On the Long Ball and Shortsightedness

Babe Ruth, full-length portrait, standing, fac...

Babe Ruth. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Of their 412 runs scored, 209 — or 50.7% — have come on home runs. The daily display of power helped the Yankees finish the first half with the majors’ best record, but are they setting themselves up for a disappointing October?

via Yankees relying on home run for offensive output, which could be trouble in MLB playoffs – NY Daily News.

The Yankees may indeed be setting themselves up for a disappointing October (e.g. Manager Joe Girardi is clearly slipping into a form of madness), but do not expect The News to tell you why. I had expected, in the article excerpted above, a thesis along the lines of “fewer home runs are hit, per game, in the playoffs,” or something. Instead, the article is rooted in a pair of out-of-context statistics: Only two of the 30 most productive home-run-hitting teams actually won a World Series, and only 11 qualified for the playoffs.

That is how they tried to get O. J., of course. What is relevant to the Yankees is not how the most productive home-run-hitting teams fared. It is how the most productive teams that also had a strong record fared. Unfortunately, I am too lazy to thoroughly look that up, but I can tell you that:

  • The last time the Yankees led the league in home runs (2009), they won the World Series.
  • Only two of the last 10 World Series champions hit fewer home runs than the league average — four were in the Top 5.
  • And of the 26 so-called walk-off, game-winning hits in the World Series since 2002, half were home runs.

After an analysis at least as sophisticated The News’s, I am going to go ahead and conclude that home runs correlate strongly with World Series victories.

Anyway, it really does not matter how the Yankees have won their games because they already won them. More to the point is only a fool will try to predict the rest of this season based on the first half.

Allow me to try, though.

The nugget I would like to pull, out of context, from The News article is this: “The Yankees have played 71 of their 85 games against teams playing .500 or better…” And all they have is the best record in baseball.

That seems like it bodes well. Looking at a hypothetical playoff series, the Yankees have three  starters (if you include Andy Pettitte) with earned run averages under 3.50. The bullpen, with a balanced workload, has four solid guys with E.R.A.’s under 3. And then there is the offense, which has somehow contributed to winning 52 games while batting only .231 with runners in scoring position.