Chicks dig the long ball. Pitchers do not. But as any MLB pitcher understands, it’s an exciting part of the game. The key is limiting the number of home runs with runners on base. In the 150 years of MLB, what pitcher has given up the most home runs in a single season? Surprisingly, the list includes a pair of Hall of Famers.
3 (Tie). Robin Roberts, Philadelphia Phillies in 1956 — 46 HRs
In his 19-year Hall of Fame career, pitcher Robin Roberts set many MLB records pitching for the Philadelphia Phillies. One main reason—he threw a lot of innings. Roberts led baseball from 1951-1955 in most innings thrown each season, his highest in 1953 when he started a league-leading 41 games (33 complete games) and tossed 346.2 innings.
From 1954-1957 Roberts led MLB in giving up the most home runs each season. In the 1956 season, Roberts started 37 games (22 complete games) and finished the season with a 19-18 record. Those 18 losses and 328 hits surrendered also led MLB. Of the 46 homers given up by Roberts that season, Hall of Famers Duke Snider and Ernie Banks tied for most home runs with three apiece.
3 (Tie). Bert Blyleven, Minnesota Twins in 1987 — 46 HRs
Bert Blyleven started 37 games for the Minnesota Twins in 1987 and pitched a total of 267.0 innings. He finished the season with a 15-12 record and was a crucial part of the team’s postseason push. He won three games in the playoffs as the Twins captured the World Series title defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games.
During the regular season, in which Blyleven finished with a 4.01 ERA, his 46 home runs surrendered led the league that season. What’s interesting is Blyleven gave up multiple home runs to many of the same players. That season four players each hit three home runs off Blyleven, including Oddibe McDowell, Ken Phelps, Cory Snyder, and Hall of Famer Eddie Murray.
3 (Tie). Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds in 2011 — 46 HRs
The 2011 season for Bronson Arroyo is one he would like to forget. In his 16-year career, that season is an anomaly. He finished the year with a 9-10 record and a 5.07 ERA, which is considerably higher than his earned run average in 2010 (3.88) and 2012 (3.74 ).
In 2011, Arroyo made 32 starts and pitched 199.0 innings, surrendering 227 hits and a league-worst 112 earned runs. That season he had four games where he gave up three home runs and two games where he was victimized four times against the Baltimore Orioles and Milwaukee Brewers.
2. Jose Lima, Houston Astros in 2000 — 48 HRs
The 2000 season came as a surprise to Jose Lima, the Astros organization and its fans. The previous season the right-hander made the only All-Star appearance in his 13-year career and led the league with 35 starts and posted a respectable 3.58 ERA.
In 2000, the Houston Astros should have known something was off with Lima the first month of the season. Against the St. Louis Cardinals, Lima gave up three homers in his second start of the season, then followed it up at the end of April surrendering five bombs in one game against the Chicago Cubs, his worst total for the season. He finished that year with a 7-16 record and 6.65 ERA.
1. Bert Blyleven, Minnesota Twins in 1986 — 50 HRs
Bert Blyleven tops the list for most home runs given up in a single season and makes his second appearance in the top 5. While Blyleven might have given up more than his share of long balls, his status as a Hall of Famer shows he did so over the duration of a long and outstanding career.
In 1986, Blyleven gave up the most homers but also led MLB with 293.2 innings pitched. Interestingly, he finished the season with a 4.01 ERA, the same earned run average he would have a year later when he gave up 46 bombs. The 1986 season lowlight for Blyleven happened on September 19 when he surrendered five home runs to the Texas Rangers, the only time he allowed that many homers in a game in his 22-year career.