Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner has four home runs this season, including two grand slams

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Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner, who came into this year as a career .138 hitter, smacked his fourth homer of the season last night against the Dodgers.

He’s now hitting .258 with four homers (including two grand slams) and a .755 OPS in 78 plate appearances this season, which is a higher OPS than, among others: Yoenis Cespedes, Bryce Harper, Chase Utley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Josh Hamilton, Pablo Sandoval, Joe Mauer, Jose Reyes, Evan Longoria, Carlos Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson, Dustin Pedroia.

Anyway, you get the idea.

Bumgarner is also tied for the most home runs by a pitcher since 2006, when Carlos Zambrano went deep six times. Here are all the pitchers with four or more homers in the past 10 seasons:

Madison Bumgarner    2014     4
Yovani Gallardo      2010     4
Carlos Zambrano      2009     4
Carlos Zambrano      2008     4
Micah Owings         2007     4
Carlos Zambrano      2006     6

Carlos Zambrano hit 24 home runs in 693 at-bats, including at least one homer every season from 2003 to 2012 and multiple homers in five of those years.

The Indians are unveiling a Frank Robinson statue on Sunday

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The Cleveland Indians will unveil a Frank Robinson statue at Progressive Field on Saturday.

Robinson’s tenure in Cleveland was not long, but it was historic. On April 8, 1975, he became the first African-American manager in Major League history. He was a player-manager. One of the last ones, in fact. He spent two years in that role and then a third year — a partial year anyway — as a manager only. Robinson would go on to manage the Giants, Orioles and the Expos/Nationals, compiling a career record of 1065-1176 in 16 seasons. He is now a top MLB executive.

Robinson was, of course, a Hall of Fame player as well, lodging 21 seasons for the Reds, Orioles, Dodgers, Angels and Indians. He won two MVP awards and hit for the Triple Crown in 1966. Overall he hit 586 home runs – 10th all time – and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982. For an inner-circle Hall of Famer with that kind of resume he is still, strangely enough, underrated. I guess that happens when your contemporaries are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Mickey Mantle.

Anyway, congrats to Frank Robinson for yet another well-deserved honor in a career full of them.

Hey kids: don’t swing a weighted bat in the on deck circle

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Here’s an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal. It’s about some studies of hitters who use weighted bats or doughnuts on their bats in the on deck circle. Turns out that, contrary to conventional wisdom, using a weighted bat for practice hacks does not speed up one’s swing when one uses a naked bat in the batter’s box. In fact, it slows it down.

There are lots of caveats here. The sample size in the studies are small and they all involve college and high school players, not big leaguers. The results, however, are consistent with previous studies and they do make some intuitive sense. This is particularly the case with batting doughnuts, which add weight to a very concentrated portion of the bat, thereby changing the center of gravity and thus the swing mechanics of the hitter.

Whether this is applicable at large or to higher level hitters or not, I still find it kind of neat. I always like it when people scrutinize ingrained habits and ask whether or not that thing we’ve always done is, in fact, worth doing.