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Andruw Jones is One of the Greatest Yankees Home Run Hitters Ever--Sort Of

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Andruw Jones: After this weekend, he has a reason to look satisfied. (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)
Andruw Jones: After this weekend, he has a reason to look satisfied. (Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE)

After a weekend explosion against the Red Sox in which he went 5-for-14 with four home runs in three games, Andruw Jones is, in a certain limited sense, the fifth-most productive single-season home run hitter in Yankees history. ‘

Now, I don’t refer to the supermen like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle, who blasted home runs at a high rate all season long. I refer instead to part-timers who had between 99 and 400 plate appearances and were able to hit more than their share of home runs in a limited amount of playing time, guys like Jim Spencer, normally considered a glove-first first baseman, who in 1979 hit .288/.367/.593 with 23 home runs in 336 plate appearances, or roughly 6.9 home runs for every 100 trips to the plate.

That happens to be the 12th-best rate in team history. Here is the top ten, with Jones’ incomplete 2012 thrown in:

#

PLAYER

YEAR

PA

HR

HR/100 PA

1

Glenallen Hill

2000

143

16

11.19

2

Oscar Gamble

1979

126

11

8.73

3

Johnny Mize

1950

305

25

8.20

4

Ken Phelps

1988

127

10

7.87


Andruw Jones

2012

144

11

7.64

5

Johnny Blanchard

1961

275

21

7.63

6

Eddie Robinson

1955

215

16

7.44

7

Cliff Johnson

1977

168

12

7.14

8

Mickey Mantle

1963

213

15

7.04

9

Kevin Maas

1990

300

21

7.00

10

Darryl Strawberry

1998

345

24

6.96

Some fun facts here. The 2000 Yankees were one of the weakest of championship teams; Hill's slugging helped seal the division title (he disappeared in the postseason. A year later, he was out of the big leagues for good... I once told Oscar Gamble that his high home run percentages always suggested to me a player who might hit 40 home runs if allowed to play every day-he only got 500 plate appearances once. He broke out in a wide smile, stood up and shouted, "Thank you! Thank you!" and looked around to see if anyone else noticed that he had been given this endorsement... Johnny Mize was a Hall of Famer too slow and injury-prone to stay in the lineup, but he really mashed when he did play. He also loaned a bat to Phil Rizzuto that season, leading the Scooter to his MVP award... Ken Phelps for Jay Buhner was and is a disastrous trade, but in 1988 Phelps did what he was supposed to do and slugged .551 as a Yankee.

We will see if Jones can keep up his pace and stay on this list. As you can see, sometimes a non-Ruthian player can put up a Ruthian home run percentage in limited playing time. Whether he does or not, here is the key fact to remember: Jones is a career .505 slugger against left-handed pitching. When teams talk about getting a platoon advantage, that's what they should mean. Right-handed hitters who slug .420 or .430 against left-handers aren't particularly special.