Refuting a Ridiculous Claim About Home Runs

It doesn’t take a sabermetrician to know that home runs helps teams win games. They lead to run scoring, and teams that score more runs generally win more games. The other side of the situation, of course, involves preventing runs. A team might score five runs a game, but if its pitching staff allows 5.5, the team will probably lose more games than it wins. Even an anti-stat crowd would have a hard time refuting this.

In my first article for FanGraphs, just about a month ago, I addressed the reasons why Jermaine Dye remains unemployed. The inspiration came from a Ken Rosenthal article in which he discusses the situation with Dye’s agent, Bob Bry. Frustrated that his client hasn’t received an acceptable offer, Bry decries the emphasis on the defensive metrics. He thinks it’s overblown, and then turns around to say that Dye hits home runs, and when teams hit home runs they win more games. Specifically, teams that hit zero home runs in a game had a .332 winning percentage, which rose to .517 with one home run and .659 with two.

This comes as no surprise. The home run is a subset of the larger runs category, and teams that score more runs win more games. Earlier this off-season, Walk Like A Sabermetrician posted a chart breaking down teams’ win percentages when scoring X number of runs. Teams that scored three runs had a .337 win percentage, four runs had .523, and five runs had .629. In other words, pretty close to Bry’s home run numbers. Of course, since his client’s strength lies in his power, Bry doesn’t mention the flip side of the equation.

While Dye adds runs to a team’s total with his home runs, he also detracts with his defense. He does not get to balls that other right fielders do, which leads to more base runners. Where other right fielders might have caught a fly ball and ended an inning, Dye’s inability to field it costs his team not only the base runner, but also extends the inning. All of this allows opponents opportunities to score more runs. So, while Dye’s home runs increase his own team’s chances of winning, his futile defense boosts his opponents’ run totals, thus increasing their chances of winning.

Dye’s maximum value comes from the DH spot, but as Cameron noted, his handedness complicates this issue. Further hurting his opportunities, all AL teams currently have their DH situation under control. Some have a permanent DH, while others are carrying four starting outfielders, with the intention of rotating then in the DH spot. This leaves Dye without any viable prospects. If he wants to play the 2010 season he’ll have to wait until a team has an opening. Since he’s certainly the best remaining free agent position player, that opportunity should come eventually.

It does appear, though, that underestimating the value of defense costed Dye this off-season. His power undoubtedly helps, but if he’s costing his team a similar number of runs in the field why would anyone sign him to a multimillion dollar deal?




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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


18 Responses to “Refuting a Ridiculous Claim About Home Runs”

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  1. AK707 says:

    Perhaps Dye’s theory is that hitting home runs leads to more people coming through the turnstile than Gutierrez type play does, and deserves a bigger contract? At least that was Scott Boras’ argument when getting Manny his current deal. I would prefer to see some home runs being robbed to seeing them hit, but thats me.

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    • Travis L says:

      has there ever been a study that looks at correlation between home runs and attendance, adjusting for confounders? I know that I’ve seen studies that marquee players do NOT significantly affect attendance, but haven’t seen anything WRT specific styles of play. Also be interesting to see it broken down by pitchers duels, # pitching changes, etc.

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  2. Tobias F. says:

    Yeah with teams paying more and more attention to defense and advanced defensive stats it really kills his value and is probably for sure the reason why he hasn’t been signed. On top of that he is 36 years old and his numbered nosedived in the 2nd half. Yeah a half of season is a relatively small sample size for a guy with the track record of Dye but I’m sure that has to scare a team off atleast a little bit when you factor in his age to go along with it.

    I think a few years ago when teams didn’t pay as close attention to defensive stats(seemingly atleast) he probably would’ve been signed by now. They probably would’ve just saw his HR total and offered him a contract.

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  3. The Usual SusBeck says:

    Wish the O’s waited on him for the spot at 1B. Atkins probably wasn’t going anywhere very quickly and I’d rather have Dye’s bat in the lineup. Not to mention they could’ve always fell back on a Reimold/Scott rotation if neither worked out.

    In summary F___ Atkins.

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    • The Hip of Albert Belle says:

      Yes, because we all know that an OF with below-average range and no prior history at the 1B position is going to do exceedingly well.

      For you I present: Scott, Luke.

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      • ryan b says:

        Are you sure Luke Scott is the example you want to give here? He had a 0.4 UZR in 63 innings at 1B…that few of innings, meaningless of course, but this player doesn’t seem to support your point that a poor outfielder would not perform well at 1B.

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  4. Joe says:

    The irony is that the team with the least settled DH spot, that seems to be lacking in power, that probably could use his bat, is the White Sox.

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    • dickey simpkins says:

      You’ll eat those words when Omar Vizquel/Mark Kotsay/Andruw Jones colllectively OPS over .950.

      /whyyyyyyyyyyyyy

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      • Jason B says:

        Kotsay looked like a world-beater batting against Carlos Silva the other day. Of course, EVERYONE looked like a world beater hitting his 74-MPH soft-toss…

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  5. West says:

    .659 winning % with 2 home runs, why the hell is the DH dying?

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  6. Bob says:

    Not trying to split hairs here, but what is the ridiculous claim about home runs?

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  7. Impossibles says:

    Why do we never hear about prospects who play amazing defense? Why are their bats only talked about with a tagline attached for his defense?

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    • delv says:

      I always assumed that great or even league-average defense is easier to find than a league-average bat. *shrug*

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  8. Steve S. says:

    If you’re gonna Dye…if you’re gonna Dye…

    If you’re gonna Dye! Dye with yer boots on if you’re gonna Dye…

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  9. CaR says:

    Doesn’t a great deal of the argument against ‘over-valuing’ power get its basis in an environment where there are multiple high OBP hitters in the lineup? Most comparisons I’ve seen create a scenario of nine high base % guys scoring more runs than a standard lineup with 2-3 sluggers. This may be true, but how realistic is the model? A team that lacks power had better make it up throughout the lineup with base getters and I’m not sure that we have many examples of this currently.

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  10. The Grammarian says:

    Costed?

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