The Yankees opened their 1956 season on the road, at Griffith Park against the old Senators (now Twins). Mickey Mantle had two home runs that day, but Yogi Berra, batting immediately after Mantle in the lineup, managed to rack up five RBIs anyway, posting the highest RE24 of any hitter in the majors in an Opening Day game during the 1950s. Yankees/Senators 4/17/1956
RE24, you may recollect if you are regular High Heat Stats reader, is a measure of how much the result of a hitter’s plate appearance increased (or reduced) his team’s run-scoring chances in that inning. With a man on second and one out, the average number of runs scored in the rest of the inning will be about 0.72. With a man on second and two outs, that number drops to about 0.35, so a hitter who strikes out with a man on second and one out is given an RE24, for that PA, of -0.37. But if instead he singles and the man on second scores, the team’s run scoring expectation has increased to the one run that actually did score plus the 0.29 that will score on average given the new base-out condition of one out and no men on. So the hitter gets an RE24 credit, for his RBI single, of 1.29 minus 0.72, or .57. More on Opening Day RE24s after the jump.
Yogi’s RE24 in that 1956 season opener was 5.29, a huge number, resulting from a day in which he was four for four, with a double, a homer and two singles, plus a walk for good measure. The Senators’ starter that day was 22-year-old Camilo Pascual, who went on to a long and distinguished career with the Senators/Twins. The winning pitcher that game for the Yankees, beneficiary of Mantle’s and Berra’s dominating offense, was Don Larsen. Larsen’s last start of that 1956 season was even better than his Opening Day start, but hey, a win is a win, right?
Top RE24 Games by A Hitter in His Team’s First Game of a Season, 1950-2013:
Raul Mondesi (Dodgers, 1999), 5.95 RE24
Brant Alyea (Twins, 1970), 5.37 RE24
Yogi Berra (Yankees, 1956) 5.29 RE24
Dmitri Young (Tigers, 2005) 5.25 RE24
Jim Presley (Seatlle, 1986) 5.23 RE24
That list coincidentally provides the highest Opening Day RE24 numbers of the 1950s, the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s. What about the low-scoring era of the 1960s? The highest Opening Day RE24 for a hitter in the ’60s happens to have been accomplished for Houston in its very first game as a franchise, and the second highest Opening Day RE24 for a hitter in the ’60s happens to have been accomplished for the Angels in the very first game in the history of that franchise.
Top RE24 Games by A Hitter in His Team’s First Game of a Season, 1960-1969:
Roman Mejias (Houston, 1962), 4.62 RE24
Ted Kluszewski (Angels, 1961), 4.15 RE24
Roger Maris (Yankees, 1960), 3.93 RE24
Ernie Banks (Cubs, 1965), 3.79 RE24
Ernie Banks (Cubs, 1969), 3.70 RE24
Roman Mejias led Houston in everyday player WAR in that inaugural 1962 season (he’d been grabbed in the expansion draft from his long-time home in the Pirates organization). Mejias was traded to the Red Sox after 1962 for veteran outfielder Pete Runnels, who had just won the 1962 AL batting average crown (a crown he also won in 1960).
The 1961 season turned out to be the last one in the majors for Ted Kluszewski, who’d been taken in the expansion draft by the Angels as a platoon partner at first base for Steve Bilko. Klu’s big performance on the Opening Day of the Angels franchise was in part a measure of revenge against opposing pitcher Milt Pappas. The preceding season, in late August, Klu had hit what appeared to be a pinch-hit, go-ahead three-run homer off of Pappas, but the whole thing was called back by the umpires who ruled that time had been called before the play, a decision that created something of a brouhaha.