As I was preparing this little post, the Dodgers scored a first-inning run against the Nationals. Interestingly, while the run was driven in by an extra-base hit, it was not driven in by a homer. So far in the playoffs, that’s been slightly unusual!
I think it was Joe Sheehan who came up with the “Guillen Number.” You take all the runs scored directly off homers, and then you divide by the total number of runs. I’ve taken care to calculate playoff Guillen Numbers during the wild-card era, stretching back to 1995. Here you are:
Now, this is coming into today, so this doesn’t include the Dodgers’ one run so far. And, yes, I know, it’s early, so very early, and the numbers still have time to sort themselves out. But in the playoffs to this point, more than half of all the runs have been driven in by dingers. We’re at 32 of 59, to be exact, even though the average before this year was 39%. Over the preceding decade, 37%. It’s easy to tell that this year stands out, and if you’ve been following the playoffs yourself, you’ve presumably noticed. It feels like the winners have been determined by who hits the long ball, or the biggest long ball, and that feeling is supported.
It’s not like home runs are necessarily out of control. Hitters in the playoffs are slugging just .378, which isn’t unusual. We aren’t really seeing an offensive resurgence. Rather, sort of the opposite?
Home runs are more responsible for offense right now because it’s less easy than it’s been to generate other kinds of offense. Batters have reached less than 27% of the time, and though that makes it more difficult to hit a multi-run homer, that also means there have been fewer opportunities to drive a run home with a single or a double. One interesting indicator: we’ve so far seen just two sac bunts. The sac-bunt rate is way down, and maybe that’s a coincidence, or maybe managers aren’t trying to play smallball because outs are already coming in such droves.
There are many games left to play. Importantly, so far we’ve mostly just seen the best starting pitchers. The numbers will change, to some degree. But if you’ve felt like offenses have leaned on homers — yeah. Yeah, that’s basically what’s been happening.
Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.