Miguel Cabrera ties Hank Greenberg with 331st career homer

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With a three-run home run to right-center in the third inning and a solo shot to straightaway center in the fifth — his ninth and tenth of the season, respectively — against Rangers starter Derek Holland, Miguel Cabrera put himself in a tie with Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg with 331 career home runs.

Cabrera, the defending AL MVP and the first player in 45 years to win a Triple Crown, bumped his league-leading average up to .384 and league-leading RBI total to 46, putting himself in prime position to win another Triple Crown. You know, if he feels like it. Only two players have won multiple Triple Crowns: Rogers Hornsby in 1922 and ’25, and Ted Williams in 1942 and ’47.

Cabrera is one of 15 players all-time to have 330 or more career home runs before his 31st birthday. Assuming he hits at least another 30, he’ll move up to #12 on the list at least.

The list (as of this writing):

Rk Player HR From To Age PA
1 Alex Rodriguez 464 1994 2006 18-30 7774
2 Ken Griffey 438 1989 2000 19-30 7319
3 Jimmie Foxx 429 1925 1938 17-30 7293
4 Albert Pujols 408 2001 2010 21-30 6782
5 Mickey Mantle 404 1951 1962 19-30 7199
6 Eddie Mathews 399 1952 1962 20-30 7124
7 Frank Robinson 373 1956 1966 20-30 7088
8 Mel Ott 369 1926 1939 17-30 7808
9 Andruw Jones 368 1996 2007 19-30 7276
10 Hank Aaron 366 1954 1964 20-30 7216
11 Juan Gonzalez 362 1989 2000 19-30 5779
12 Adam Dunn 354 2001 2010 21-30 6065
13 Sammy Sosa 336 1989 1999 20-30 5808
14 Harmon Killebrew 336 1954 1966 18-30 5202
15 Miguel Cabrera 331 2003 2013 20-30 6669
16 Ralph Kiner 329 1946 1953 23-30 5223
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 5/19/2013.

Update (11:35 PM): Miguel Cabrera hit his third home run of the night, a solo shot to center off of Tanner Scheppers. So he’s up to 332.

No one pounds the zone anymore

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“Work fast and throw strikes” has long been the top conventional wisdom for those preaching pitching success. The “work fast” part of that has increasingly gone by the wayside, however, as pitchers take more and more time to throw pitches in an effort to max out their effort and, thus, their velocity with each pitch.

Now, as Ben Lindbergh of The Ringer reports, the “throw strikes” part of it is going out of style too:

Pitchers are throwing fewer pitches inside the strike zone than ever previously recorded . . . A decade ago, more than half of all pitches ended up in the strike zone. Today, that rate has fallen below 47 percent.

There are a couple of reasons for this. Most notable among them, Lindbergh says, being pitchers’ increasing reliance on curves, sliders and splitters as primary pitches, with said pitches not being in the zone by design. Lindbergh doesn’t mention it, but I’d guess that an increased emphasis on catchers’ framing plays a role too, with teams increasingly selecting for catchers who can turn balls that are actually out of the zone into strikes. If you have one of those beasts, why bother throwing something directly over the plate?

There is an unintended downside to all of this: a lack of action. As Lindbergh notes — and as you’ve not doubt noticed while watching games — there are more walks and strikeouts, there is more weak contact from guys chasing bad pitches and, as a result, games and at bats are going longer.

As always, such insights are interesting. As is so often the case these days, however, such insights serve as an unpleasant reminder of why the on-field product is so unsatisfying in so many ways in recent years.