
7) Ken Holtzman, P Oakland Athletics, 1974. 2 home runs, 607 at bats, .163/.186/.208 OPS+ 8
8) Tom Lawless, 2B, 3B, PR, St.Louis Cardinals, 1987. 2 home runs, 531 at bats, .207/.263/.258 OPS+ 47
9) Jesse Haines, P, St. Louis Cardinals, 1926. 3 home runs, 1124 at bats, .186/.208/.218 OPS+ 12
10) Chick Fewster, 2B, SS, OF, New York Yankees, 1921. 6 home runs, 1963 at bats, .258/.346/.326 OPS+ 77 DB
11) Jimmy Sebring, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates, 1903. 6 home runs, 1411 at bats, .261/.308/.355 OPS+ 94 DB
12) Mudcat Grant, P, Minnesota Twins, 1965. 6 home runs, 759 at bats, .178/.216/.240 OPS+ 27
13) Charlie Culberson, INF, Los Angeles Dodgers, 2017. 6 home runs, 411 at bats, .231/.272/.324 OPS+ 57
Now here's the list excluding full time pitchers:
1) Tom Lawless, 2 home runs, see above for other stats
2) Tom Thevenow, 2 home runs, see above
3) Chick Fewster, 6 home runs, see above
4) Jimmy Sebring, 6 home runs, see above
5) Charlie Culberson, 6 home runs, see above. (Culberson is 28 and an active players as of October 2017, so he may well hit more, assuming his career continues, obviously.)
6) Al Weis, 2B, SS,3B, New York Mets, 1969. 7 home runs, 1578 at bats, .219/.278/.275 OPS+ 59
7) Jack Bentley, P, 3B, PH, New York Giants, 1924. 7 home runs, 584 at bats, .291/.316/.406 OPS+ 90 DB
8) Marty Castillo, 3B, C, Detroit Tigers, 1984. 8 home runs, 352 at bats, .190/.231/.301 OPS+ 47
9) Bill Bathe, C, PH, San Francisco Giants, 1989. 8 home runs, 183 at bats, .213/.251/.377 OPS+ 75
10) Bucky Harris, 2B, Washington Senators, 1924. 9 home runs, 4736 at bats, .274/.352/.354 OPS+86
11) Davy Jones, OF, Detroit Tigers, 1909. 9 home runs, 3774 at bats, .270/.356/.325 OPS+ 103 DB
12) Phil Linz, 2B, SS, 3B, New York Yankees, 1964. 11 home runs, 1372 at bats, .235/.295/.311 OPS+ 72
13) Eric Bruntlett, SS, 2B, OF, Philadelphia Phillies, 2008. 11 home runs, 789 at bats, .231/.303/.330 OPS + 65
(Update--Roberto Perez of the Cleveland Indians used to be on this list, but he hit 8 more homers in 2017, bringing his lifetime total up to 19, and presumably counting. Joe Blanton is still active, too, but since he's now a relief pitcher, and a monumentally bad hitter, I seriously doubt he'll ever hit a regular season home run.)
And if you're curious, Bucky Harris and pitcher Dave McNally (Baltimore Orioles, 1969 and 1970) are the players with the fewest lifetime home runs (9) to hit 2 in World Series competition, followed by Phil Linz (11).
Finally, going the other way, here are the players with the most lifetime regular season home runs who hit 0 in the World Series.
1) Willie Mays, 660 home runs (5th on the all time list), none in Series play, 71 at bats with the New York Giants (1951, 1954), San Francisco Giants (1962), and New York Mets (1972).
2) Ken Griffey, Jr., 630 home runs, (6th all time) none in Series play, no World Series appearances.)
3) Sammy Sosa, 609 home run, (8th all time), none in Series play, no World Series appearances.
4) Rafael Palmeiro, 569 home runs (13th all time), none in Series play, no World Series appearances.
5) Frank Thomas, 521 home runs (tied for 20th all time), none in Series play, no World Series appearances.
5) Ted Williams, 521 home runs (tied for 20th all time), none in Series play, 25 at bats in 1946 World Series with the Boston Red Sox.