Are The Texas Rangers Too Dependent On Home Runs?
**ORIGINAL POSTED DATE 7/23/12**
The Texas Rangers’ offense has been going through a bit of a slump recently. If you have been watching the games, you don’t need statistics to point this out to you. There seems to be a general fog around either the player’s heads, or their bats, or both. You already know it’s bad, but heading into Sunday’s game in the month of July the Rangers had scored 43 runs in 14 games, and are posting a .245 batting average and a .669 OPS. Those numbers didn’t improve on Sunday. The Rangers offense has been a dichotomy of feast and famine in 2012, seeming invincible for stretches of games and inept for others. A microcosm of this contrast is the ebb and flow of the Rangers’ home run hitting, leading us to ponder whether the Rangers offense relies too heavily on the long ball.
For starters, we can look at the following data (taken from prior to Sunday’s game):
When the Rangers don’t hit a home run, they are most likely going to lose. Also, in games in which they don’t hit a home run, they average just 2.9 runs per game. In games in which they do hit a home run, they average 6.0 runs per game, and are nearly impossible to beat. At first glance, all signs point to an offense and a team whose success is almost entirely dependent on the home run. However, conclusions like that only make sense in context.
Here are the same data, except in this sample I brought in the results for the Angels and the Yankees (because they’re the two most relevant comparisons to the Rangers, to me).
As you can see, the Angels and Yankees sport similar numbers to the Rangers when it comes to game results and hitting home runs. In fact, the Rangers have a higher winning percentage than Los Angeles and New York when hitting zero home runs, and score more runs per game when hitting zero home runs. The Yankees in particular are an abysmal 2-15 when they fail to knock one over the fence. This would point to the Rangers actual being less dependent on home runs than these two competitors. However, all three clubs are exponentially more successful when hitting a home run in a game.
The results may be surprising in that they overwhelmingly point one direction, but perhaps it shouldn’t be that surprising. After all, scoring runs is the goal of any offense, and hitting home runs is the most efficient method of scoring runs. A lot of middle man nonsense is cut out of the equation with a home run. There is no need for talk of sacrifice bunts, hit-and-runs, or sequential offense in the presence of a home run.
Now, we’ll look at some league-wide statistics to see where the Rangers stack up. While wins and losses are all that matters, the road to wins and losses is built on runs. True dependency on home runs can be measured by what percentage of runs are scored off of home runs. Those results are shown below, sorted by the teams that score the highest percentage of their total runs in 2012 off of four-baggers.
Not surprisingly, the Yankees top this list. Perhaps more surprisingly, they do so by scoring a whopping 52% of their runs off of home runs. Their offense is the most dependent on home runs in the league. On the other end of the spectrum is the Padres at 25%, which is not a surprise either, considering the lack of pop in their lineup and the expansive confines of PETCO park.
The award of the most effective offense with a below average dependence on home runs goes to the Detroit Tigers, who only score 31% of their runs on home runs, but still rank 9th in the MLB in runs scored. Finally, sitting in 11th in home run dependency, fairly close to league average, are your Texas Rangers.
What this tells us is that all baseball teams are dependent on home runs to generate offense. A little more than one out of every three runs is scored via the big fly, on average. Oftentimes a dependency on home runs is referenced in a negative connotation, but in fact it should really be the more desirable form of offense. Teams that sit at or above the league average in home run dependency have scored an average of 419 runs in 2012. Teams that are below the league average in home run dependency have scored an average of 396 runs in 2012.
Being dependent on home runs to score offense does mean that there will be peaks and valleys in offensive production. Much like the entire 162-game season, these peaks and valleys must be managed through and balanced out over time. Yet, at the end of the day, when in pursuit of the most productive offense possible, a dependence on home runs should be embraced, not discouraged.
Peter Ellwood is a Senior Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can email him at Peter.Ellwood@shutdowninning.com or reach him on Twitter @FutureGM