(are) Home Runs (are) Overrated?

Earl Weaver famously loved the three-run homer, something that has been sorely lacking from this year’s Red Sox squad.  In fact, it isn’t just the three-runner, it’s all forms of the ding-dong that we’ve been missing.  Gordon Edes documents the Sox’ lack of jack in today’s Globe, and mentions a couple of numbers in passing:

  • Sox’ homers during August: 17
  • Yankees’ homers during August: 36

So what is the relevance of the home run to success without the context of the rest of the team?  The Red Sox are 14-9 in August (a winning percentage of .608, above their year-long pace) , with three famously blown games from Eric Gagne.  Let’s say they pull down two of those three and they are 16-7, a winning percentage of .695.  All without the benefit of tremendous power.  The Yankees, on the other hand, have hit thirty six in 24 days!  Insane.  Yet their record is 14-8, for a winning percentage of .623.  Turn a couple of late-game tight losses into wins and their record still compares to the Sox’ potential high number, 16-6.   The rest of the context?  Pitching and defense, the first two tenets of Earl Weaver’s strategy, the two keys to making the three-run homer relevant.  For the Yankees, the pitching is the culprit – an August ERA of 5.25, the highest for any month of the year, throwing in a .289 average and .798 OPS against, also the highest for any month.  The three run homer is clearly what’s saved them: they have a team batting average of .315 and a team OPS of .897 for August, not as high as July but still otherworldly.  The Sox?  Pitching and defense make the three-run homer less necessary – August has given the team a compiled ERA of 3.81 and BAA and OPSA of .242 and .680, all while the BABIP for their opponents sits at .280: we’re not looking at simply good luck here. 

In the grand scheme, the two teams offer an interesting contrast. So next week’s series should be compelling, just due to the sheer differences in style.

5 comments… add one
  • The greatest team of all time in my oppinion–the 1998 Yankees–did not have a single player with 30 homers.
    The top HR teams this year:
    Brewers – 179
    Reds – 171
    Marlins – 161
    Yankees – 161
    Phillies – 158
    Tigers – 148
    White Sox – 144
    Indians – 140
    Rangers – 140
    Braves – 140
    Devil Rays – 139
    Athletics – 137
    Only ONE team on that list–the Indians–would make the playoffs if the season ended right now. Home runs are ABSOLUTELY overrated.

    Atheose August 25, 2007, 3:54 pm
  • I haven’t been tracking team homeruns, so it really was a surprise to me to see that the Brewers lead the Majors.
    Great thread topic comparing the difference in styles this year. Especially given that we have in some ways changed our approach.

    Rob August 25, 2007, 3:57 pm
  • Well, maybe Atheose. But if they are overrated, then the Yankees would be far worse than their 14-8 this month. The homer has saved them. I think the point is that the homer is only as overrated (or useful) as any given team needs them to be. The Sox, frankly, don’t need them at the moment. In moments, they will need a three-run homer, I don’t doubt that. But in the big picture, and this month, they have needed them a lot less than the Yankees.

    SF August 25, 2007, 4:02 pm
  • well said sf, a stat like homeruns taken out of context just confirms the fatal flaws with this yankee team…inconsistency in general, defensive and baserunning lapses, aging and/or inexperienced starting pitching, and an unsettled bullpen…[i won’t even mention the pitching injuries earlier in the season since i don’t want it to sound like an excuse]…this team is more flawed than the sox, therefore the 6 game lead…makes sense, even if i don’t like it…

    dc August 25, 2007, 4:07 pm
  • Yeah, just looking at homers is a pretty old-school way of doing things. The Sox are just murdering the ball when it comes to doubles, and those score a fair share of runs, too.

    Paul SF August 25, 2007, 4:09 pm

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