Baseball BeatJune 30, 2010
Lefties in the News
By Rich Lederer

No, today's article is not about President Obama or Elena Kagan. Instead, the title is meant to honor two southpaws who made news this week.

  • Recalling my encounter with Cliff Lee on a subway in New York two years ago, colleague Jeremy Greenhouse sent me the following email last night:

    They just mentioned this on Baseball Tonight, which I thought would be of interest to you:

    Lee also allowed two runs in the ninth, but calmly worked out of trouble. He kept his cool earlier in the day, too, when his subway sped through the stop for Yankee Stadium. Lee handled it like a local. He got off and switched to a downtown D train going the other way. No big deal.

    "I'm not afraid to take the subway," Lee said.

    Lee has made a habit of bypassing the team bus in favor of alternative transportation to Yankee Stadium. Taking a taxi to Game One of the 2009 World Series at rush hour, Lee got stuck in traffic and asked the driver to take him to the nearest subway station. He took the local 6 train and changed to the express 4 train, exited at the 161st Ave./Yankee Stadium stop, and walked down the stairs and across the street to the ballpark, just as he did two years ago.

    The lefthander is 43-19 with a 2.81 ERA (151 ERA+) and a 7.0 K/9, 1.3 BB/9, and 0.6 HR/9 since the beginning of his 2008 Cy Young Award campaign. A free agent at the end of this season, Lee is likely to be traded to a contender within the next month. The 31-year-old veteran could give the acquiring team a big boost down the stretch and into October as he was 4-0 with a 1.56 ERA covering five starts and 40.1 IP in the postseason last year.

  • On the subject of southpaws, Jamie Moyer set a MLB record for home runs allowed on Sunday. He passed Robin Roberts, who died in early May. Moyer and Roberts are the only hurlers to allow 500 HR. A rookie in 1986, Moyer, 47, leads all active pitchers by a wide margin. Realistically speaking, Javier Vazquez, Mark Buehrle, and Jon Garland, are the only candidates who could surpass Moyer.

    Here are the career leaders:

    1    Jamie Moyer                 506   
    2    Robin Roberts               505   
    3    Ferguson Jenkins            484   
    4    Phil Niekro                 482   
    5    Don Sutton                  472   
    6    Frank Tanana                448   
    7    Warren Spahn                434   
    8    Bert Blyleven               430   
    9    Steve Carlton               414   
    10   Randy Johnson               411

    The top three all pitched for the Phillies, as did Steve Carlton, who ranks ninth. Six of the ten pitchers are in the Hall of Fame and Bert Blyleven should make it seven in 2011 and Randy Johnson eight when his name appears on the ballot five years from now, leaving Moyer and Frank Tanana as the only non-HOFers to comprise this list. Moyer and Tanana are distinguished for much more than their proclivity of giving up long balls. They have combined for 507 wins and 5,166 strikeouts over 8,243 innings with an ERA+ of 105 and 106, respectively. For more on Moyer, check out the tribute Patrick Sullivan wrote last month.

    As Lee Sinins noted in his ATM Report on Monday, "Even though they are in the top 10 for most HR allowed, Spahn, Blyleven, Carlton and Johnson all allowed less than their league averages. Moyer is only tied for 36th in most HR above the league average."

    HOMERUNS                        DIFF   PLAYER   LEAGUE   
    1    Ferguson Jenkins           -111      484      373   
    T2   Pedro Ramos                 -83      315      232   
    T2   Catfish Hunter              -83      374      291   
    4    Scott Sanderson             -77      297      220   
    5    Jose Lima                   -76      267      191   
    6    Denny McLain                -75      242      167   
    7    Brian Anderson              -74      264      190   
    8    Tom Browning                -73      236      163   
    9    Eric Milton                 -71      267      196   
    10   George Blaeholder           -62      173      111   
    T36  Jamie Moyer                 -43      506      463   
    T36  Jim Deshaies                -43      179      136   
    T36  Pedro Astacio               -43      291      248

    Funny how some writers will use Blyleven's home runs against him when casting their Hall of Fame votes (despite the fact that he gave up fewer than the league average), yet Catfish Hunter and Fergie Jenkins were elected in 1987 and 1991, respectively, in their third year on the ballot.

    In addition, Jay Jaffe has everything you would ever want to know about pitchers giving up home runs in a Baseball Prospectus article (subscription required) he titled Jacktastic!

  • Comments

    How does one compute "League Average" for HR allowed? Is it based on league HR/IP times the pitcher's IP (so that a pitcher who gave up 30 in 300 IP is equal to one who gave up 15 in 150)?
    Of course, pitchers on powerful teams (Catfish and Fergie probably qualify if my guess of the '60's Cubs and '70's A's are accurate) would then really be more jacktastic than their rate stats since their teammates are driving up the average while they don't have to face their own offenses.

    Gilbert: Yes, league average is computed in that manner. The comparisons between a hitter or pitcher and league average are not park adjusted but, by definition, they are league and era adjusted.

    Just about every pitcher on the most HRs list or those on above average frequency list also gave up a lower than average number of walks.

    I grew up watching Fergie Jenkins. Cubs fans criticized him for the gophers, but it seems like Jenkins often gave upa solo homer or two and won 3-2 or 4-3 with something like six Ks and one walk.

    Solo shots don't bug me much. Major league hitters are going to smack 'em over the fence sometimes. Loading the bases with a couple of walks followed by a two-run single or bases-clearing double are annoying.