Friday, May 9, 2014


OK, we're now into the decline phase when it comes to hitting homers. Why's that?

Clearly, no one is going to hit 500+ HRs and spend the bulk of his career batting in the back half of the batting order.

And as the leader lists for batting order positions (BOP) #5 and #6 will demonstrate, many of the leaders on these lists didn't actually hit the most HRs while batting in these lineup slots.

Let's start with Jimmie Foxx. "The Beast," as he was known, hit 203 HRs from BOP #5 (including all of his 58 homers in 1932); however, he hit 230 HRs batting cleanup. Foxx spent his years with the A's mostly in the #5 slot, hitting behind Mickey Cochrane (BOP #3) and Al Simmons (BOP #4). That didn't change until 1933, after Simmons was sold to the White Sox.

Norm Cash, #2 on the BOP #5 list, actually did hit more homers in that slot than anywhere else. Cash batted fifth in 156 games dhring 1961, the year he hit .361.

Next: Ernie Banks. Mr. Cub hit 195 homers in the cleanup slot, as opposed to 161 in BOP #5.

#4 on the BOP #5 list is Robin Ventura. His 159 HRs is the first instance of a batter hitting more than half of his lifetime HRs in the #5 slot.

Orlando Cepeda, #5: once again, more HRs batting cleanup (187) than batting #5 (159).

So...four of the top five HR hitters in BOP #5 are what we might call "carpetbaggers."

Now, how about the #6 slot? Will that "carpetbagging" pattern hold?

Right out the box, Graig Nettles grabs our thesis by the neck and throws to the floor for a takedown. Graig hit more homers batting in the #6 BOP than anywhere else, though his overall percentage of HRs hit while batting sixth is only 37% of his lifetime total.

Likewise, Jorge Posada hit more homers in the #6 slot than anywhere else, but (again) it was a majority (42%).

Our #3 man on the BOP #6 list, Vinny Castilla, also shows his highest HR total in the #6 slot, but once again his percentage (35%) is low.

It seems that these are guys who found themselves moved around in the batting order a good bit more than hitters in the key lineup slots.

Jay Buhner had a neck-and-neck race between #5 and #6, with #6 having a razor-thin edge when all the precincts were counted (110 to 105).

The #5 man on the BOP #6 list, Gil Hodges, actually did hit more homers in the #5 slot (138) than in the #6 slot (110). He also had 400+ more plate appearances. When we look at Hodges' BOP splits by year, we see that Walt Alston moved him around a lot, from #4 to #7. Alston did a lot more lineup tinkering with a group of hitters who you'd think might just be set down into a fixed batting order and allowed to let it rip; someone might have fun looking at that in greater detail.

There are a lot of catchers on this list: Posada (#2), Gene Tenace (#6), Carlton Fisk (#7, though the original Pudge hit a few more HRs batting fifth than sixth, thanks nearly a thousand more plate appearances), Javy Lopez (#8), Benito Santiago (#12!!), Ed Bailey (#14), and the other Pudge, Ivan Rodriguez (#25, though oddly enough he hit more HRs in the #2 slot than anywhere else).

But let's go back to Santiago for a moment. First, you are probably not going to believe that Benny hit as many HRs as he did (lifetime total: 217). He even hit 30 in a season (with the Phillies in 1996). No doubt about, there is some startling (and possibly dangerous) info to be found at Forman et fils.

Hitters common to both leader lists: Gil Hodges (#8 on BOP #5 #5 on BOP #6); Ron Cey (#11 on BOP #5, #16 on BOP #6); Lee May (#12 on BOP #5, #21 on BOP #6); Gary Gaetti (#18 on BOP #5, #11 on BOP #6)

Most homers in a single season for BOP #5? We already told you, but just so you won't strain your neck: Jimmie Foxx, 58, 1932. And BOP #6? Troy Glaus, 39, 2000. The top five single-season guys for BOP #6 are, perhaps unsurprisingly, clustered between 1996-2000; there's a much wider time range for BOP #5, from Foxx in 1932 to Chris Davis (#4 with 38 in 2013).

We'll be back with the dregs (#7-8-9) next time. Stay tuned...