The Homer Happy Weekend

Might baseball be cycling back to a pitching-dominant period? Last year we saw indications that pitchers were starting to get a leg up on hitters. There are many different ways to explain the change, but the facts are in front of us. The league hit 4,878 home runs in 2008, followed by 5,042 in 2009. In 2010 that dropped to 4,613. Determined to reverse course, this weekend teams set the bar high for the 2010 season. With the season just 1.9 percent complete, batters have already hit 2.3 percent of last year’s home run totals.

Clearly there were some aberrant performances involved in the season’s first 92 games. For instance, Red Sox pitching has allowed more than 10 percent of the 108 total home runs hit. That will not continue to be the case throughout the season (nor will, on the flipside, Texas continue to have 10 percent of the home run total). But that’s kind of the point. We know that we can’t trust the stats early on. So why not take a look at the weirdness of opening weekend and appreciate it for what it is?

While homers were up in general, there are a few teams that truly stood out in terms of home run production. The Reds, Angels, Yankees, Rangers, and Blue Jays all hit seven or more homers this weekend. The Brewers and Royals added six each of their own, which, since they faced the Reds and the Angels, might indicate some type of park anomaly (though in the case of the Royals and the Angels, they played four games while most teams played three). At the same time 16 teams — i.e., the majority — hit only one or two home runs.

Home runs were also concentrated among players. Four players hit three home runs this weekend. In an odd coincidence, three of them hit one in each game. Ian Kinsler hit homers to lead off the game in both of his first two, and then followed up with one on Sunday. His teammate, Nelson Cruz, added two of his own. Mark Teixeira got the most out of his homers, driving in seven runs with them, including a pair of three-run shots in his first two games. Howie Kendrick added one on Friday and another two on Sunday.

(Late add: David Ortiz hit a game-tying homer on Friday and a go-ahead homer on Saturday.)

For good measure, nine other players added two home runs. Torii Hunter hit the two longest homers of the weekend, at 461 and 457 feet. Jose Bautista kept his critics at bay by smashing a pair. His teammate, J.P. Arencibia, also hit two. Rickie Weeks led off Thursday’s and Sunday’s games with home runs; his teammate Ryan Braun also added a pair. Mike Napoli helped pad Texas’ total with two bombs, one off Jon Lester. Pat Burrell got the job done out in LA even though his team lost the series. Finally, both Jorge Posada and Miguel Cabrera hit two homers in Sunday’s game.

This kind of performance flies in the face of conventional knowledge regarding April power. We’ve heard, and observed, that power tends to increase as the weather gets warmer. We saw this last year, as there was a homer hit for every 40 PA, but one every 41 PA in April. Yet this year hitters have, so far, hit a home run once every 33 trips to the plate. While it wouldn’t take much for that number to start moving towards last year’s baseline, it’s still an interesting twist to opening weekend.

It is safe to say, though, that this trend will not continue. Were batters to continue mashing homers at their current rate, they’d hit 5,705 in a full 4,860-game season. That’s 12 more than the league hit in 2000, which is the current record. Sure, maybe if the league has decided to juice the ball it’s a possibility. But barring that, we should see a slowdown in homers during the next few weeks and throughout this season. Which is just fine. The homer happiness already added to the allure of opening weekend. No matter what happens the rest of the season, we can still look back on this weekend and say, “Holy schnikes, they hit a ton of homers in those four days.”



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


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Mike Williams
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Mike Williams
5 years 2 months ago

FWIW, the Royals/Angels game was played in mid 80s heat, with 25 MPH winds blowing out to CF/LF. Basically, it was more like August conditions at the K – except for windier. Definitely contributed to the 8 homer day yesterday…

rbt
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rbt
5 years 2 months ago

And winds were gusting to 45 mph. 91degrees for the high in KC yesterday. Crazy. The record high for the date was 82.

MikeS
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MikeS
5 years 2 months ago

HA! It only took 1 post for Matt Klaassen’s first prediction to come true.

“1. There will be blog entries written early in the season than begin by warning about small sample size, then go on to ignore sample size anyway.”

I know you didn’t really ignore samople size and specifically said this is just for fun but it’s close enough.

ritz
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ritz
5 years 2 months ago

Year of the homer?

KyleL
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KyleL
5 years 2 months ago

David Ortiz also hit two home runs this weekend.

gabriel
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gabriel
5 years 2 months ago

It’s not a ridiculously small sample size: with about 50 games played through Sunday, there have been about 3,500 plate appearances. Is there a particular reason we’d expect higher variability in home runs than other statistics? And no one has yet had the pleasure of hitting anyone’s #5 starter.

TheMooseOfDeath
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TheMooseOfDeath
5 years 2 months ago

“in a full 4,860-game season”

That’s quite a grind. Teams will really have to dig deep into their farm systems.

SeanP
Member
SeanP
5 years 2 months ago

You realize that he’s referring to all games played by all teams, right?

Hawkeye
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Hawkeye
5 years 2 months ago

And you realize it takes two teams to play a game so there are actually 2430 games.

Wes
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Wes
5 years 2 months ago

Nicely written article and posted PDQ…..

Don’t forget Rickie Weeks’ third already on Monday, although I guess that was after your article came out :-)

Big Jgke
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Big Jgke
5 years 2 months ago

Bautista! All the doubters were officially wrong!

Cam
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Cam
5 years 2 months ago

Call it unofficially wrong. Three games is way too small a sample size to draw any major conclusions from, but it’s clear already that 2011 Jose Bautista has a lot more in common with 2010 Jose Bautista than 2008 Jose Bautista.

André
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André
5 years 2 months ago

Officially wrong!

RoyaleWithCheese
Member
RoyaleWithCheese
5 years 2 months ago

“The Reds, Angels, Yankees, Rangers, and Blue Jays all hit seven or more homers this weekend. The Brewers and Royals added six each of their own”

The Giants also hit six (in four games).

James
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James
5 years 2 months ago

Assuming they play year round, I’ll tell the front office to get recruiters to elementary schools straight away! Otherwise, I’ll start pairing up parents based upon ideal genetic matches. We’ll be ready for the home-stretch of the season!

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 2 months ago

2B is the new 3B, the power IF position that requires defense? *grin*

None of them are named Utley, remembering the year he had ~30 by ASB.

2B really seems to be a “difference making” position btw contenders and not.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
5 years 2 months ago

Ryan Howard has started his MVP Season with a pair of 3-run homers. I can see it coming, and am powerless to stop it.

40 HR 130 RBI on a 1st place team.

Small Sample Goodness
Guest
Small Sample Goodness
5 years 2 months ago

Buzz killer.

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