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Bombs away

Astros' Lima serving up homers at record-setting rate

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Posted: Tuesday May 09, 2000 08:11 PM

  Jose Lima Jose Lima has allowed three or more homers in four of his seven starts. AP

By Ryan Hunt,

Home runs to lead-off a game? Twice. Back-to-back homers? Thrice. Homers to the pitcher? Kerry Wood got him.

Jose Lima has given up homers in almost every way possible this season. Now, it's possible Lima could give them up like no other pitcher in baseball history.

The Astros right-hander is well on his way to becoming only the 14th different pitcher in major league history to allow 40 or more homers in a season. Even worse, Lima is nearly one-third of the way to breaking Bert Blyleven's single-season record of 50 home runs allowed after only seven starts.

Lima, who won 21 games in 1999, already has served up 16 taters in only 39 2/3 innings. That's a ridiculous average of 3.67 homers per nine innings. By comparison, in Blyleven's record-setting season, he allowed only 1.66 homers per nine.

Gopher It!
Most home runs allowed in a season
HRs  Pitcher  Tm  Yr 
50  Bert Blyleven  CLE/MIN  1986 
46  Robin Roberts  PHI  1956 
46  Bert Blyleven  MIN  1987 
43  Pedro Ramos  WAS  1957 
42  Denny McLain  DET  1966 
41  Rick Helling  TEX  1999 
41  Phil Niekro  ATL  1979 
41  Robin Roberts  PHI  1955 
40  Shawn Boskie  CAL  1996 
40  Brad Radke  MIN  1996 
40  Bill Gullickson  NYY/CIN  1987 
40  Jack Morris  DET  1986 
40  Fergie Jenkins  CHC  1979 
40  Phil Niekro  ATL  1970 
40  Orlando Pena  KC  1964 
40  Ralph Terry  NYY  1962 
40  Robin Roberts  PHI  1957 

So based on 200 innings, a moderate number for a starting pitcher, Lima would allow an absurd 81 homers at his current pace.

At that rate, though, Lima will be on the disabled list for whiplash by June.

Allowing 40 homers in a season, however, is more rare than you may think. Even in this homer-happy era, only three of the 17 prior 40-homer occurrences occurred in the 1990s (by Brad Radke and Shawn Boskie in '96 and Rick Helling in '99) -- fewer than in the '50s and '80s, which each had four.

And it hasn't been done in the National League in more than 20 years. Phil Niekro and Ferguson Jenkins were the last to do it in 1979.

But for Lima, who is off to a 1-5 start with a 9.53 ERA, watching a ball fly out of the park is nothing new.

Lima likely will become the first NL pitcher since Robin Roberts to allow 30 or more homers in three straight years (Colorado's Pedro Astacio could do it as well). Roberts, who is a Hall of Famer despite allowing 30 or more homers in every season from 1953-60, also holds the NL single-season mark with 46 in '56 (he still won 19 games that season).

It's Not Lima Time
Jose Lima's three-year HR breakdown
Yr  All.  Hm  Rd  IP  HR/9 
2000  16  39.2  3.67 
1999  30  23  246.1  1.10 
1998  34  17  17  233.1  1.31 
Through May 7
Hm=Home; Rd=Road

In 1998, Lima was fourth in the National League in home runs allowed with 34. Last season, Lima gave up a modest 30 -- the same total as Randy Johnson. But 23 of those came away from the cavernous Astrodome.

Now in hitter-friendly Enron Field -- or "Home Run Field" as Lima has dubbed it -- he already has matched a couple of dubious league and team records this season. Lima, though, has allowed as many homers on the road (eight) as he has at Enron.

In an April 27 loss to the Cubs at Enron, Lima served up four bombs in an inning, only the 16th time that has happened. He allowed five in the game, one short of the modern-day NL record, but good enough for the Houston mark.

Roughed Up
NL hurlers who allowed four HRs in an inning
Pitcher  Tm  Date  Inn. 
Bill Lampe  BOS  6/6/1894  3rd 
Larry Benton  NYG  5/12/30  7th 
Wayman Kerksieck  PHI  8/13/39  4th 
Charlie Bicknell  PHI  6/6/48  6th 
Ben Wade  BRK  5/28/54  4th 
Mario Soto  CIN  4/29/86  4th 
John Smoltz  ATL  6/19/94  1st 
Jose Lima  HOU  4/27/00  1st 

To put that in perspective, consider this: Lima allowed the five home runs in just five innings of the 12-7 loss. In 1965, Pittsburgh's Bob Veale gave up only five homers in the entire season (266 innings).

Lima's allowed six in the first inning this season alone. He's allowed eight homers to the Cubs alone in two starts.

The National League record for most homers allowed to one team in 13, held by the Cubs' Warren Hacker (to the Brooklyn Dodgers in '56) and Braves Hall of Famer Warren Spahn (to the Cubs in '58).

The Astros still have six games remaining against the Cubs, meaning Lima could have as many as two starts vs. Chicago -- assuming he's still in the rotation.

Related information
Ripken joins exclusive 3,000-hit, 400-homer club
Expos' Guerrero becoming 'The Can't Miss Kid'
Red alert: Griffey struggling through slow start
Jose Lima's Home Run Log
Home Runs Allowed Leaders
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