While not as rare as Halley's Comet returning, Miami Marlins slugger Juan Pierre hitting a home run is one of the more infrequent occurrences in Major League Baseball. Pierre hit career homer No. 18 on Thursday night in the Marlins 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds, a line drive against Mat Latos that just sneaked over the right-field fence and barely stayed fair. That's how guys with a .278 slugging percentage roll:
''Juan Pierre hit a home run off me — just my luck,'' Latos said. ''I looked at him when he was running the bases and said, 'What the heck happened?'''
"Shocked" is an OK reaction. It was Pierre's first home run since June 2012. And that's about right, because in his career Pierre has hit a home run every 450 times he has come to the plate. Among players with at least 8,100 career plate appearances — Pierre's precise number coming into Friday — it's the third-weakest rate since integration in 1947 (via Baseball Reference):
1. Don Kessinger: 14 HR in 8,530 PA (1 per 609.3)
2. Larry Bowa: 15 HR in 9,109 PA (1 per 607.3)
3. Juan Pierre: 18 HR in 8,100 PA (1 per 450)
4. Maury Wills: 20 HR in 8,306 PA (1 per 415.3)
5. Ozzie Smith: 28 HR in 10,778 PA (1 per 384.9)
That's what happens when you choke up! Even if you play with the numbers — say, by lowering the plate-appearance threshold to 6,000, and by going back to 1916, about when the "dead-ball era" was over — Pierre still has the fourth-lowest career home-run rate.
Still, he's no Duane Kuiper. Kuiper, who played with the Indians and Giants in the 1970s and '80s, hit one home run in 3,754 plate appearances. Even if Kuiper got the plate as many times as Pierre has, there's almost no chance of him hitting eight — much less 18.
So here's to the raw, brute strength of Juan Pierre. Here's a list of every Pierre home run. (Never against the same pitcher twice, never more than one in a game. First against Jose Lima, most against Tigers and Pirates (three). Fourteen solo shots, no grand slams. Only hit one inside-the-park homer (at Comerica Park). Sixteen went to right field, one went to left, one is "unknown.")
(Pierre also made two great catches against the Reds, by the way, but the first catch came after he turned the wrong way at first.)