Adjusting the Twins’ New Home Run Record

Lost somewhat amid the holiday weekend, the Twins set a new major league record on Saturday. Granted, the mark they surpassed was no long-standing, hallowed standard — in fact, it stood for less than a full year. Nonetheless, with Mitch Garver’s ninth-inning solo shot off the Tigers’ Joe Jiménez, the Twins overtook the 2018 Yankees with their 268th home run, the most by any team in one season. That they left themselves with four full weeks to pad the mark is just one more sign of how over-the-top this this year’s home run totals — fueled primarily by more aerodynamic baseballs, with smoother leather and seams so low that the balls are nearly round — are. The feat deserves a closer look, as well as some perspective.

Here’s Garver’s home run, his second of the day and 26th of the season — in just his 76th game:

Garver’s homers were two of six the Twins hit in their 10-7 loss (a subject to which I’ll return momentarily). His total ranks fifth on the team behind Max Kepler (36), Nelson Cruz (35, in just 101 games), Eddie Rosario (28), and Miguel Sanó (27, in just 87 games). Counting C.J. Cron (24), Jonathan Schoop (21) and Jorge Polanco (20), the Twins are the first team with eight players to reach 20 homers in a season, and they’re the 14th team to have five players reach 25 homers, with multiple candidates to make them the second team to have six:

Teams With the Most 25-Homer Sluggers
Tm Year # Players
Red Sox 2003 6 Nomar Garciaparra / Kevin Millar / Trot Nixon / David Ortiz / Manny Ramirez / Jason Varitek
Reds 1956 5 Ed Bailey / Gus Bell / Ted Kluszewski / Wally Post / Frank Robinson
Red Sox 1977 5 Carlton Fisk / Butch Hobson / Jim Rice / George Scott / Carl Yastrzemski
Orioles 1996 5 Brady Anderson / Bobby Bonilla / Chris Hoiles / Rafael Palmeiro / Cal Ripken Jr.
Rockies 1997 5 Dante Bichette / Ellis Burks / Vinny Castilla / Andres Galarraga / Larry Walker
Angels 2000 5 Garret Anderson / Darin Erstad / Troy Glaus / Tim Salmon / Mo Vaughn
White Sox 2002 5 Paul Konerko / Carlos Lee / Magglio Ordonez / Frank Thomas / Jose Valentin
Rangers 2005 5 Hank Blalock / David Dellucci / Kevin Mench / Alfonso Soriano / Mark Teixeira
Yankees 2009 5 Robinson Canó / Hideki Matsui / Alex Rodriguez / Nick Swisher / Mark Teixeira
Rangers 2011 5 Adrian Beltre / Nelson Cruz / Josh Hamilton / Ian Kinsler / Mike Napoli
White Sox 2012 5 Adam Dunn / Paul Konerko / A.J. Pierzynski / Alex Rios / Dayan Viciedo
Orioles 2016 5 Chris Davis / Adam Jones / Manny Machado / Jonathan Schoop / Mark Trumbo
Reds 2017 5 Adam Duvall / Scooter Gennett / Scott Schebler / Eugenio Suárez / Joey Votto
Yankees 2018 5 Miguel Andujar / Didi Gregorius / Aaron Hicks / Aaron Judge / Giancarlo Stanton
Twins 2019 5 Nelson Cruz / Mitch Garver / Max Kepler / Eddie Rosario / Miguel Sano
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference

Three other teams from this season may well join the 5×25 club by the end of this month, namely the Astros (Yordan Alvarez has 22 homers in just 66 games, while both Michael Brantley and Carlos Correa have 19), Cubs (Willson Contreras has 20, and Jayson Heyward 18) and Red Sox (Mookie Betts hit two to get to 25 on Wednesday night, while Christian Vázquez, Michael Chavis, and Jackie Bradley Jr. are in the 17-19 range). Meanwhile, the A’s have three players with at least 25 plus Mark Canha at 23, Ramon Laureano at 21, and both Khris Davis and Jurickson Profar at 19.

When the Yankees hit 267 homers last year, they surpassed a mark that had stood for 21 years, the 264 set by the 1997 Mariners. Sometime in the next week, this year’s Yankees, who have 263 homers, will blow past both. It’s another sign of the times, in that all of the top 20 team home run totals are from the past 24 years, a span that contains 21 of the 24 seasons in which teams have averaged at least one home run per game (1987, and the strike-shortened ’94 and ’95 seasons are the others). Six of the top 20 totals have come from the past five seasons, a period that has produced — and here again I sound like a broken record going on about broken records — four of the top five home run rates, including the high this year of 1.40 per team per game, which is 22.1% higher than last year’s 1.15 per game, and 11.6% higher than the previous record of 1.26 per game, set in 2017. I’ll get to the team leaderboard momentarily, but first, a rerun of a graph I created in June for my “Too Many Homers” piece; at that point, this year’s rate was 1.36 per team per game — about 3% lower than it is currently — but the general trend is really the point:

And now, here’s the leaderboard:

Single Season Team Home Run Leaders
Rk Team Season HR HR%+
1 Twins 2019 272 132
2 Yankees 2018 267 135
3 Mariners 1997 264 147
4 Yankees 2019 263 128
5 Rangers 2005 260 147
6T Blue Jays 2010 257 166
6T Orioles 1996 257 130
8 Orioles 2016 253 129
9 Dodgers 2019 250 120
10 Astros 2000 249 124
11 Rangers 2001 246 134
12T Yankees 2012 245 135
12T Mariners 1996 245 123
14T Mariners 1999 244 129
14T Yankees 2009 244 129
14T Blue Jays 2000 244 127
17 Athletics 1996 243 124
18T White Sox 2004 242 132
18T Yankees 2004 242 129
20 Yankees 2017 241 110
21 Yankees 1961 240 147
22T Rangers 2003 239 133
22T Athletics 2000 239 123
22T Rockies 1997 239 144
25T Red Sox 2003 238 127
25T Astros 2017 238 110

That last column, HR%+, is a normalized stat based upon home runs per plate appearance, with 100 representing league average, 120 a performance 20 percent above that average, and 80 representing one 20 percent below average. We don’t have this as part of our “plus stats” suite, introduced earlier this season, but Sean Dolinar let me order off-menu. LIke our other plus stats, these are relative to the individual league (AL or NL) but not park adjusted; they merely express a team’s home run rate relative to that of their league. By that measure, this year’s Twins have not been as prolific as last year’s Yankees, who hit their homers against a backdrop in which teams averaged 1.15 per game (by plate appearances, which is what’s being normalized, the comparison is 3.73% for this year’s AL versus 3.14% for last year’s). Both of those teams take a back seat to the 1997 Mariners, who homered in a year where teams averaged 1.02 homers per game, and even that bunch of sluggers couldn’t hold a candle to the 2010 Blue Jays, who hit their homers in a season where teams averaged just 0.95 homers per game. If you’re wondering how that stacks up historically, it’s 26th, below a comparatively ancient top 25:

Team Normalized Home Run Rate Leaders
Rk Team Season HR HR%+
1 Yankees 1927 158 271
2 Yankees 1920 115 235
3 Red Sox 1910 43 221
4 Yankees 1921 134 213
5 Yankees 1926 121 211
6 Yankees 1928 133 206
7 Phillies 1915 58 201
8 Yankees 1931 155 193
9 Yankees 1924 98 192
10 Phillies 1920 64 190
11 Athletics 1906 32 190
12 Americans 1903 48 189
13 Giants 1947 221 188
14 Yankees 1916 35 182
15 Cubs 1915 53 179
16 Yankees 1923 105 178
17 Athletics 1932 172 177
18 Yankees 1929 142 176
19 Yankees 1933 144 176
20 Athletics 1907 22 176
21 Phillies 1914 62 175
22 Athletics 1918 22 174
23 Yankees 1936 182 174
24 Athletics 1933 139 171
25 Phillies 1913 73 170
Since 1900.

Holy Bambino! Twelve of the top 25 teams are Yankees squads, 10 of them from Babe Ruth’s 1920-34 run; of the other two, the 1916 team featured the AL’s top two home run hitters in Wally Pipp (12) and Home Run Baker (10), while the 1936 team had AL leader Lou Gehrig (49) and rookie Joe DiMaggio (29 homers, fourth in the league). Somehow Baker, who led the AL annually from 1911-14, does not figures in any of the five Connie Mack-managed A’s teams above, and none of those teams were among Mack’s nine pennant winners. On the other hand, the first World Series winners, the 1903 Boston Americans (whose Buck Freeman hit an AL-high 13) are in the house. All of the above teams predate World War II save for the 1947 Giants. Beyond the 2010 Blue Jays, the second-ranked post-1960 expansion team, the 1968 Tigers, is 52nd overall with a 155 HR%+, with the 1980 Brewers (154 HR%+) 56th.

Again, those numbers only express home run rates relative to the league; they don’t include park factors. Our park home run factors stretch back only to 1974; if I incorporate those into the mix, for what we might call “HR%++,” we get this leaderboard for the period:

Team Normalized, Park-Adjusted HR% Leaders
Rk Team Year HR HR+% PF HR%++
1 Brewers 1980 203 154 94 164
2 Blue Jays 2010 257 166 104 159
3 Brewers 1982 216 143 91 157
4 Brewers 1978 173 142 94 151
5T Yankees 1980 189 141 98 144
5T Mariners 1997 264 147 102 144
7 Rangers 2005 260 147 105 140
8T White Sox 1977 192 131 94 139
8T Mets 1988 152 134 97 139
10 Orioles 1976 119 128 93 138
11 Orioles 2014 211 146 107 137
12T Tigers 1991 209 147 108 136
12T Brewers 1979 185 128 94 136
14T Dodgers 1979 183 145 107 135
14T Orioles 1978 154 129 96 135
14T Mariners 1999 244 129 96 135
17T Orioles 1985 214 137 102 134
17T Red Sox 2010 211 130 97 134
17T Red Sox 1977 213 148 111 134
20T Reds 1976 141 135 101 133
20T Athletics 1990 164 126 95 133
22T Pirates 1975 138 128 97 132
22T Giants 2001 235 117 89 132
22T Tigers 1992 182 141 107 132
22T Mets 1990 172 128 97 132
22T Braves 1998 215 128 97 132
Since 1974.

Now that’s a fun list, with one of the most memorable teams of my youth, the “Harvey’s Wallbangers” 1982 Brewers, third, and their 1980 precursors (managed by Buck Rodgers and George Bamberger, not Harvey Kuenn) first. I’ve excluded a quartet of teams from the strike-shortened 1981 (the A’s at 146, the Yankees at 141, the Expos at 138, and the Brewers at 135), as well as the 1994 and ’95 Indians (135 and 137, respectively). Note that since the park home run factors that I pulled from our Guts pages only go to three digits, I’ve retained the virtual ties in this table, not that it’s a big deal. Since we don’t yet have 2019 park factors, I’ve substituted 2018 ones, but as it is, the top team from this season, the Twins, is tied for 36th with a 130 mark (using a 102 park home run factor). The 2018 Yankees, who had a park home run factor of 112, drop to a tie for 102nd on the list with a HR%++ of 121, while this year’s Yankees are much lower at 114, assuming the same park factor.

Here’s how this year’s 30 teams stack up in terms of both HR+% and HR++%, both of which are normalized to their respective league rates, and the latter of which uses last year’s park factors, which will inevitably change slightly once this season is fully in the books:

2019 HR%+ and HR%++
Rk Team HR HR%+ PHRF* HR%++
1 Twins 272 132 102 130
2 Dodgers 250 121 101 120
3 Athletics 219 110 93 118
4 Yankees 263 130 112 116
5 Astros 234 114 101 113
6 Braves 218 107 96 111
7T Red Sox 220 106 96 110
7T Cubs 216 110 100 110
9 Padres 200 104 96 108
10 Mariners 214 107 100 107
11 Blue Jays 211 108 102 106
12 Mets 201 99 97 102
13 Diamondbacks 203 100 99 101
14 Brewers 214 107 107 100
15 Nationals 199 99 100 99
16T Indians 196 99 102 97
16T Angels 197 97 100 97
18 Rays 187 92 96 95
19 Reds 200 102 108 94
20 Cardinals 172 88 95 93
21 Rangers 192 95 104 92
22 Giants 154 78 86 91
23 Orioles 177 90 105 86
24 Rockies 187 92 111 83
25 Pirates 153 76 93 82
26 Phillies 178 89 109 82
27 Royals 142 72 92 79
28 White Sox 147 76 103 74
29 Marlins 122 64 90 71
30 Tigers 128 66 100 66
* Park factors are from 2018.

While they’ve drawn close to the Twins in terms of raw home run totals — thanks in part to hitting a record 74 last month, to the Twins’ 59 (a total matching the old record, ahem) — this year’s Yankees are actually just the fourth-most potent team when it comes to the long ball this year, accounting for league rates and park factors. That said, they now have a fully operational Judge, and shouldn’t be counted out when it comes to surpassing the Twins, though it’s worth noting the latter does have two additional games to play.

Those Twins, who are on pace to hit 317 homers and have a strong grip on the AL Central lead, are certainly a force to be reckoned with for any team that crosses their path. They will go down in the record books, but homer-wise, they’re not nearly the historical outliers that their final total will suggest. A rising tide lifts all boats.

We hoped you liked reading Adjusting the Twins’ New Home Run Record by Jay Jaffe!

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Brooklyn-based Jay Jaffe is a senior writer for FanGraphs, the author of The Cooperstown Casebook (Thomas Dunne Books, 2017) and the creator of the JAWS (Jaffe WAR Score) metric for Hall of Fame analysis. He founded the Futility Infielder website (2001), was a columnist for Baseball Prospectus (2005-2012) and a contributing writer for Sports Illustrated (2012-2018). He has been a recurring guest on MLB Network and a member of the BBWAA since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @jay_jaffe.

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bbmoney
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bbmoney

HR+% shown here compared to MLB as a whole or AL & NL individually? I think it’s saying compared to MLB as a whole. But first and last tables are maybe doing it differently (odd though that Yankees and Dodgers %’s go up and Twins stay flat).

I’m likely just missing it.

Cool stuff either way to help keep in perspective that while the raw numbers are crazy high, a lot of it is just the ball, the ball, the ball