How Important Are Home Runs?

For the most part, home runs are considered an integral part of any offense.  They are fan favorites, they are exciting, and they instantly spark a team.  But overall, how important are they to a team’s success?  This, of course, is an important question for the San Diego Padres.  They don’t hit many home runs and must rely on other methods for scoring runs.

To determine the importance of home runs in regards to wins, we must understand the number of possibilities for scoring runs.  I’m not going to run through them all because the number of ways to score is staggering.  Take for example the number of ways to score just from third base.  There are 25.  Home runs are just one way to score.  Let’s take a look at the home run figures for teams from last season as opposed to wins.

Wins – Green    HR – Blue

While it’s clear there is some correlation between home runs and wins, the line chart shows the negative correlation isn’t that great until you get down to 100 or less home runs.  Even as the home run totals are dipping, there is a spike in wins at the middle of the chart.  Teams can win games without relying on home runs.

Here are the 2011 HR and Wins totals for each team:


NY Yankees 222 97
Texas 210 96
Boston 203 90
Baltimore 191 69
Toronto 186 81
Milwaukee 185 96
Cincinnati 183 79
Atlanta 173 89
Arizona 172 94
Tampa Bay 172 91
Detroit 169 95
Colorado 163 73
St. Louis 162 90
LA Angels 155 86
Chicago Sox 154 79
Cleveland 154 80
Washington 154 80
Philadelphia 153 102
Florida 149 72
Chicago Cubs 148 71
Kansas City 129 71
San Francisco 121 86
LA Dodgers 117 82
Oakland 114 74
Seattle 109 67
NY Mets 108 77
Pittsburgh 107 72
Minnesota 103 63
Houston 95 56
San Diego 91 71

While teams like the Yankees, the Red Sox, and the Brewers had a clear relationship between home runs and wins, teams like Baltimore, Cincinnati, Colorado, Florida, and Chicago (NL) did not see their home runs equate to wins.  However, as teams dip below 150 home runs, the number of wins start dropping drastically.  In fact, only two out of twelve teams with home runs totals under 150 had winning records.

If we figure 150 as the magic number, home runs start to lose meaning.  What I mean is, after a team reaches 150 home runs in the season, the correlation between home runs and wins is far less.  Of the 18 teams with 150 or more homes, 11 had winning records, but only the Yankees saw the number of home runs they hit truly impact how many games above .500 they were.  Below is the comparison of teams who hit over 150 home runs and how many games over .500 they were.


Team Games Over .500 HR
NY Yankees 16 222
Texas 15 210
Boston 9 203
Baltimore -12 191
Toronto 0 186
Milwaukee 15 185
Cincinnati -2 183
Atlanta 8 173
Arizona 13 172
Tampa Bay 10 172
Detroit 14 169
Colorado -8 163
St. Louis 9 162
LA Angels 5 155
Chicago Sox -2 154
Cleveland -1 154
Washington -1 154
Philadelphia 21 153

Only three teams hit over 200 home runs.  Each of them were over .500, but to varying degrees.  The Yankees were 16 games over, the Rangers 15, but the Red Sox only 9 over.  Then, as you move down the list, you have up and down figures for number of games above or below .500.

Based on these results, while using only one year’s data may be limiting, it seems teams need not focus on hitting as many home runs as the Yankees or Red Sox.  They simply need to focus on reaching the magical 150 home run mark.  Once they make it there, they have a much better shot at being over .500.

Unfortunately for the Padres, that may be an improbable task.  They have hit 150 or more home runs just three times since moving to Petco Park.  Two out of three of those times have corresponded with winning seasons though.  The Padres will either have to replicate the teams that could rack up those home run totals, or they need to be the anomaly of the league in this category.  They need to score runs without the long ball.

It can be done, but it’s difficult.

Tags: Home Runs Red Sox San Diego Padres Yankees

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