I will be tracking young Reds slugger Jay Bruce’s progress up the ladder of baseball’s most prolific home run hitters. Obviously he has a long way to go before he will start passing the same guys I wrote about in the Adam Dunn home run tracking thread. Like the Big Donkey, Jay Bruce arrived in the majors at a very young age and started hitting a lot of home runs while most of his classmates were still working their way through the minors. This gives him a nice head start on the home run charts and gives him a chance to rack up some impressive totals before he hangs up his cleats.
My goal is to fill this project with lots of forgotten feats, legendary lore, obscure trivia, biographical sketches, vintage pictures, fascinating statistics and anything else I can excavate from the vaults of history regarding home runs and the players that hit them over the last 141 years of baseball seasons come and gone.
I encourage each of you to contribute as well. If you know any anecdotes regarding the players and feats we will encounter it would be great if you could share them here. If you have any photos of Jay Bruce or the other players involved please send them to me or post them here. If you would like to do some research or develop your own interesting contributions then by all means feel free to join in the fun.
This project will be a lot of work for me and I will do my best to keep up with it throughout the season. It should be lots of fun too.
OK. Let’s get started…
Jay Bruce has hit 43 home runs so far in his brief career. He is tied for 1526th place on the all-time list with 18 other hitters past and present. The most famous of these players is fellow 2005 first round draftee Justin Upton. Upton, like Bruce, is one of the best young players in the game. Kelly Shoppach is the other active player with 43 home runs. He is a catcher that used to back up Victor Martinez for the Indians and now plays for the Rays.
Bruce has had 758 career at-bats (17.6 AB/HR), Upton has had 1022 at-bats (23.8 AB/HR) while Del Pratt took 6826 at-bats to hit 43 homers (158.7 AB/HR)! From 1912-1924 Pratt played for the Browns, Yankees, Red Sox and Tigers as a career .292 hitting second baseman who never hit more than 6 homers in a season. That sounds pretty pathetic until you realize he also had 117 career triples and led the AL in RBIs in 1916 with 103. After the 1920 season the Yankees traded Pratt to the Red Sox for future Hall of Fame pitcher and Reds broadcasting legend Waite Hoyt. Incidentally, Hoyt had 1419 plate appearances as a batter and had 255 base hits but never hit a single home run.
9 of the 18 players tied with Bruce at 43 homers actually hit more triples in their career than homers. These players played in the dead ball era of the 1800’s and early 1900’s when home runs were very rare feats. Their baseball cards came in packs of cigarettes rather than chewing gum. Presumably most of the home runs hit by these guys were of the inside-the-park variety.
17,121 men have played in the major leagues since 1869. Of those only 7087 have actually hit a home run. So Jay Bruce has already passed 15,595 players, 5561 of which have hit at least one home run. So if you look at it that way Bruce is a lot closer to the top of the list than he is to the bottom! Almost two thirds of the men that have played in the big leagues never hit a single home run in their entire careers. That is amazing even when you think that many of them were pitchers and may not have gotten very many at-bats in the designated hitter era.
Research Request #1 – which player had the most at-bats without ever hitting a home run? It may have been Bill Holbert who had 2335 ABs in 1870s and 1880s. Or it might have been Tom Oliver who had 1931 ABs in the 1930s for the Red Sox. Who is the active leader?
Research Request #2 – where does Jay Bruce rank on the list of career home runs hit before the player’s 23rd birthday? I think there have been about 50-60 players that have hit more home runs than Jay Bruce before their 23rd birthday. Most of them probably got the call to the big leagues at 19 or 20 years of age and hence had more plate appearances than Jay did.
Adam Dunn hit 45 homers in 779 ABs before his 23rd birthday for a 17.3 AB/HR ratio. Jay Bruce hit 43 homers in 758 ABs for a 17.6 AB/HR ratio. Very close indeed. Bruce has been just as prolific of a slugger as the Big Donkey was at the same stage.
Of Jay Bruce’s 43 homers, 8 of them came against the Brewers, including 3 off Jeff Suppan. He has taken four pitchers deep twice. Some of the better pitchers Bruce has victimized are Tim Hudson, Carlos Zambrano, Yovani Gallardo, Cole Hamels and Javier Vazquez.
26 of Bruce’s home runs were slammed at Great American Ballpark. His next highest stadiums are Wrigley Field and Nationals Park where he has hit only three apiece. 38 of Bruce’s dingers came off right-handed pitchers while only 5 have come off southpaws.
10 of Jay’s blasts have come with a full 3-2 count. He has not hit more than 5 on any other count. 27 homers have come with the bases empty, 13 with one runner on, 2 with two runners on, and one was a grand slam. Jay has hit one walk-off homer, and amazingly enough it was his first career home run as well. It came against Braves pitcher Manny Acosta in the bottom of the 10th inning of a 7-7 game. He hit his second career homer the next day off Tim Hudson of the Braves, then his third career homer the next day off Kyle Kendrick of the Phillies. 3 of Jay’s homers have tied the game, and 14 have put the Reds into the lead.
In 2009 Jay’s 22 homers traveled an average of 389.9 feet, which ranked him 52nd in the major leagues in what is called the “Golden Sledgehammer” rankings. Mark Reynolds was 1st with an average of 415.7 feet per homer. Bruce’s longest homer of 2009 was a 429 foot blast at Petco Park against the Padres’ Josh Geer. See it here (under May 16th).
In 2008 Jay’s 21 homers traveled an average of 396.7 feet, which ranked him 46th in the major leagues. Matt Holliday was first with a 418.1 average while Adam Dunn was 2nd with a 414.8 average and Joey Votto was 7th with a 410.5 average. Bruce’s longest homer of 2008 and his career was the 458 foot blast he detonated off Todd Wellemeyer of the Cardinals to straight away centerfield at GABP on September 17th.
The longest home run hit by any player in 2009 was cranked 489 feet by Wladimir Balentien of the Reds on October 2nd against Daniel McCutchen of the Pirates.
Adam Dunn actually had the two longest home runs of the 2008 season – a 504 foot blast as a Diamondback and a 486 foot blast as a Red. You can see the video of Dunn’s epic moonshot here (under September 27th).
Other players with 43 career home runs:
John Morrill – 1876-90 Boston. Played all 9 positions well. In 1883 he played 6 positions and led the Boston Beaneaters to the NL pennant as player-manager while batting .316. – Career High: 12
Jamie Quirk – 1975-92 Royals & Athletics. Catcher. Current Reds scout. Hit the 3rd most HRs for a player whose name starts with letter Q. Only Carlos Quentin (50) and Mark Quinn (45) have more. Bruce could catch them both this year even though Quentin is still an active slugger. – Career High: 8
Billy Jurges – 1931-47 Cubs, Giants. SS. His girlfriend shot him in a murder attempt. The incident inspired Bernard Malamud’s novel The Natural, which was later made into a movie starring Robert Redford as Roy Hobbs. -- Career High: 8
Abner Dalrymple -- 1878-91, He was 5th on the career home run list at one time, but was down to 10th on the list when he retired (with 43 homers!). Dalrymple was the first player in baseball history to be intentionally walked with the bases loaded. He hit 22 homers in 1884 but didn’t lead the league, but hit 11 homers in 1885 and did lead the league. Was a premier hitter in the league during his day. -- Career High: 22
Sandy Amoros – 1950’s Dodgers outfielder. Made a famous catch in the World Series off the bat of Yogi Berra. Victim of Fidel Castro’s wrath. -- Career High: 16
Ossie Bluege – 1920’s and 30’s Senators -- Career High: 8
Ping Bodie – 1911-21. Used a 52 ounce bat and was Babe Ruth’s first roommate. -- Career High: 8
Wes Chamberlain – 1990-95 Phillies and Red Sox -- Career High: 13
Rich Dauer – 1976-85 Orioles 2B. Won CWS as a USC Trojan. Current Rockies 3B coach. -- Career High: 9
Mule Haas – 1925-38 Athletics & White Sox CF. Hit 2 crucial HRs in 1929 World Series. – Career High: 16
Art Howe – 1974-85 Astros 3B. Later managed Astros, Athletics and Mets. – Career High: 10
Marty Keough – 1956-66 Red Sox & Reds OF. Brother and son also MLB players. – Career High: 9
Phil Roof – 1961-77 many teams. Catcher. Played 16 years and nothing interesting ever happened to him. – Career High: 13
Derrel Thomas – 1971-85 eight teams. SS. Played every position except pitcher. – Career High: 8
If you have more info about these players please feel free to share!