Carlos Zambrano and the all-time homer list for pitchers

This Saturday, Cub starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano blasted a home run against Johnny Cueto of the Cincinnati Reds. It’s hardly surprising that he’d go deep. After all, it’s his 23rd career homer, easily the most by any current pitcher. In fact, it’s more than the next two combined.

Heck, Zambrano’s lifetime .154 isolated power (which is slugging percentage minus batting average) is higher than the career marks for Omar Vizquel, Johnny Damon, Orlando Hudson, and yes even Derek Jeter.

And that’s just contemporary players. Zambrano’s .154 ISO also tops that of Paul Molitor, Rickey Henderson, Paul Waner, Honus Wagner, Brooks Robinson, Home Run Baker, new Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar, and all-time triples king Sam Crawford.

This is the ninth straight year Zambrano has bashed as least one homer. The last man to do that? Gary Peters, an American League pitcher in the pre-DH days.

In other words, Zambrano is quickly becoming a historically great homer hitter for a pitcher. Where does he rank overall? Let’s find out.

For this list, we’re looking only at how many homers a guy hit as a pitcher. That knocks out a pair of guys because of what they did while playing another position or pinch hitter. We’ll discuss them in a bit.

For now, here are the top ten all-time at hitting homers while pitching:

HR	Pitcher
37	Wes Ferrell
35	Bob Lemon
35	Warren Spahn
34	Red Ruffing
33	Earl Wilson
29	Don Drysdale
24	Bob Gibson
24	John Clarkson
23	Walter Johnson
23	Carlos Zambrano

Zambrano is tied with Walter Johnson for ninth.

Sort of. Johnson actually has a 24th homer, but it was a pinch-hit homer and so doesn’t count here. In fact, half the list hit pinch-hit shots that don’t count here. Aside from Johnson, Wes Ferrell hit one while Bob Lemon, Red Ruffing, and Earl Wilson each had two. The Cubs have used Zambrano as a pinch hitter on occasion, but he’s never gone deep in the role.

Also, two guys hit more homers overall, but many were hit as position players. Pre-WWII ace Bucky Walters began as an infielder with the Phillies, and showed some power, but then transferred to pitcher where he was much better.

In the 1890s, Jack Stivetts was such a great hitting pitcher his team had him play the field on some off days. Four-tenths of his homers came away from the mound.

But if you look just at homers hit while pitching, Zambrano just crashed into the top 10.

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Zambrano: the most dangerous hitting pitcher of his generation.

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Comments

  1. Chris J. said...

    Strike,

    The record is 9 by Wes Ferrell in 1931.  No one else has more than 7 (though that’s happened a slew of times, most recently by Brooks Kleischnick and Mike Hampton).

    KidA – Interesting. Didn’t know Gallardo was hitting that well.  That’s a better ISO that Yaz, Gary Carter, Bernie Williams, or Cal Ripken.

  2. AndrewJ said...

    Redundant to say, I know, but the pitchers on that all-time HR list were generally good pitchers. All the retired ones are in the Hall except Wes Ferrell (who probably deserves to be) and Earl Wilson (who doesn’t, but was no slouch on the mound)…

  3. gdc said...

    Micah Owings (9 HR, career .225 ISO) might hope to stay an average pitcher long enough to make it.  And had he stayed in the NL, Dontrelle Willis (9 HR, career .150 ISO) might be up in the teens.  Don’t know whether either has a pinch HR.

  4. InnocentBystander said...

    Wow, was surprised not to see Babe Ruth on the list…checked him up and he only had 5 as a Pitcher. Shocking, right?

  5. StrikeThree said...

    How about the season record?  Sonny Siebert’s 6 in 79 AB in ‘71 with Boston would seem to be a candidate.  He is the last AL pitcher to hit 2 in 1 game that year, as I recall.

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