I should first of all point out, like I seem to do for most of my diaries, that this is all done pretty haphazardly, rather than any kind of serious inquiry that comes to a legitimate conclusion. But hey, like it is in most things, quick and dirty is more fun in baseball analytics.
Now then, Barry is finishing up his series against Atlanta and as of this writing, still sitting on 753. With the Fish getting ready to hit the Bay, our pitchers now take their turns at avoiding becoming trivia answers. But if a Marlins pitcher does indeed give up a homer to Bonds (even if it's the remarkably boring 754th), who is it most likely to be?
Now, you don't get to the doorstep of history by only hitting one type of home run. Anyone who steps on the mound is liable to be taken deep. But that doesn't mean that Barry doesn't have tendencies, both in terms of who he hits best, and where. And similarly, our pitchers have a profile of what kinds of hitters take them deep, and to what parts of the field. So maybe, just maybe, if we look at Barry's profile and the profiles of some Marlins pitchers, we might find some overlap; a recipe for a heightened probability of seeing the ball leave the yard.
So sometime just after the All-Star break, I did just that. With the ridiculously great Hit Tracker as a resource, I looked at the home run history over the last season and a half of both Barry and a handful of Fish pitchers.
One of the things Hit Tracker allows us to do is group home runs by a more specific area than simply "left field" or "right-center." Indeed, as you can see by Bonds' 2007 plots, we can group them between 18 sections of 5 degrees each. Barry's 2006 chart shows a great deal of consistency with his 2007: very few balls to the first five sections (going from left to right), a significant "power alley" in 6 and 7; and then a smattering across the right half, perhaps more concentrated closer to center than the line.
Ok, but what about the Fish? In an effort to show off lots of colors, probably at the expense of readability, I plotted the home runs given up in 2006 and the first half of 2007 by Dontrelle, Olsen, Mitre, Kim, The Incredible Hurk, Benitez, and Gregg, all on one picture. And what's more, I overlayed (or underlayed, I forget) the diagram of AT&T Park, for even more visual confusion.
Like I said, lots of colors, but maybe not the easiest graph to examine. One thing that does jump out is how many of the home runs went to those five left-most sections, the exact area Barry's homers almost never touch down. So we got that going for us, which is nice.
Let's look at the information in a clearer, but even less recognizable graph: a histogram.
What we're looking at here are the home runs given up by each pitcher, grouped by the 5 degree section where they landed, with "Series 1" being the left-most section, going across to center field (Series 9 and 10) and to the five right-most degrees of playing field, Series 18. Along with each pitcher, you'll see the same done for Barry's home runs.
If we start with Barry, we see how our previous observations of mostly right of center appear in this type of graph: just eight of his home runs come left of Series 10. The overwhelming majority of his shots over the last season and a half have been to the right side of the field, with the most frequent landing points being Series 10 (the five degrees just right of dead center) and Series 13 (between 75 and 70 degrees on the previous chart; essentially the right-center alley).
By contrast, we see that a lefty pitcher like Dontrelle doesn't see his bright pink Series 10 appear until 26 left-field home runs have already been graphed. That is, only 9 of Dontrelle's 35 home runs given up in the last year and a half have landed right of dead center.
So who matches up "best" with Barry? Well if you're not looking forward to seeing Barry hit a historic homer off the Fish, you'll be glad to note that it's clearly Kim, whose start tonight pretty much guarantees he won't be seen in the upcoming series.
Unfortunately, you'd have to say that the next best match is probably Gregg, who not only has a good chance to show up at least once, but off whom a home run would be inherently bad. The Giants fans are famously Barry's most concentrated supporters, but even the rare one who looks at Bonds unfavorably would have to cheer if 755 or 756 also had the distinction of being a walk-off winner.
But the good news for Fish fans and Barry haters alike is that none of the other Marlins pitchers examined here seem to fall into the profile of being especially likely to serve up history (though Dontrelle's 4 home runs to that Series 6/7 alley that makes up Bonds' rare left field power may be troubling). That is, to the extent that anyone can be facing a hitter the prowess of Bonds and not have a home run be considered likely. But if this analysis is remotely worthwhile, don't look for a Marlins pitcher to be appearing on the flipside of that Trivial Pursuit card any time soon.