Baseball BeatAugust 09, 2003
The Greatest and Most Obscure...Part II
By Rich Lederer

Extra, Extra! Pinto Collision Results in Recall.

David Pinto, the author of Baseball Musings, responded to last weekend's article on The Greatest and Most Obscure Home Run Hitters of All Time in a post on his widely read blog last Monday. Based on the fact that Cy Williams (who ranks as one of the four most prolific sluggers in baseball history based on the number of HR hit vs. the league average) accumulated 161 four baggers at home and only 90 on the road, David writes that Cy's HR rate at home was 79% higher than for away games. Pinto proceeds to make the case that the power-hitting outfielder's ranking among home run sluggers should be discounted accordingly. David backs up his argument by pointing out that Babe Ruth (347-367) and Hank Aaron (386-370) hit almost the same number of HR at home as on the road.

Although I mentioned that Cy Williams benefited greatly by playing the majority of his home games in the HR-friendly confines of the Baker Bowl (see photo above), David's reply motivated me to determine where Williams would have placed in these same rankings after adjusting the number of HR hit at home to equal those on the road.

The following list ranks the top 25 HR hitters in modern baseball history relative to the league average home run rate:

HOMERUNS                        RATE   PLAYER   LEAGUE
1    Babe Ruth                   777      714       92   
2    Lou Gehrig                  426      493      116   
3    Jimmie Foxx                 407      534      131   
4    Cy Williams                 390      251       64   
5    Ken Williams                378      196       52   
6    Mel Ott                     372      511      137   
7    Rogers Hornsby              365      301       82   
8    Hank Greenberg              362      331       91   
9    Ted Williams                359      521      145   
10   Hack Wilson                 351      244       69   
11   Home Run Baker              351       96       27   
12   Tilly Walker                347      118       34   
13   Johnny Mize                 336      359      107   
14   Mark McGwire                328      583      178   
15   Harry Davis                 317       69       22   
16   Wally Berger                311      242       78   
17   Chuck Klein                 309      300       97   
18   Dolph Camilli               305      239       78   
19   Mike Schmidt                303      548      181   
20   Ralph Kiner                 302      369      122   
21   Joe DiMaggio                299      361      121   
22   Rudy York                   291      277       95   
23   Jack Fournier               283      136       48   
24   Mickey Mantle               282      536      190   
25   Dave Kingman                281      442      157
As shown, Williams ranks fourth all time in career HR divided by the league average based on outs. He actually ranks second based on plate appearances. By adjusting Williams' totals to exclude the "extra" HR he slugged by virtue of playing the majority of his home games at the Baker Bowl and give him an equivalent number of HR at home as on the road, it could be argued that Williams would have hit 180 HR in a more normalized environment (rather than 251). This reduced total divided by the league average of 64 results in a rate of 281, or good enough to tie Dave Kingman for 25th all time. Based on this study, I think it is only fair to conclude that Cy Williams wasn't just a great home run hitter because of the ballpark but instead was one of the very best HR sluggers relative to his era ever.

One final note: Among players ranked higher than Cy Williams' adjusted home run rate, only Ken Williams, Tilly Walker, Harry Davis, Wally Berger, Dolph Camilli, Rudy York, and Jack Fournier are not in the Hall of Fame. All of these batsmen led the league in roundtrippers one time with the exception being Harry Davis, who topped the A.L. four consecutive years (1904-1907).