My pitching philosophy is simple – keep the ball away from the bat.
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.”
Brian first met the greatest game in Detroit in 1968, that team played in a league called the “American League”…. but I digress.
Later after a family move he started a dalliance with the Cincinnati Reds, who perchance were in the midst of their greatest era. It was a romance that was greater than many could hope to be.
After barely stomaching the strike of 1981 Brian headed West but never forgot the Reds, and even despite being surrounded by Giants and A’s fans who tried to entice him with things both Green and Orange he found himself wondering what was up with Kal Daniels and was that kid from Moeller ever going to make us forget Davey.
A long time member of SABR and a baseball history junkie he currently lives in Portland and can be followed at @baseballminutia