AP Photo/Chris Carlson
Albert Pujols is four at-bats shy of the longest homerless drought of his career.A lot of attention is being paid to Albert Pujols and his homerless streak to start the season (101 at-bats, 107 plate appearances). The focus on Pujols is justified, but it has taken the attention away from another question about the lack of power in major-league baseball:
Why haven’t any pitchers this season hit a home run?
Entering play on Thursday, there have been 881 plate appearances and 750 at-bats by pitchers this season, and none of those led to a round-tripper. This season is the first time since 1994 that there was not a home run hit by a pitcher before the end of April.
No HR by a Pitcher in April
Since AL Adopted DH in 1973
It's also the fifth season without a pitcher home run before the end of April since the American League adopted the designated hitter rule in 1973. The latest a pitcher hit a home run in a season during that timeframe was 1983, when reliever Rick Behenna hit one on June 8. Ironically, the opposing starting pitcher, Fernando Valenzuela, hit a home run later in that same game.
2012 is the 40th season since the start of the designated hitter, so you can split that timeframe into four 10-year segments. A prevailing theory is that power numbers for pitchers might fade because they no longer are used to hitting as much as they did before the DH rule.
But the power numbers have increased as the years have worn on. Home runs by pitchers before May 1 since the American League adopted the DH in 1973:
• 2003-2012: 28
• 1993-2002: 32
• 1983-1992: 21
• 1973-1982: 23
Back to Pujols, who remains homerless in 2012. The most consecutive at-bats in a season Pujols has gone without a home run is 105, and that was last season. Before 2011, Pujols had never gone more than 79 at-bats without going deep.
Pujols ranks 37th all-time with 445 home runs, but has gone 130 at-bats dating to last season since his last regular-season HR. The longest homerless drought among players ranked in the top 10 belongs to Babe Ruth, who went without 173 at-bats to end the 1918 season without a home run, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Also according to Elias, only two players in the top 10 all-time in home runs never had drought that reached triple digits: Hank Aaron (92) and Jim Thome (88).