In 2015, there were 266 multi-homer games—119 by players from National League clubs and 154 with American League teams— a feat accomplished by 154 different players.
The Baltimore Orioles had the most multi-homer games with 18, followed by the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies with 15 while the Pittsburgh Pirates had the fewest in the majors with two. The team with the most players having a multi-homer game last season was the Astros with nine while the Cubs paced the N.L. with eight different players being credited with a two-homer game.
Major league home run leader Chris Davis of the Orioles had eight games with two home runs, the most in MLB. Lucas Duda of the Mets topped all N.L. hitters with seven multi-homer games. Other sluggers with five or more include Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies (6), Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (5), Mike Trout, Angels (5), Bryce Harper, Nationals (5) and Khris Davis, Brewers (5).
There were 11 players who hit three homers in a single contest in 2015. Those batters include Duda, Harper, Joey Votto, J.D. Martinez, Kendrys Morales, Adrian Gonzalez, Yoenis Cespedes, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, Alex Rodriguez, Jarrett Parker and Edwin Encarnacion.
Cespedes and Mark Trumbo were the only players to have a multi-homer game for two different teams. Cespedes did it for the Tigers and Mets, while Trumbo accomplished it with the Diamondbacks and Mariners.
The single-season record for most multi-homer games in a season is 11 established by Hank Greenberg of the Tigers in 1938 and matched by Sammy Sosa of the Cubs in 1998.
Listed below are all the players who had a multi-homer game in 2015 by club.
Dominating hitters such as Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Tony Gwynn and Albert Pujols have always been big attractions for fans. There have also been the great arms in the game that have created some of the most entertaining one-on-one showdowns—batter vs. pitcher—in major league history.
With an interest in the game’s best hitters and pitchers, it became a curious thought to research some of the outstanding hitters in baseball and find what pitcher struck out certain hitters the most during their long, distinguished careers.
Musial for example played 22 years in the majors and the pitcher who struck him out most often was Warren Spahn. The Hall of Fame left-handed hurler fanned Musial 29 times during their many battles. That number may seem high, but during the era these two stars played (1940s through the 1960s), hitters and pitchers faced each other frequently. There were only eight teams in each league, so a batter was pitted against only seven opposing teams during the regular season. In the case of Musial, he stepped into the batter’s box more than 375 times against Spahn, and hit .319 against him with 17 homers and 50 walks.
Famed pitching great Bob Feller was known for his blazing fastball and once struck out 346 batters in a season and led the American League in strikeouts on seven occasions. He also is the pitcher who struck out Joe DiMaggio the most times, sending the right-handed hitter back to the bench 12 times during their more than 200 confrontations against each other. No other pitcher struck out DiMaggio 10 or more times—Dutch Leonard and Early Wynn trail Feller with nine whiffs against the Yankee legend. DiMaggio, who rarely went down on strikes during his career, hit .342 against Feller with 11 home runs in 193 at-bats. The fleet-footed center fielder clubbed 361 homers during his 13-year major league career and struck out only 369 times.
“DiMaggio was the greatest all-around player I ever saw,” Feller said years ago. “He could hit for average and power and he ran the bases flawlessly. Plus he was the best defensive outfielder in the game. He had great instincts and a strong, accurate arm. He rarely struck out, always making contact and coming through with clutch hits. You couldn’t face him thinking you could strike him out. If you did, you would lose that battle. I was wild early in my career and battled DiMaggio every time we faced each other. He didn’t strikeout a lot nor did he walk many times. He probably got most of his walks against me,” Feller said with a laugh. “I think I could have won a few more battles against him if my control was a little sharper, but he was a great hitter. He and Ted Williams were the best hitters I ever faced.”
Feller also pointed out that in the era he played, batters did not strike out as much as they do in the current generation and often the league leader in strikeouts, fanned fewer than 100 times.
It’s interesting to see who won the battles between two great stars—Hank Aaron went down on strikes against Don Drysdale 47 times, but also victimized the Dodger right-hander for 17 home runs.
Tony Gwynn, who played in an era when strikeouts were common, finished his career with a .338 batting average and captured eight N.L. hitting titles. He was the consummate contact hitter who accumulated 3,141 lifetime hits while fanning only 434 times in 10,232 plate appearances. The pitcher who struck out Gwynn the most was Nolan Ryan with nine!
Among the players listed in the chart provided below, the batter with the most strikeouts against a single pitcher is Reggie Jackson, who went down swinging 49 times against Bert Blyleven. Jackson holds the career mark with 2,597 strikeouts and whiffed 100 or more times in a season 18 times. Besides Blyleven’s 49 Ks against Mr. October, 10 other pitchers fanned him 20 or more times, including Jim Kaat (27), Rudy May (25), Wilbur Wood (25), Mickey Lolich (23), Fritz Peterson (23), Gaylord Perry (22), Nolan Ryan (22), Jack Morris (20), Paul Splittorff (20) and Luis Tiant (20). Jackson also clubbed 49 of his 563 career home runs against these hurlers.
Hall of Famer Billy Williams was one of the top hitters in the N.L. during the 1960s and early ’70s, finishing second in the MVP race twice—losing both times to Johnny Bench—and belted 426 home runs. Williams struck out 1,046 times in his career with a single-season high mark of 84.
At the plate as a left-handed batter, he was known as “Sweet-swinging Billy Williams” for his smooth stroke that helped him finish his career with 2,711 hits, five seasons with a batting average of .300 or higher, including a league-leading .333 mark in 1972, and 948 extra-base hits.
“I had a good swing and quickness,” Williams said. “I could put the bat on the ball because I learned to hit to the opposite field. A lot of players can’t make that adjustment and it leads to many strikeouts. If a player has good eye-hand coordination, he can improve his average and cut down on his strikeouts. Sometimes, he can raise his average if he learns to go with the pitch. Most guys want to pull the ball. It’s tough to teach them to hit the other way.”
Asked why strikeouts are more common, Williams said: “The game is tougher for hitters today because they don’t see the same pitcher in a game that much. They face the starter a couple of times, maybe three times and then they usually face a couple of relievers late in the game.
“Not only do they face multiple pitchers every game, but they have to be aware of more types of pitches—splitters, two-seam fastballs, four-seam fastballs, cutters, sliders, curveballs, changeups. In my time, if a pitcher fell behind in the count, the hitter knew a fastball was coming. Today, the pitchers throw any pitch at any time in the count, so hitters have to really be ready. And if the batter falls behind in the count, then it becomes even tougher to make contact.”
The pitcher who fanned Williams the most was Juan Marichal with 22 punch-outs against him. The only other pitcher to reach 20 strikeouts against Williams was former Pirates pitcher Bob Veale, who fanned him 20 times.
Below is a list of some of the great hitters in the game and the pitchers who struck them out the most.
Bryce Harper continues to add to his very young career with comparisons to some of the greatest major league players in the game, even after the season is over.
He was voted the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, the youngest player to ever win the award by unanimous selection, and going by the player’s age at the end of the regular season, he is the fourth youngest player to win a league MVP award at age 22 years, 353 days. The three players to win the honor at a younger age are Vida Blue of the A’s, who was 22 years, 63 days when he was the A.L. MVP in 1971, Johnny Bench of the Reds, who was 22 years, 298 days in 1970 when he was the top player in the N.L., and Stan Musial, who won the N.L. MVP with the Cardinals in 1943 at age 22 years, 316 days.
During the 2015 season, Harper led the N.L. in runs (118), on-base percentage (.460), slugging (.649), OPS (1.109) and tied for the league leadership in homers (42). He also clubbed 38 doubles with 124 walks and 99 RBI while compiling a .330 batting average.
In the process of finishing his fourth major league season with those offensive totals, Harper had these impressive high notes to add to his MVP year:
• He became the sixth youngest player to reach the 40-homer plateau in a single season—those younger include Hall of Famers, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Bench and Joe DiMaggio along with Juan Gonzalez.
• He joined DiMaggio as the second player, aged 22 or younger, to hit 40 or more homers and bat .330 or higher in a season. The four other players besides Harper and DiMaggio to have a 30-homer season with a .330 or higher BA before their 23rd birthday are Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Hal Trosky and Alex Rodriguez.
• He and Williams are the only two players to post an on-base percentage of .460 or higher and a slugging mark of .645 or better before age 23.
• He and Ott are the only players to finish a season with 40 or more homers, 100 or more walks and post a .300 or higher BA before reach the age of 23.
Harper won the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 at age 19 when he hit .270 with 22 homers and 98 runs scored. With enormous expectations following his first year in the majors, Harper suffered through two injury plagued campaigns in 2013 and 2014, but last season he worked to stay healthy and play a full schedule to meet the expectations—not of his fans, but of himself.
“I don’t play for the numbers,” he said. “ I play because I love the game, love to compete and want to be successful. I’ve worked hard to play everyday and if I can continue to stay healthy and play every game, the numbers will be there. My main focus is to be able to contribute to helping the team win.”
With a reel of highlights already under his belt at such a young age, Harper is on a path to be one of the most productive players in the game and one of the top performers of his era.
One more highlight from his 2015 season is that he became the 23rd youngest player to reach 500 career hits—and he did that despite missing more than 100 games to injuries since 2012.
With a unanimous selection, Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs captured the 2015 National League Rookie of the Year award. He led all major league rookies in RBI (99), runs (87), doubles (31) and tied for the lead in homers (26) with Joc Pederson of the Dodgers.
“It’s a huge honor,” Bryant said on winning the award. “It was a great year, working so hard to get to this point (reaching the major leagues) and being a part of the season we had. It’s a year I’ll never forget.”
Bryant is the sixth player in Cubs history to be named the N.L.’s top rookie since the award was first presented in 1947. The other Cubs to capture the honor include Hall of Famer Billy Williams (1961), Ken Hubbs (1962), Jerome Walton (1989), Kerry Wood (1998) and Geovany Soto (2008).
Bryant set club records for first-year players in homers, RBI, walks (77) and runs scored while batting .275 with a .369 on-base percentage, 13 stolen bases and a .488 slugging percentage.
He finished his debut campaign in the majors one RBI shy of 100, becoming the fourth MLB player to end his rookie season with 99 RBI. The others are Pinky Higgins, 1933 A’s, Willie Montanez, 1971 Phillies and Garrett Atkins, 2007 Rockies. Bryant also became the second rookie to hit two grand slams and two walk-off homers—the only other player to accomplish this feat was Wally Westlake of the Pirates in 1947.
The Cubs’ slugging third baseman became the 21st player to win the Rookie of the Year award by a unanimous vote, the 11th to do so in the National League.
Looking at the 2015 Gold Glove Award winners, one could not argue with the players honored, but there has to be something said about two more highly qualified American League left fielders than Yoenis Cespedes.
Cespedes played 99 games in left while spending most of the season with the Detroit Tigers before being dealt to the Mets at the trade deadline.
In 99 games as the Tigers left fielder, Cespedes totaled 204 putouts, nine assists and committed five errors for a .977 fielding percentage. To win a league fielding title, a player must play two-thirds of the season’s scheduled games (108) at the position. So Cespedes does not even qualify to win that honor, nor do his numbers even indicate he would be a finalist for that distinction. The fielding title was won by Brett Gardner of the Yankees, who played 119 errorless games in left for a perfect 1.000 percentage. The Gold Glove Award winner in left field in the A.L. the previous four seasons was Alex Gordon of the Royals, who also played errorless ball in his 101 games played. In fact, the last error Gordon committed was on Aug. 2, 2014, bringing his errorless streak to 154 games.
It’s not being said that Cespedes is a poor defensive player, but he is not in the class of Gordon or Gardner.
It seems the range factor—total number of putouts participated in, divide putouts and assists by number of innings or games played at the position—was a significant measure among the coaches and managers who voted for the award. Cespedes finished with a 2.15 range factor with the Tigers in his 99 games in left. Gardner had a considerably lower number at 1.55, but Gordon had an impressive 1.95. Some could argue that Gardner’s injury, that caused him to miss 58 games was an issue for him not winning his fifth consecutive Gold Glove, but then how do you explain he played more games at the position in the A.L. than Cespedes?
It’s almost as bad as when Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove for his play at first base in 1999 when he appeared in only 28 games at the position.
Alex Gordon did not lose the award he’s owned for the last four seasons prior to 2015, he was stripped of it.
Baseball Bullpen 2015 Major League All-Star Team—leave a comment to agree or disagree
1B—Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona first baseman led all players at his position in OPS (1.005), runs (103), doubles (38), stolen bases (21) and slugging percentage (.570) while ranking among the top four in on-base percentage (.435), walks (118), RBI (110), hits (182) and home runs (33). He is rated as one of the top defensive players at first, which certainly ranks him among the top all-around first basemen in 2015.
2B—Jose Altuve, Houston Astros
Although Dee Gordon and Altuve had similar numbers, Altuve gets the nod since his performance came in a run for a division title and playoff berth. The Astros team leader totaled 200 hits with a .313 batting average, .353 on-base percentages, 40 doubles, 38 stolen bases, 15 home runs and 86 runs scored. With the glove, he led all players at his position in the majors with a .993 fielding percentage.
3B—Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays
Donaldson, who is a fine defensive third baseman, was the top offensive force at his position with a .297 batting average, .371 on-base percentage, .568 slugging average, .939 OPS, 41 doubles, 41 homers, 122 runs and 123 RBI. He is one of only four third basemen in big league history to lead his league in runs and RBI in the same year. He also topped all major league hitters with three walk-off homers in 2015.
SS—Xander Bogaerts, Boston Red Sox
He was the best offensive performer among shortstops in the majors with a .320 batting average, 196 hits, 84 runs, 81 RBI and 35 doubles—leading all players at his position in those categories except RBI which ranked second to San Francisco’s Brandon Crawford’s 84. Bogaerts, 23, posted a .984 fielding percentage and ranked third in putouts (236), fourth in total chances (676), fifth in assists (429) and sixth in double plays (95) while committing only 11 errors in 1,360 innings played.
LF—Yoenis Cespedes, Tigers/Mets
Cespedes was having a good season with the Tigers before being sent to the Mets and turning his year into the best of his four in the major leagues. He finished with career high marks in runs (101), hits (184), doubles (42), homers (35), triples (6), RBI (105) and slugging percentage (.542). His runs, hits, homers, RBI and slugging were tops among all left fielders and in the process of having his best season, Cespedes became the 28th player to club 30 or more homers in a season while splitting the year with two teams—he hit 17 for the Tigers in 102 games and 18 for the Mets in 57 games.
CF—Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
He was the best all-around center fielder in the game during his first three seasons (2012-2014) in the major leagues and he continued on that path last year with another MVP caliber campaign. He led all players at his position in homers (41), extra-base hits (79), on-base percentage (.402), slugging (.590) and OPS (.991). He also ranked among the top leaders in runs (104), RBI (90), doubles (32) and batting average (.299). Defensively he ranks among the best center fielders in the game.
RF—Bryce Harper, Washington Nationals
The young power-hitting right fielder put together a year all followers anticipated with his MVP performance in 2015. He led the National League with 42 homers and 118 runs with major league leading totals in on-base percentage (.460), slugging percentage (.649) and OPS (1.109) while also hitting .330 with 38 doubles, 124 walks and 99 RBI. He was the most consistent run producer in the game and continues to improve defensively as a strong-armed, hustling right fielder.
C—Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
Posey is without question the best hitting catcher in the game. In 2015, he had his fourth .300 season with a .318 BA to go with his .379 on-base percentage, .470 slugging mark, .849 OPS, 56 walks, 177 hits and 95 RBI—all tops among catchers. He also had 74 runs and 28 doubles, which ranked second for players at his position. His 19 home runs ranked fourth among backstops. Defensively, he finished with a .998 fielding percentage and threw out 36 percent of base runners attempting to steal.
DH—David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox
Ortiz will go down as the greatest designated hitter in history and at age 39, he continued to be the best substitute hitter in the game with his 37 homers, 37 doubles, 108 RBI, 73 runs, .273 BA, .360 on-base percentage, .552 slugging average and .913 OPS. During the year, he became the 27th player in big league history to hit 500 or more career home runs, finishing the season with 503—447 have come as a DH, the lifetime record for players at the designated hitter role.
P—Jake Arrieta, Chicago Cubs
The Cubs right-hander had a career year and dominated opposing hitters with incredible efficiency during the second half of the season. Overall he finished with a 22-6 won-loss record, 1.77 ERA, 236 strikeouts, 0.86 WHIP, .185 batting average against, four complete games and three shutouts. His wins, complete games, shutouts and BA against were the top marks among starting pitchers. He worked 229 innings and surrendered only 10 home runs. After the All-Star break, Arrieta was almost perfect, going 12-1 with a 0.75 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 107.1 innings pitched.
CL—Mark Melancon, Pittsburgh Pirates
Melancon led the major leagues with 51 saves—becoming the 12th closer to save 50 or more in a season. Along with his games saved total, the All-Star reliever finished the year with a 3-2 record, 2.23 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 76.2 innings. He finished 63 games in his 78 appearances and had a save success rate of 96 percent (51-for-53).
In 2015, there were 24 five-hit games by 22 different players with Washington’s Yunel Escobar the only major leaguer with multiple five-hit games, having produced three.
Escobar is the 20th player, since 1914, to have three or more five-hit games in a single season. The most during that span is four by Ty Cobb (1922) of the Tigers, Stan Musial (1948) of the Cardinals, Tony Gwynn (1993) of the Padres and Ichiro Suzuki (2004) of the Mariners.
Bob Kuenster is editor of Baseball Digest and has worked for the publication since 1987 and is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America.