History was made Sunday night in the Cape Cod League. The Wareham Gatemen and Falmouth Commodores were engaged in a slugfest in Falmouth’s Guv Fuller Field. In all, the two teams combined for seven home runs, including a go-ahead one in the top of the ninth by reliever and eventual winning pitcher Daniel Palka.* However, that one may not have even been the biggest home run of the night. That honor belongs to Gateman and Virginia Tech outfielder/designated hitter Tyler Horan.
*Even stranger, it it was Palka’s first pitching appearance this season. He normally plays first base, but had the night off to start. His replacement at first, normal-center fielder Cole Sturgeon, hit two home runs of his own.
Horan clubbed his sixteenth homer of the year to right field in the fifth inning. Through 42 games (and with two left on the 2012 season), the designated hitter/outfielder has tied the modern Cape League record for home runs. Since the league switched to wood bats in 1985, only Dave Stanton in 1988 had as many home runs as Horan does now. Even including the aluminum bat years (from 1963 to 1984), only one player has ever hit more in a year-Cory Sullivan with 22 in 1983.*
*Tim Teufel also hit 16 in 1979, another aluminum bat year.
Horan also stands a good chance to leave a bigger mark on the record book. The slugger has been on a run of success as of late, with six homers in his last six games. In that span, he also has 12 RBI and a .458/.500/1.250 batting line (average/on-base/slugging).
Horan’s been dominating for the full season. He leads the league in home runs, obviously, and he’s also second in the other two triple crown stats (.349 average and 39 RBI on the year). He fares well in the more advanced triple crown*, too, with a .411 OBP (tenth) and a remarkable .733 slugging percentage. Just to put that into perspective: if he averages 4 at-bats per game, then he’s averaging almost three bases per game. That’s a full 102 points better than second place, and 146 points ahead of third.
*Said more advanced triple crown being the triple slash stats.
Isolated power is a stat used to show a player’s strength, and it equals slugging percentage minus batting average. Basically, you can think of it as extra bases per at bat. Horan leads the CCBL with an incredible .384 ISO. He’s averaging more than two bases per hit. His ISO is two points off of matching the highest batting average in the league.
He obviously also leads the league in OPS, with a 1.144 mark. Another stat he leads the league in is Runs Created, where he’s posted an incredible 41.84 mark that leads second place Kyle Schwarber (his teammate) by nearly three full runs. Third place Conrad Gregor of Orleans is over seven runs back. Again, in case you didn’t realize, Tyler is creating nearly a full run per game with his bat alone. That is incredible.
Just now, I was going to calculate his OPS+, and I needed the league’s overall slugging percentage, when I noticed the league’s overall OPS is .733. Yes, the total league’s OPS is equal to just Tyler’s slugging percentage. Anyway, Horan has a 208 OPS+, meaning he’s hitting 108% better than a league average hitter. On top of that, early data suggests that Wareham’s stadium has actually suppressed run scoring this season, making Tyler Horan’s record all the more impressive.
As mentioned, Horan is an outfielder at Virginia Tech, where he will be a redshirt junior next season. He’s from nearby, in Middleboro, Massachusetts. The redshirt his first year was dual purpose: to help facilitate his switch from dual baseball and football to full-time baseball, and to make up for the shortened baseball seasons he faced in the northeast.
He picked Virginia Tech in part to get away from home and establish himself independently, but also for the school’s large campus and strong baseball program in the baseball-heavy ACC. He represented his school in the College Home Run Derby back at the start of July in Omaha. The Derby was the culmination of a successful season, which saw him hit .282/.400/.585 with 15 homers and 41 RBI in 54 games. As a Hokie, he’s also a teammate former Chatham Angler Chad Pinder, who left the league due to injury. Like Pinder, Horan has been facing injury problems on the Cape. He’s DH’ed most of the CCBL season after he pulled a hamstring during the Red Sox camp earlier in the summer, and it’s been nagging him since.
Being from Middleboro, Horan has been able to live at home for the season, something he thinks may have helped him adjust to the league more quickly. He also says that he prefers the wood bats in use to the NCAA newly-regulated BBCOR bats. Being a Massachusetts native, he’s a fan of the Red Sox, especially fellow left-handed hitting DH David Ortiz.
On tying the record, he had to say, “Being in the record books in such a prestigious league...I’m speechless. [Especially] knowing everyone who’s come before.” Horan will have two more games to establish himself as the sole record holder, both against the Bourne Braves.
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