America’s Pastime: Baseball on the Fourth of July, 2002-2010

Ah, Independence Day!  The day we celebrate the Fresh Prince, Lone Starr, and Cousin Eddie defeating those nasty aliens by watching people cram hot dog franks and watered-down buns into their faces!

Wait, that’s not right.  Let’s try this again!

Ah, the Fourth of July!  The day we celebrate our freedom from the evil British.  And what better way to do it than to play America’s pastime — baseball!

Okay, I know that football has replaced baseball as our “pastime.”  But who cares!?  Baseball is still the sport of summer and fits in nicely with the Fourth [if only Major League Baseball could just move the All-Star Game to the Fourth…but that’ll never happen].  So, let’s celebrate that by looking at the last ten Fourth of July’s in order to give praise to the players who brought the fireworks!

First, let’s take a look at the top teams over the last ten years.  In ten games, the St. Louis Cardinals have the best record going 8-2 on the Fourth.  They are followed by the Texas Rangers (7-3), who have the best run differential (33) and the most runs scored (80).  The Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Seattle Mariners are tied with the Rangers with seven wins, thus rounding out the top five.

The bottom five?  Start with the Detroit Tigers, who are 2-9 on the Fourth since 2002 (they played a double-header in 2005 against the Cleveland Indians).  The Chicago Cubs (2-8) have the same number of losses as the Tigers, but also have the worst run differential (-41) and fewest runs score (24).  The remainder of the bottom five are tied at 3-7 — Kansas City Royals, Houston Astros, and San Francisco Giants.  The Toronto Blue Jays also only have three wins, but played one fewer game [day off in 2005]; thus they are 3-6.  The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles have given up the most runs on the Fourth (73).

The teams that has hosted the most Fourth of July games are the Atlanta Braves and the Rangers (8).  While the Washington Nationals franchise (including the Montreal Expos) is tied with four other teams with seven hosted Fourth games, the Nationals themselves (minus Expos’ history) has the highest percentage of hosted games at 85.7 percent (six of seven).  The Blue Jays are the only team NOT to host a July Fourth game over the study period.

The Indians and the Cardinals have the best home winning percentage among teams with a minimum of five home games (5-1) while the Giants are the worst (1-4).  The best road team [minimum five road games] is the Mariners (5-2); the worst are the Royals and Indians (both are 0-5).

~~Ready for some real fireworks?~~

Now, what about players?  Well, unlike teams, this is a bit trickier because not every player has played in every Fourth of July game over the past ten seasons.  In fact, of the 1012 players who recorded an at-bat over the study period, only ten played on all ten Independence Days.  Those players are as follows (in order of batting average):

  • Lance Berkman – 0.353
  • Derek Jeter 0.333
  • Derrek Lee – 0.324
  • Adam Kennedy – 0.294
  • Adam Dunn – 0.289
  • Ichiro Suzuki – 0.275
  • Pat Burrell – 0.233
  • Carlos Lee – 0.216
  • Johnny Damon – 0.216
  • Edgar Renteria – 0.128

Of players to play in at least five Fourth of July games, Garrett Atkins has the highest batting average (0.556 in five games).  He had ten hits, driving in ten runs and drawing three walks.  He also belted three home runs.  Rickie Weeks has perhaps the worst Independence Day batting average, going 1 for 23 (0.043) in six games with zero RBIs and 11 strikeouts.  I write “perhaps” because pitcher Branden Looper is hitless in seven games, but only five at-bats (and he is a pitcher); catcher Ronny Paulino is also hitless (0 for 14) but has only played in four Fourth games.

Torii Hunter has scored the most runs (ten in eight games), while Carl Crawford and Manny Ramirez have the most RBIs with 11 (done in eight and five games respectively).  Mark Teixeira has the most hits with 15 (in eight games; a 0.500 batting average), while Travis Hafner has six home runs, the most on the Fourth.  Jim Edmonds (in seven games) and Alex Gonzalez (in nine games) have the most strikeouts with 12; Lance Berkman, Adam Dunn, and Mark Ellis have drawn the most walks (eight).

In terms of pitchers, Mark Buerle has thrown the most innings (26.2 in four games), while the aforementioned Looper has appeared in the most games (seven games with 18 innings).  Kazuhisa Ishii has the most strikeouts (21 in 17.1 innings pitched), with Kerry Wood issuing the most walks (12 in 11 innings); ironically Ishii is second in walks with ten (tied with Joel Pinero).  Cory Lidle is among a host of players with zero walks allowed, but he has done so over 15 innings.

~~Rockets red glarin'!~~

Earned Run Average (ERA) is also a tough one because a ton of relievers have a 0.00 ERA.  The pitcher with most innings pitched with both a 0.00 ERA and a 0.00 WHIP is Alex Herrera, who pitched all of two innings in 2003 against the Twins.  The most innings pitched with a 0.00 ERA is Brian Duensing (9.2 innings in two games), while relievers Jason Isringhausen and Kyle Farnsworth have the most games played with a perfect ERA (five games).  On the opposite end, several relievers never finished an inning, while Keith Foulke has a wonderful 450.00 ERA in 0.1 innings pitched (over two games).  In 2008, Greg Reynolds for Colorado Rockies had perhaps the worst game for a starting pitcher on the Fourth, going a mere 1.1 innings while giving up SEVEN earned runs (that’s a 57.27 ERA); Colorado would end up winning the game against the Florida Marlins by a score of 18-17!

Derek Lowe has the most wins on the Fourth of July, going 3-1, but with a 7.99 ERA!  Must be good run support!  Nine players are a perfect 2-0, including Ben Sheets, Chris Carpenter, and reliever Heath Bell.  John Lackey has the most losses (0-3), while six other players are 0-2, including Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, and David Price.  Isringhausen has four saves, double the next closest pitcher (actually the next ten closest); Alan Embree has the most holds with three.  Heath Bell is the only pitcher with at least one save, one hold, and one win.  Roberto Hernandez is the only pitcher with two blown saves, although there are 38 others with one blown save.

Finally, there are eight players with a complete game on July Fourth (see below).  Mark Mulder and Johnny Cueto are the only two to take a loss in a complete game (although Cueto’s was actually only eight innings).  Randy Johnson had ten strikeouts in his complete game (only two runs allowed; one earned run); Adam Wainwright had nine K’s while only giving up one run.  There were two shutouts — Ryan Franklin pitching for the Mariners in 2006, and Duensing this season for the Twins against the Tampa Bay Rays.

  • Brian Duensing (shutout)
  • Ryan Franklin (shutout)
  • Johnny Cueto (loss)
  • Scott Elarton (win)
  • Randy Johnson (win)
  • Mark Mulder (loss)
  • Roy Oswalt (win)
  • Adam Wainwright (win)

Does all of this mean that Duensing and Berkman are Fourth of July superstar patriots?  Nah!  What all of this really means is that baseball is full of useless stats.  But that is the American way, yeah?  Filling your time with mundane facts and stats.  I guess baseball really is America’s pastime…

…at least until the NFL lockout ends!

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