Sometimes you discover a stat in baseball that jumps out at you because it’s shocking, cool and maybe even a little hilarious. It seems like a big deal, but you don’t know quite what to make of it.
In that spirit, here’s something to digest: As of Saturday, there have been 20 rookies this season who hit a home run for their first big league hit. TWENTY! That seems like a lot, right? Maybe even a record?
Well, yes and yes.
Our pals at Baseball Reference crunched some numbers and told us that those 20 first-hit home runs are indeed the most in MLB history, smashing the old record of 14 set in 2018.
Players who hit a home run for first MLB hit in 2022
Here’s the list, starting with the most recent:
Matt Wallner, Twins (Sept. 17 vs. Guardians)
Josh Jung, Rangers (Sept. 9 vs. Blue Jays)
Spencer Steer, Reds (Sept. 2 vs. Rockies)
Gunnar Henderson, Orioles (Aug. 31 vs. Guardians)
Brett Baty, Mets (Aug. 17 vs. Braves)
Vaughn Grissom, Braves (Aug. 10 vs. Red Sox)
Joey Meneses, Nationals (Aug. 2 vs. Mets)
James Outman, Dodgers (July 31 vs. Rockies)
Nate Eaton, Royals (July 14 vs. Blue Jays)
Vinnie Pasquantino, Royals (July 1 vs. Tigers)
Darick Hall, Phillies (June 30 vs. Braves)
J.J. Matijevic, Astros (June 19 vs. White Sox)
Jerar Encarnacion, Marlins (June 19 vs. Mets)
Steele Walker, Rangers (June 7 vs. Guardians)
Nick Plummer, Mets (May 29 vs. Phillies)
Brian Serven, Rockies (May 21 vs. Mets)
Christopher Morel, Cubs (May 17 vs. Pirates)
Joe Dunand, Marlins (May 7 vs. Padres)
Rene Pinto, Rays (April 26 vs. Mariners)
Cooper Hummel, Diamondbacks (April 10 vs. Padres)
Breaking it down further, here are few more interesting/fun tidbits.
— Six came in the player’s first MLB at-bat, also a record (Jung, Steer, Baty, Outman, Morel, Dunand)
— Seven came on the first pitch of the at-bat (Grissom, Meneses, Pasquantino, Matijevic, Walker, Plummer, Wallner).
— Two happened on the same day (Matijevic, Encarnacion).
— Seven of the homers came with two strikes (Jung, Henderson, Eaton, Hall, Encarnacion, Morel, Hummel).
— Three came on a full count (Eaton, Encarnacion, Morel).
— One came with an 0-2 count (Hummel).
— One was a grand slam (Encarnacion).
— Four teams have had two guys to do it (Marlins, Mets, Rangers, Royals).
— The Mets and Guardians have allowed the most first-hit homers (three each).
— There’s been at least one in every month, with May, June and August having the most (four each).
But what’s the takeaway here? Is there even anything to take away? The short answer is yes, but the (slightly) longer answer is yes, but not much.
There’s probably no definitive reason for the surge, but likely a combination of factors.
For one, more talented rookies have gotten a chance to play this season after collective bargaining negotiations resulted in incentives for teams to call players up earlier instead of manipulating service time to save a few bucks.
Two, with advanced analytics and the emphasis on launch angle and exit velocity, hitters are being developed differently in the minors and are coming to the big leagues with the skills to hit the ball hard in the air.
Three, pitchers are more likely to go after rookie hitters with fastballs, especially early in the count, making it mostly a matter of timing and good contact for the batter.
A sampling of postgame quotes lends perhaps some credence to the approach theory, even if they’re a bit cliche.
Baty: “I was just looking for a pitch I could drive, and he left one over the plate.”
Plummer: “I just like to sit hard, sit fastball. … I’m gonna look for it and react to everything else.”
Encarnacion: “Just looking to make contact with the ball, pretty much looking for one run.”
Hummel: “I know what I can do with the bat, and I’ve tried to refine my approach some. But when it came down to it, I saw something I could hit and made good contact.”
Grissom: “I had a couple of at-bats, and I failed a couple of times. … I’m not gonna say I expected it, but like, I need to do something.”
Morel: “I concentrated. And I said, I can do it. I can do it. I’ve done it before, so I can do it right now. That’s what I was thinking.”
Outman: “I just wanted to relax and let what I’ve been doing for 20 years take over.”
So, there go you. A whole bunch of rookies have hit homers for their first major league knock. Make of it what you will. It’ll be interesting to see whether the trend continues next season and beyond. Maybe this becomes a completely routine, ho-hum thing. For now, though, it’s still a fun novelty, despite the high number of occurrences.
And with a few weeks left in the season, the list could grow even more.