April 26, 2018

Everyone Says Mookie Betts Has 14 Leadoff Home Runs. Everyone Is Wrong.

Mookie Betts was the first batter to come to the plate in last night's Red Sox game in Toronto. The game began at 7:08, when Betts took Aaron Sanchez's first pitch for a ball. About one minute later, Betts hit Sanchez's third pitch over the left field wall.

Red Sox TV and radio announcers said that Betts had hit his 14th leadoff home run. Blue Jays announcers might have said it, too. You will see the "14th leadoff homer" factoid online and in newspapers today. ... But everyone who passes along that bit of information is wrong.

Mookie Betts has NOT hit 14 leadoff home runs.

As I pointed out last July, Betts has hit a few of those 14 home runs at Fenway Park.
Meaning: In the bottom of the first inning. After the game had already been started. Yes, Betts was Boston's leadoff batter in those games, but he was obviously not the game's leadoff batter. And I think that is a crucial difference that is being ignored. ... [A] true leadoff home run can be hit only on the road, only in the top of the first inning. Likewise, a player can get credit for a walkoff hit only in his own park.
Three of those 14 home runs were hit at Fenway Park - May 10, July 21, and July 22, 2016. Betts came to the plate in each instance after spending a half-inning in right field. He was not leading off the game.

The visiting team did not score in the top of first inning in any of those three games. If it had, the obvious problem with a leadoff home run at home would have been even clearer.

How can a batter "lead off" a game if his team is already trailing by, say, two runs when he steps into the batter's box?

How can he "lead off" a game when he has already caught a fly ball or fielded an opposing batter's hit? (In the July 22 game, Betts recorded the first out, catching Eduardo Nunez's fly ball.)

Also, what if the visiting team's first batter has also hit a home run? How can a game have TWO "leadoff" home runs?

It cannot.

Mookie Betts has 11 leadoff home runs.

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