Wednesday night, Kevin Millwood was laboring through shoulder discomfort in a start in Toronto. Still, he’d kept the Blue Jays hitless through three and a third. That’s when he let an 0-and-2 fastball to Edwin Encarnacion catch a little too much of the plate. Encarnacion blasted the pitch way out to left field, and the Jays got on the board. It was the 22nd home home run of Encarnacion’s 2012 season. That ties him for the second-most in baseball. A glimpse at the current leaderboard:
Whoa, wait, hold on a second. What?
Nothing in there is untrue. So far, Miguel Cabrera has slugged 24 home runs in Comerica Park. Edwin Encarnacion has slugged 22 home runs in Rogers Centre, and Ryan Braun has slugged 22 home runs in Miller Park, and the Giants have slugged 22 home runs in AT&T Park. Encarnacion has batted 283 times at home. The Giants have batted 2,615 times at home.
It will come as little surprise, then, that the Giants are bringing up the rear. The Padres are second-to-last in baseball in home home runs, as they probably always are, but they’re still 17 ahead of the Giants, or 77 percent ahead of the Giants. Then there are the Mariners and the Dodgers, each with 44 home home runs. The Yankees have 117. The Yankees hit their 22nd home home run of the season on May 1.
This information isn’t unfamiliar to people who have been watching the Giants all season, but it might be unfamiliar to most of the others. It’s laughable how infrequently the Giants have gone deep in front of their own fans this season, and it’s laughable how little it’s mattered, since the Giants are also 40-31 at home. Make no mistake, this is about the ballpark, and not the Giants; the Giants have hit 43 more home runs on the road, and they’ve allowed 30 more home runs on the road. They’ve also allowed more than twice as many home runs at home than they’ve hit. In San Francisco, the Giants have been out-homered more than two to one, and still they’ve won far more often than they’ve lost.
Various west-coast ballparks have gotten attention for their extreme 2012 run suppression, and A&T is a west-coast ballpark. An average of 6.9 runs have scored per Giants home game. An average of 10.0 runs have scored per Giants road game. But I’m not here to talk about AT&T Park’s run suppression; I’m here to talk about the Giants not going deep.
On May 14, Gregor Blanco launched a home homer to right off Christian Friedrich. On June 12, Madison Bumgarner launched a home homer to left off Bud Norris. In between, there were no home homers, over 16 full games. Blanco’s was also the first home homer since May 1. The Giants went on a little run in the middle of June, hitting six homers in three games, beginning with Bumgarner’s, but all three of those games were against the Astros, so the numbers hardly even count.
Want more, still? On the road, the Giants have posted a below-average 9.7-percent HR/FB. At home, the Giants have posted a terrifying 3.9-percent HR/FB, more than three full percentage points behind the Mariners. Cliff Pennington has a career 4.2-percent HR/FB. At home, the Giants have turned a lower rate of fly balls into home runs than Cliff Pennington.
In AT&T Park this season, the Giants have 22 home runs. The Braves have seven home runs, three apiece for Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman. I didn’t know where to tuck in that little fun fact but I knew it needed to be tucked in somewhere. Buster Posey leads all Giants with six home home runs, and then there’s Brandon Belt, with four. Then Pablo Sandoval, who’s tied with Heyward and Freeman.
Curious, I had overlord David Appelman run a query for me. I wanted to know where the Giants’ home home run numbers fit into a historical context, and Appelman was able to go back to 1974. The Giants have hit a home run in 0.84 percent of their home plate appearances. Turns out the 1981 Padres hit nine home home runs all year in a shortened season, coming in at a 0.44-percent clip. Other teams from around that time were worse than the Giants. But the Giants, at present, have the lowest home home-run rate for any team since the start of 1993. The 1992 Royals came in at 0.81 percent. That’s the last time a team has been this low. We find the 2010 Mariners at 1.19 percent. Then the 2011 Giants, at 1.42 percent. Last year, the Giants hit 42 home runs at home. This year it doesn’t look like they’ll even come close.
When I was a kid, I had a soft spot for the Giants, and I attended one game at Candlestick Park. The free giveaway was a J.T. Snow growth-chart poster, featuring a picture of J.T. Snow holding a baby. What I really wanted from my one experience was to hear the stadium fog horn go off after a Giants homer. I’m a sucker for special home-stadium celebrations — the Giants’ fog horn, the Blue Jays’ goal horn, the Mariners’ Funk Blast, any hockey goal horn, the Angels’ fireworks, and so on and so forth. The Giants still have that fog horn, and it hasn’t been getting a whole lot of use. I understand the fog horn sounds after wins, too, and it’s done so about twice as often as it’s sounded for a homer. That’s…I mean, that’s insane.
Clearly, the Giants are able to win without hitting too many dingers. Clearly, we should assume there’s some noise in this data, and clearly, the Giants just aren’t a dinger-hitting team. Whether or not the Giants are going to win the World Series has little to do with the fact that it’s September 13 and they’ve hit 22 home runs at home. But it’s September 13, and the Giants have hit 22 home runs at home.