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Thursday, October 01, 2020

DORKTOWN: The Secret to Not Allowing Homers to Babe Ruth was Being Bad, Apparently

But take a close look there. Notice anything weird? Specifically, look at the row of dots representing pitchers who Ruth took deep zero times in his Yankee career. More specifically, the two dots in that row chilling in solitary (dual?) confinement. Not one, but two pitchers who he faced approximately 70 times each without ever homering.

One of them was a gentleman by the name of Ed Wells (71 plate appearances), the other was Roy Mahaffey (68 plate appearances). So they both held Ruth homerless despite the fact that he hit at least five homers against 38 of the other 41 pitchers who he faced at least that much (and even the remaining three allowed four, four, and two homers to the Babe)....

For Ruth to have faced one pitcher so much without homering is really bizarre. But two? That’s like bizarre squared. Now granted, Ruth’s Yankee tenure was during an era in which his league was much smaller than it is today. He played just seven teams over and over for a decade and a half. Additionally, relief pitchers weren’t used anywhere near as extensively back then as they are in modern times. So that all meant there were plenty of pitchers Ruth faced a lot of times, but also that he faced a mere 362 overall in 15 years as a Yank.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 01, 2020 at 09:44 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: babe ruth

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   1. BDC Posted: October 01, 2020 at 10:04 AM (#5980160)
Earlier this year when there was no baseball I was reading stories from the year 1920. The Dodgers that year took a look at an amateur pitcher named Joe Conlan, whose brother Jocko would become a Hall of Fame umpire. Joe Conlan never pitched an official professional inning, but he appeared in exhibitions. One note on Joe Conlan when he was released was that he had struck out Babe Ruth the only time he'd faced him.

I then looked for stories and obituaries about Joe Conlan, and come to find that when he would tell the story of his cup of decaf with the Dodgers, later in life, that strikeout turned into the longest home run ever hit on whatever field it was. It was an interesting transformation. When you never played even in the minors, there is no after-dinner value in claiming to have struck out Babe Ruth. People will think you're fabulating, or at best they might realize that Ruth struck out a lot and anything can happen in a single exhibition at-bat. But the callow rookie taken deep for a monstrous home run by the great man – that's a story.
   2. Nasty Nate Posted: October 01, 2020 at 10:05 AM (#5980161)
Interesting stuff. But I kept waiting for a discussion of the style of pitchers that Mahaffey and Wells were. Nibblers? Weird deliveries? Junk-balls?
   3. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: October 01, 2020 at 10:22 AM (#5980163)
Not one, but two pitchers who he faced approximately 70 times each without ever homering.

One of them was a gentleman by the name of Ed Wells (71 plate appearances),

not only held him homerless; Ruth slashed only 204/361/224 against him. He faced him between 1923-26 when Wells was with the Tigers and then 1933-34 when he was with the Browns
   4. Rally Posted: October 01, 2020 at 10:24 AM (#5980165)
Wells had am excellent fast ball, better slow ball (I assume changeup) and a fair curve. He was a lefty.

Mahaffey's best pitch was a fast breaking curve. He was a righty.

Got this from the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers. That book is one of the greatest gifts to baseball fans that Bill ever wrote, and yes, that is saying something.

Just a tremendous research project digging through old magazine and newspaper article or baseball books to document what pitches every significant pitcher ever threw. There isn't really need for an update, since it was published in 2004 and for pitchers who came later we have plenty of source to document the precise velocity out of hand and break imparted on every single pitch they throw.

But what a wonderful resource this book is for the pitchers before the pitch fx generation.
   5. Nasty Nate Posted: October 01, 2020 at 10:30 AM (#5980170)
Thanks, Rally.
   6. Ron J Posted: October 01, 2020 at 10:44 AM (#5980176)
#2 If you're interested in this kind of question I can't think of a better resource than the Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers.

Mahaffey: Key Pitch -- "Fast breaking curve"

Wells: Seems to have been an interesting character. He started out with a highly regarded fastball and spent "ten grim years developing this baffling ball" -- evidently a straight change which by then he threw with the exact same motion as his fastball. He also had a fair curve.

EDIT: Coke to Rally.
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: October 01, 2020 at 10:52 AM (#5980178)
Thanks, Ron J.
   8. Doug Jones threw harder than me Posted: October 05, 2020 at 01:55 AM (#5981106)
I have the Neyer/James guide to pitchers. It is a great book and has a hallowed place in the commode, as all the short little articles are great for that particular locale.

"Bad" pitchers can be bad either because they "just don't have it" or because they are inconsistent. The other person metioned in the article as one with which Ruth had particular trouble with is Eddie Cicotte, who was a knuckleballer, also by the nature of the beast (maddingly) inconsistent. In other words, Ruth may have been a bit of a "guess" hitter, his prior career as a pitcher may have helped in this. Of course this is mere wild speculation on my part. The little bits of footage we have of Ruth batting show a hitter with a huge stride and immense swing (the opposite of Bonds), one that would have benefited a lot from some insightful guessing.
   9. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: October 05, 2020 at 02:29 AM (#5981107)
I have the Neyer/James guide to pitchers. It is a great book and has a hallowed place in the commode....
That's where I keep the book, too! The BJ Historical Baseball Abstract lives there. I can't remember the last time I read something by either James or Neyer when I was sitting in a place that wasn't my bathroom....

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