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DeRosa: One is the loneliest number

90 percent of Mark DeRosa’s home runs with the St. Louis Cardinals have come with the bases empty.

St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Mark DeRosa did not have a Three Dog Night on Monday in Houston, though he did have a three extra-base hit night. Just as with seven of his previous eight homers with the club, both of DeRosa’s Monday Minute Maid home run shots were struck with the bases empty.

It marked the end of a long, dry spell for Mark. After cranking eight home runs in his first two weeks with the club, the 34-year-old’s long-ball bat went silent for six weeks as he continues to deal with a torn tendon sheath in his wrist. DeRosa’s Monday performance included his first home runs of any kind since August 7.

With nine of his ten Cardinals home runs having been solo shots, or 90 percent, let’s put that inauspicious rate into perspective.

DeRosa’s first five and most recent four Cardinals home runs were of the bases-empty variety. In between, his initial streak was broken when he connected for a three-run blast against the Dodgers at Busch Stadium on July 28. As recently as last season, Albert Pujols had a nine home run streak of solo shots, from April 27 through May 9.

Over his career prior to joining St. Louis, DeRosa hit 82 home runs, of which 44 were with the bases empty. That works out to 53.7 percent, a far stretch from his 90 percent mark through his initial 205 at-bats with the Cardinals. As a team, 64.1 percent of the home runs hit by the 2009 Cards to date have been solo shots.

The table that follows lists the eight Cardinals with at least five home runs in 2009. Ten other players have gone deep this season. In addition to total home runs, also listed are solo home runs, percentage of home runs that were solo, number at-bats as well as number of at-bats between any home runs and solo shots. Players are listed in order of number of solo home runs hit.

2009 Cardinals Total HRs Solo HRs % HRs Solo At-Bats AB/HR AB/Solo HR
Albert Pujols 47 30 63.8% 526 11.2 17.5
Rick Ankiel 11 9 81.8% 351 31.9 39.0
Mark DeRosa 10 9 90.0% 205 20.5 22.8
Ryan Ludwick 20 8 40.0% 454 22.7 56.8
Colby Rasmus 15 7 46.7% 434 28.9 62.0
Matt Holliday 13 7 53.8% 201 15.5 28.7
Khalil Greene 6 5 83.3% 166 27.7 33.2
Yadier Molina 5 5 100.0% 461 92.2 92.2
Ten others 26 18 69.2% 2277 87.6 126.5
Team 153 98 64.1% 5075 33.2 51.8

Among 2009 Cardinals with at least five homers, Yadier Molina actually trumps DeRosa for frequency of bases-empty homers. All five of the catcher’s long balls were of that type. DeRosa’s 90 percent comes in second on the team. Pujols’ rate of solo shots, 63.8 percent, helps drive the team mark of 64.1 mentioned previously.

Not surprisingly, Pujols hits generic home runs most frequently, with one departing the field of play each 11.2 at-bats. DeRosa is third at 20.5, also trailing Matt Holliday at 15.5.

But even in bases empty home runs, Pujols collects them more often than DeRosa. Albert’s rate of one solo shot per 17.5 at-bats trumps DeRosa’s second-highest rate on the team of one per every 22.8 at-bats.

Of course, that could change if DeRosa is entering another hot streak like he had from July 21 through August 7, when his first eight left the yard.

From a historical perspective, since 1954, DeRosa ranks in a tie for third in highest percentage of solo home runs among Cardinals with at least ten homers in a season. Using that criterion, only ten players had over 75% of their home runs as solo shots during any season over those 55 years.

Hall of Famer Lou Brock is the leader. In the 1964 World Series-winning regular season, Brock hit 13 of his 14 long balls with the bases empty for a 92.9 percent solo rate.

No doubt Cardinals fans would be delighted with similar results from both DeRosa and his 2009 club.

Highest percentage of solo home runs, ten or more homers, season, Cardinals (1954-2009)

Rank Hitter Year Total HRs Solo HRs Solo HR %
1 Lou Brock 1964 14 13 92.9%
2 Edgar Renteria 1999 11 10 90.9%
T3 Orlando Cepeda 1966 10 9 90.0%
T3 Mark DeRosa 2009 10 9 90.0%
T5 Curt Flood 1958 11 9 81.8%
T5 Todd Zeile 1991 11 9 81.8%
7 Ray Lankford 2000 26 21 80.8%
T8 Ken Boyer 1957 19 15 78.9%
T8 Reggie Smith 1975 19 15 78.9%
10 Bernard Gilkey 1995 17 13 76.5%

Thanks to Tom Orf for supplying the base stats used above.

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Brian Walton

Brian Walton runs The Cardinal Nation and The Cardinal Nation Blog, covering the St. Louis Cardinals and minor league system.
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