I recently did a piece on batters with seasons of 10 or more home runs and fewer than 20 RBI. Just eight guys have done it, with designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion the most recent in 2020.
That got me thinking – how many players have hit 10-plus dingers and scored fewer than 20 runs in a season? Would the list be as exclusive as the other one?
Spoiler alert: It’s not. Thirty-two men have accomplished the feat, with notoriously slow-footed Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi the first to do it. In 1943, the backstop hit .305 with 10 home runs, 51 RBI … and just 19 runs scored. Which makes sense, I guess. When a player is too slow to even leg out doubles (he had 30 or more just once in 17 seasons), then it is reasonable to assume he won’t be sprinting himself past home plate much, either.
The next man to manage the feat was … well … Lombardi. In 1946, he had 12 home runs and 19 runs scored, with just 4 of his 69 hits going for doubles.
Since then, the feat has been generational. It did not happen again until 1953, but that year, three players – including Ted Williams – did it. Then nearly a decade passed before it happened again, in 1962. Then in 1964 and 1969, it happened twice each year.
Catcher Bob Tillman achieved the mark in 1969 and 1970, becoming just the second player to do it twice – with no one managing it more than once since. In addition, he was the only man to do it in the 1970s.
In fact, for a while it was a once-in-a-decade rarity. Outfielder Oscar Gamble did it with the Yankees in 1984, then it didn’t occur again until outfielder Shane Spencer had 10 home runs and 18 runs scored in 1998, also for the Bronx Bombers.
It happened four times in the 2000s, but the feat is disproportionately a product of the 2010s and beyond. Nearly half of its instances occurred after 2010, with it happening four times each in 2019 and 2020.
And three of the four occurrences in 2020 were parts just atrocious seasons. Gary Sanchez batted .147 in 49 games, while Encarnacion hit .157 and Rougned Odor managed a knock in one of every six at-bats, posting a .167 mark. The year before, Jung Ho Kang joined the ranks with a .169 mark and in 2014, Zach Walters batted .181.
True, the feat happens more in seasons of low average and poor performance, but a few batters bucked that trend. When Williams did it, he batted .407 in 37 games, while Spencer hit .373 in 27 games.
While seasons with 10-plus homers and fewer than 20 RBI have mostly been accomplished by no-names, membership in the > 10 HR, < 20 R club is more inclusive. For every Manny Jimenez, there is a Frank Thomas; for every Mike Jacobs, there is a Gary Sanchez.
And if a player is a member of the HR/RBI club, then he’ll likely be a member of the HR/R club, as well. Six of the eight names in the former populate the latter – Walters, Curt Casali, David Ross, Todd Greene, Adam Duvall and Encarnacion – with corner infielders Wayne Gross and Randy Ruiz the only exceptions. Casali was the closest to achieving the improbable, as nearly all his runs came off home runs when he did it in 2015. He had 10 dingers and 13 runs scored, meaning just 3 came from sources other than the longball.*
*the record for most runs in a season in which all were scored on home runs is 3, which has happened 16 times, most recently by Matt Davidson in 2020.
Below is a list of all the players who have accomplished the feat.