2011 Reds / Reds - General

Chasing Eric Milton

My pitching philosophy is simple – keep the ball away from the bat.

Satchel Paige

In 2004 Eric Milton won 14 games for the  Philadelphia Phillies. He also allowed 43 home runs which, amazingly, wasn’t the most allowed in the game that season (Jamie Moyer, 44) but nevertheless, that total WAS the 5th most HRs allowed in a season in the history of the game.

With the 2004 holiday season looming, Reds GM Dan O’Brien evidently slipped on some ice and hit his head, or got too much bad egg nog at UDF because he eventually inked Milton to the largest free agent contract for a hurler in Reds history. That contract made Milton the first pitcher to allow 40 or more home runs to pitch for the Reds, who just happened to play in a park that enhanced one offensive facet of the game over all others.

It was great place to hit home runs.

Thus Eric Milton (Cincinnati Red ace hurler!!) allowed 40 HRs in 2005, setting the Reds (current) all-time record. For Eric, it was his second time over 40 and that fact did not endear him much to the Cincinnati faithful. It also did not bode well for Dan O’Brien’s career as a GM in MLB, but that’s a rat hole we best avoid now.

Back to the home runs…allowing 40 or more homeruns is quite the feat; it  has only happened 22 times in the history of the game, by some players more than once, including Eric Milton, who is on that list 2 times.

The elephant in the room is, of course, Robin Roberts, who is on the list 3 times; and then there’s Bert Blyleven, who is not only a Hall of Fame pitcher, but also the only man to allow 50 home runs in a season.

Concerning 40 HRs allowed, Ramon Ortiz achieved the feat in 2002 and lucky for us Reds fans he too was slotted in the Reds rotation in 2005 with Milton, who eventually allowed 34 HRs (good enough for 4th worst in team history). Milton of course is first with his 40, easily eclipsing former gopher ball specialist Tom Browning’s 36.

The one thing about Milton in 2004 that completely eluded O’Brien was the rate he allowed home runs, allowing a HR every 20 batters faced. In comparison, Robin Roberts 1956 season has him allowing 46 home runs, but at a rate of 1 every  26.7 batters. Jose Lima’s 1/18.6 rate is the worst on the list below.

Here are the guys in the club!!

HOMERUNS                      YEAR     HR       BFP      IP
1    Bert Blyleven            1986       50     1126    271.2
2    Jose Lima                2000       48      895    196.1
T3   Bert Blyleven            1987       46     1122    267
T3   Robin Roberts            1956       46     1228    297
5    Jamie Moyer              2004       44      888    202
T6   Eric Milton              2004       43      862    201
T6   Pedro Ramos              1957       43     1011    231
8    Denny McLain             1966       42     1080    264
T9   Rick Helling             1999       41      943    219.1
T9   Robin Roberts            1955       41     1256    305
T9   Phil Niekro              1979       41     1436    342
T12  Orlando Pena             1964       40      955    219
T12  Bill Gullickson          1987       40      896    213
T12  Jack Morris              1986       40     1092    267
T12  Brad Radke               1996       40      973    232
T12  Ramon Ortiz              2002       40      896    217.1
T12  Ferguson Jenkins         1979       40     1089    259
T12  Eric Milton              2005       40      855    186.1
T12  Robin Roberts            1957       40     1033    250
T12  Phil Niekro              1970       40      980    229.2
T12  Ralph Terry              1962       40     1191    299
T12  Shawn Boskie             1996       40      860    189.1

Of course, this plays into this current Reds season… after 19 starts Bronson Arroyo has allowed 26 HRs. Last season, he “only” allowed 29. Arroyo currently  averages a HR every 19.5 batters he faces, which is even worse than Eric Milton’s 2005 season with the Reds, which was 1 every 21.4 batters faced.

At the current pace, by seasons end, Arroyo would allow 43 HRs, and his HR allowed per batter rate would eclipse not only Milton’s aforementioned rate but also the 2000 version of Rob Bell whose  insanely pitiful rate of 1 HR allowed for every 19.35 batters faced could be the worst in team history for those who have allowed 20 HRs a season or more.

Now many of you can look at the list above and note some fine pitchers are present, but many of them also piled up innings not matched in today’s game (Umm… Phil Niekro 1979) so it can become a counting stat fallacy when looking at some guys totals and then lumping them with some of the other guys on the list. One thing I note is that many of the guys with big innings (save Niekro) were fastball pitchers who were known for being in the zone and challenging the hitter. With a challenge, one often gets a loss, which in this case was likely a home run on a fastball in the zone. Many of the hurlers with fewer innings on the list are known for their lack of a fastball as a money pitch, many were known for their curves (Blyleven, Milton), spitter (Ramos) or arm slots, change ups, junk balls and other worldly Slim Sallee type of stuff that baffle on some days and fail so readily the next time out.

When your stuff doesn’t break, the ball tends to fly out fast, and this is what  we are seeing in the 2011 season of Bronson Arroyo, as he chases Eric Milton. We have to believe that this is not exalted company to pursue, eclipse, or be compared to in Reds history.

But I think Bronson might already know that.

We’ve got to pitch better down the stretch, no ifs, ands, or buts about that,” Arroyo said. “I need to step up, for sure, and the whole staff does. We can’t expect the hitters to carry us all year. At some point, we’ve got to start doing our part, too.”

12 thoughts on “Chasing Eric Milton

  1. One thing to note is that there are some great pitchers on this list, including HOFer Robin Roberts, who would pitch complete game victories for a Phillies team that was usually terrible and pitch in relief on his throwing days.

    He passed away last season and Jim Bunning talked about how, staked to a good lead (at that time, 4 or even 3 runs was a big lead) , he would – in the interest of both winning the game and completing it – challenge hitters, not walking anyone but allowing a solo HR or two.

    • One thing to note is that there are some great pitchers on this list, including HOFer Robin Roberts, who would pitch complete game victories for a Phillies team that was usually terrible and pitch in relief on his throwing days.

      Robin Roberts is the best Philly pitcher in their history other than Steve Carlton

  2. The thing that you heard the most about at the time O’Brien signed MIlton was that MIlton was a fly ball pitcher. A fly ball pitcher at GABP did not seem a good match. That concern may have been exaggerated, because the real point was that Eric was no longer a good pitcher.

    The Reds outbid the Yankees for Milton, perhaps the only time that’s happened.

  3. So reds fans? same ol same ol going into the biggest homestand of the year…everybody cool with that? the FO wanted me to ask everyone

  4. Couldn’t tell you. Probably not. The Yankees aren’t big on risk, just big on bucks. I blame Sonya Sotomayor, but that’s a story for a different day.

  5. I’d forgotten about Gullickson. He pitched for the Reds for most of the year, giving up 37 of his 40 HRs (18.86 batters per HR). Pretty out of line compared to his career.

  6. HR per 9 IP is another way to look at it

    for pitchers in a season with at least 15 starts the worst HR/9 IP is Andy Benes in 2001. He allowed 2.52 HR/9 IP. That’s 30 HR in 107 1/3 IP

    Milton in 2004 with the Phillies and 2005 with the Reds had the same HR rate allowing 1.93 HR / 9 IP which for pitchers with at least 15 starts is the 47/48th worst of all time.

    Arroyo is currently allowing 2.04 HR / 9 IP

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