The Yankees Have a Shot at Some Home-Run Records

In addition to forestalling the Red Sox’ attempt to clinch an AL East title on the Yankees’ turf, Neil Walker’s three-run shot off the Boston’s Ryan Brasier on Tuesday night gave New York a share of one major-league record. Wednesday night’s pair of homers from Luke Voit and another from Miguel Andujar gave the club a share of a franchise record and inched them closer to two more major-league ones. In these homer-happy times, nobody loves the long ball as much as the Bronx Bombers.

Walker’s homer, a towering, second-deck blast to right field, was his 10th of the season.

That gave the Yankees 11 players in double digits, tying a mark that has been matched in each of the past four years, a period that admittedly has produced three of the four highest per-game home run rates in history (1.26 per team per game in 2017, 1.16 in 2016, and 1.15 this year).

Teams with 11 Players Hitting 10-Plus Home Runs
SOURCE: Baseball-Reference
Players are listed alphabetically, not by home run totals.

This year’s Blue Jays could join the above 11×10 list if rookie Lourdes Gurriel Jr. hits two more homers over the remainder of the season, while the Yankees similarly have a shot at separating themselves from this pack if Voit, who didn’t even debut with the team until August 2, adds one more. Voit’s homers on Wednesday night, which were less majestic than Walker’s, represented his eighth and ninth since joining the team.

On that note, it’s worth acknowledging that appearing on the list above doesn’t necessarily guarantee success. The 2004 Tigers, who were just one year removed from the ignominy of a 119-loss season, went 72-90, while the 2016 Twins lost 103 games. This year’s Blue Jays, if they join the party, will now officially do so with a sub-.500 record after losing their 82nd game last Friday. On the other hand, the 2015 Astros, the first Houston team to finish above .500 in seven years following a dramatic rebuilding effort, claimed a Wild Card spot, and the 2017 edition won the World Series. This year’s Yankees are 93-58, owners of the majors’ third-best record. A roster featuring so many hitters to reach the 10-homer mark might indicate outstanding depth; it might also point to interchangeable mediocrity. Mostly, though, it’s a sign of these homer-happy times, as 74 of the 85 teams to have featured nine players with at least 10 homers hail from the post-1994 strike era, a sustained period of previously unprecedented home-run levels.

Back to the Yankees, though: Walker’s home run was the team’s 242nd of the season, pushing them past last year’s total of 241. With three more on Wednesday, they’re up to 245, the runaway highest total in the majors:

The Dodgers (who have 10 players with 10 homers) rank second overall with a mere 218 homers, while the A’s are second in the AL with 206.

The Yankees’ 245-homer total matches their franchise record, set in 2012, and is tied for the eighth-highest season total in history:

Most Home Runs by a Team in a Season
Rk Team Year HR
1 Mariners 1997 264
2 Rangers 2005 260
3T Orioles 1996 257
3T Blue Jays 2010 257
5 Orioles 2016 253
6 Astros 2000 249
7 Rangers 2001 246
8T Mariners 1996 245
8T Yankees 2012 245
8T Yankees 2018 245
11T Yankees 2009 244
11T Blue Jays 2000 244
11T Mariners 1999 244
14 Athletics 1996 243
15T White Sox 2004 242
15T Yankees 2004 242
17 Yankees 2017 241
18 Yankees 1961 240
19T Athletics 2000 239
19T Rangers 2003 239
19T Rockies 1997 239

In the wake of the club’s prodigious homer output last year and offseason addition of NL MVP Giancarlo Stanton — who swatted an MLB-high 59 in 2017 — many folks, including colleague Jeff Sullivan, suggested that this team was capable of breaking the record set by those 1997 Mariners, who had Ken Griffey Jr. (56), Jay Buhner (40), Paul Sorrento (31), Edgar Martinez (28), Alex Rodriguez (23), and Russ Davis (20) leading the way. As of February 22, when Jeff published this piece, our Depth Charts projections, which rely in part upon playing time estimates, forecast the team for 269 homers. By March 25, when Walker (who was signed on March 12) was in the fold, the team projection was up to 278.

The Yankees won’t hit quite that many, but with 11 games remaining, they’re on pace for 263, giving them a very realistic shot at the record. What’s impressive is that they’ve done this not only against the backdrop of a league where per-game home run rates are down 8.4% relative to last year, but with their top five sluggers (by projected homer totals) missing their respective marks by at least 11 apiece:

2018 Yankees Projected vs. Actual Home Runs
Name Proj HR Actual HR Dif
Giancarlo Stanton 58 34 -24
Aaron Judge 42 26 -16
Gary Sanchez 31 16 -15
Greg Bird 22 11 -11
Neil Walker 21 10 -11
Didi Gregorius 21 26 5
Aaron Hicks 19 24 5
Brett Gardner 13 12 -1
Brandon Drury* 12 1 -11
Tyler Austin* 8 8 0
Gleyber Torres 8 23 15
Miguel Andujar 7 25 18
Clint Frazier 4 0 -4
Jacoby Ellsbury 4 0 -4
Austin Romine 3 10 7
Tyler Wade 3 1 -2
Kyle Higashioka 1 3 2
Ronald Torreyes 1 0 -1
Shane Robinson 1
Luke Voit** 9
Andrew McCutchen** 4
Adeiny Hechavarria** 1
Total 278 245 -33
* No longer with team.
** Acquired in-season; no projection with team.

My point isn’t to complain about the quality of the projections (which are based on those of both Steamer and ZiPS); this seems like a fairly typical result, and of course there’s time for players to trim their margins. Nonetheless, injuries have been a huge factor in these shortfalls. Judge, who hit an AL-high 52 last year en route to AL Rookie of the Year honors, missed 45 games due to a chip fracture in his right wrist and hasn’t homered since July 21. Sanchez has served two stints on the disabled list for a groin injury and played just 81 games. Bird missed 40 games at the outset of the season due to right ankle surgery and has essentially lost his job to Voit, playing in just four games since August 29 and 79 overall. Walker has run hot and cold, with some big hits such as Tuesday’s homer, but an overall performance well below his career standard. Ellsbury missed the entire season due to injuries, and it’s been mostly a lost year for Frazier due to a concussion. Even Stanton, who has played in 149 games, has homered just twice in his past 27 games while playing through left hamstring tightness.

Despite all of that, the Yankees have had no power shortage. Gregorius and Hicks have set new career highs, the latter while accumulating enough playing time to qualify for the batting title for the first time, but the big reason the team has a shot at history has been the performances of the two rookies, Andujar and Torres. Projected for modest amounts of playing time at the outset of the season (245 plate appearances for Torres, 210 for Andujar), they have more than doubled those PA totals and more or less tripled their home-run projections. Torres, who wasn’t called up until April 22 and who missed 15 games in July due to a right hip strain, has 445 PA, while Andujar is third on the team with 562. Factor in defense and the rest of the pair’s contributions — not to mention the historic nature of the top alternative — and I’d still vote for Shohei Ohtani for AL Rookie of the Year, if you’re asking.

Of course, no discussion of the Yankees’ home-run totals would be complete without mentioning their ballpark’s short porch in right field, with the 314-foot distance down the line and estimated 360 feet to right-center, both among the shortest distances in the majors. It’s true that the Yankees have hit 138 of their 245 homers at home — 30 more than the Dodgers (second overall) and 34 more than the Angels (second in the AL) — but some of that is certainly attributable to the talent on hand. This team may be less built for the short porch than any since they moved into the new Yankee Stadium in 2009; their 41 homers by left-handed hitters at home is the fewest of any Yankees squad in that span and likely to finish in the bottom three, in the company of 2013 (43) and 2017 (50). While I’m sure that there are more elaborate ways to show this with Statcast, a quick tally of home runs hit at home with an estimated distance of 350 feet or less shows them with an MLB-leading 12 (including all three on Wednesday night), all of them hit to right field, but hey, it’s not like the Kingdome was a hard place to hit ’em out, either. The Astros rank second with nine, eight of them hit into the Crawford Boxes in left field. The Indians (six), Blue Jays, and White Sox (five apiece) round out the top five.

With just four remaining home games, the Yankees aren’t likely to catch the 2005 Rangers, who hold the record for homers hit at home in a single season, with 153. Right now, they’re merely tied for ninth and two away from the franchise record of 140, set last year. Even as they continue their quest to claim home-field advantage in the Wild Card race, where they lead the A’s (91-61) by 2.5 games, they’ve got something riding on every dinger the rest of the way.

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... and Mastodon @jay_jaffe.

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4 years ago

Man, Stanton has been such a disappointment for the Yankees. It makes you wonder if the Yankees will try and make a play for Harper after all and ship Stanton somewhere else (the Dodgers?), or maybe just bring back Gardner and hope Frazier gets better or resign McCutchen. I don’t think it would happen because the Dodgers would probably insist on a really lopsided deal and Stanton can veto trades, but Stanton just hasn’t looked like himself.

4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Why would they sell low on a guy whose floor appears to be a 3.5 win season with 30+ dongs? That doesn’t make any sense. He’s had an awful September and aside from that he’s been an above average hitter every other month this season, with a couple incredible months tucked in there.

I think the Yankees are perfectly pleased with him. Their fans may not be, but the organization surely is.

de Carabasmember
4 years ago
Reply to  FrodoBeck

“Why would they sell low on a guy whose floor appears to be a 3.5 win season with 30+ dongs?”

Wait – did “dongs” become a home run term without my noticing? Because I’m not gonna lie, that sentence scanned very differently to me the first couple of times I read it.

4 years ago
Reply to  FrodoBeck

I think the big issue is what else you could do with thirty million dollars each year. I don’t really agree that the Yankees are “perfectly pleased” with him. That’s an enormous amount of money to pay for a perfectly good (but that’s it) player.

Thinking about it, I think you’re right. There’s no way the sell low on him this year. But if he doesn’t play better next year, I think they may.

4 years ago
Reply to  FrodoBeck

As much as selling Stanton is nonsensical, I guarantee you that the Yankees organization is not ‘perfectly pleased’ with a career wrc+ 142 player in his prime hitting wrc+ 122.

The Ghost of Johnny Dickshot
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Stanton’s numbers are pretty much in line with every year he’s had in MLB, outside of last year. He’s off in a few areas but that could be attributed to change of teams. And I think we can all admit he wasn’t going to hit 59 (or even 45-50) homers every year.

4 years ago

Why is this being upvoted?
Are people only looking at home run numbers and not considering the difference between Marlins park and Yankees stadium?
From 2011 to 2017, Stanton had wrc+ 148 with a 4.6 war average.
And that is including all the random injuries.
He has wrc+ 122 now and is projected for 3.8 war.

A more accurate assessment is that Stanton is down in every area except home run and that has a lot do with changes in the home park.

4 years ago
Reply to  tung_twista

Oh boy. A study was done superimposing Stanton’s HR’s on Yankee Stadium and determined that there would be no difference in the number of HR’s. You also never mention that the alleys and CF are more than deep enough to offset the lines. Stanton’s performance has NOTHING to do with home park. Get that inside your head.

4 years ago
Reply to  RWinUT

You’re downvoting a study? Dishonest…

4 years ago

Not really true. He is at 123 OPS+. The only other seasons he’s been close to that low are 2010 and 2016. And despite his exit velocities, he (and everyone else on the Yankees) are surely being aided in the HR department due to the closeness and height of both the LF wall and the RF wall. The 34 homers are not a true indication of this season’s value, as a result.

We can applaud the Yankees for taking advantage of their stadium all we want, but the stadium itself is still an embarrasment and makes a mockery of the game.

4 years ago
Reply to  drewsylvania

Downthumbing me doesn’t make me wrong, FYI.

4 years ago
Reply to  drewsylvania

Stanton’s BABIP is 40 points higher than it was in 2016, too.

CC AFCmember
4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Last season was clearly his career year, but he’s been perfectly fine for me. Any of the other options – Gardner, Frazier, or McCutchen – would all likely produce at an inferior rate next year and you would have to eat money to move Stanton, I’d think.

The best option to my eyes seems to be to sit tight and go into next year with an OF of Judge, Hicks, and Stanton. I’d decline Gardner’s option, too, I think. Hopefully, you get Frazier healthy as a backup option. In a best case scenario, he forces his way into more playing time so you rotate him with the other 3 between the OF spots and DH. Theoretically, Ellsbury would also get healthy in the offseason and he would seem to be a perfectly fine fourth or fifth OF option. There should always be any number of respectable veteran 4th/5th of possibilities available if you want additional depth.

4 years ago
Reply to  CC AFC

Hopefully Ellsbury is out of the game for good.

4 years ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Stanton leads the Yankees in home runs, RBIs, and runs scored. He will likely be the team’s regular left fielder next season when the team admits Sanchez is not a catcher and must DH.

4 years ago
Reply to  GoNYGoNYGoGo

Weird, Sanchez’s defense alone has been worth nearly $5 Million this year. The passed balls are troubling, to be sure, but his arm, and having his bat behind the plate more than makes up for it.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jon

I’d say his bat was pretty anemic this year, hardly making up for anything. He’s a complete mystery at this point.

4 years ago
Reply to  RWinUT

Yes, I’m working under the assumption that this year’s offensive numbers are a fluke. A .196 BABIP will do that.

4 years ago
Reply to  RWinUT

How can that be downvoted? Intellectually dishonest…

4 years ago
Reply to  RWinUT

Well, it’s wrong, to start with (as I explained in my reply). But I do agree that it’s frustrating to have a post downvoted without a reply. I’ve tried to make it a point to reply to every post that I downvote.