Last Tuesday, Brandon Belt launched his fifth home run of the season. Ian Kennedy‘s unfortunately-placed fastball brought the Giants within a run of tying the game, but it was the ball’s final resting place in McCovey Cove that landed Belt in a unique position among Giants players.
Since AT&T Park’s christening in 2000, 87 home runs have splashed into the bay. Appropriately termed “splash hits,” they signify a feat accomplished by just 16 Giants over the past 12 years. While the splash hit counter in right field tracks home runs hit by San Francisco, 19 other batters have recorded splash hits as well, two from the American League and 17 from the National League.
Most splash hitters are one-time wonders; say, for instance, Houston Astro Lance Berkman, who hit a game-winning solo shot during a series clincher in May 2008. Others coordinate their efforts. In 2001, pinch-hitter Felipe Crespo and Diamondback first baseman Mark Grace became the first and only players to record splash hits for opposing teams in the same game. After a scoreless nine innings, Crespo led off the 10th with a game-tying home run, but Grace returned for the clinching run with a 12th inning splash hit.
Of the 35 players to catapult home runs into the bay, 12 have seen a repeat performance. Legendary home run hitter Barry Bonds leads the pack with a staggering 35 splash hits in seven years, putting up the first six in 2000, a record-high nine in 2001, and multiples in 2002 (6), 2003 (5), 2004 (4), and 2007 (2). With his 13th splash hit, a grand slam off Marlins’ RHP Ricky Bones, Bonds successfully drove in each type of home run, and finished with 21 solo homers, seven 2-RBI homers, and six 3-RBI homers by the end of 2007.
On the other side of the splash hit—not literally, although a digression could be made for the cutthroat techniques of China Basin kayakers—are the pitchers whose mistakes have also been cataloged. Like the batters they face, most are one-time offenders. With four, Tim Lincecum tops the list of seven pitchers who have seen multiple splash hits, some against the same hitter. Both Lincecum and former Giant Matt Morris surrendered two home runs apiece to visiting splash hit leaders: the Nationals’ Adam LaRoche and Mets’ Carlos Delgado.
When Brandon Belt‘s home run plashed into the bay last week, it did more than spark a brief, if futile rally. Behind Barry Bonds (35) and Pablo Sandoval (6), Belt secured the third most splash hits (3) in Giants history. Of his 14 career home runs, six were hit at home. Three of those landed in the Cove. Given his limited time in the majors, Belt holds the highest percentage of splash hits as home runs: 50% at home and 21.4% overall.
A final factoid: The 87 splash hits, when divided by runners on base, split into 52 home runs with the bases empty, 22 with a single runner, 11 with two runners, and 2 with the bases loaded. Brandon holds three of the 22 two-RBI home runs, having driven in exactly one runner with each of his splash hits. No other splash hitter (those with 2+ home runs) has managed to put up the same number of runs each time he went yard.
Opposing pitchers, beware. If you see Belt striding to the plate, eying a runner on first or second, and you’re prepared to toss a sinker, curveball, or two-seam fastball in the 4th or 6th inning, with any number of outs, on an evening between June and September, your luck has just run out.