You have probably noticed the Cubs have hit a lot of home runs this year. They hit 10 of them in the three-game series in Houston (by seven different players!) and enter Friday second in the National League in home runs with 92. The Brewers lead with 96, though Milwaukee has played three more games (57) than the Cubs (54).
That’s a lot of home runs. For one thing, they’re starting to come in bunches:
#Cubs have hit 2 or more home runs in 8 straight games, which ties their franchise record from June 25-July 2, 1961— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) May 30, 2019
The major-league record for this is nine straight. It’s been done five times, most recently by the 2016 Cardinals, so the Cubs could tie and/or break this mark in the Cardinals’ home park, and of course we’d all love to see that.
Beyond that, 92 home runs is 1.7 homers per game and puts the Cubs on a pace for 276 home runs this season. That would break the franchise record — by a lot. The record is 235, set in 2004. Further, 92 home runs is 55 percent of the Cubs’ total from last year (167) — in only one-third of the season!
Is something going on? Joe Maddon wonders:
“I don’t know if it’s a combination of the ball and maybe the bat,” Maddon said. “Maybe the technology has gotten better. I don’t know that. Maybe it’s purely about velocity. Maybe there’s helium in this park. I have no idea, but it’s frigging jumping.
“It’s just different. The ground is hard, the ground is fast, and the ball is flying — for both sides. They outpitched us two days in a row. I got to give them credit.”
Maddon was talking mostly about the Cubs’ just-completed series at Minute Maid Park, but this is going on all over baseball. The Twins, who are having a surprisingly good season, have hit 106 home runs to lead MLB. That’s 63.8 percent of the homers the Twins hit last year (166), again, in just over one-third of the season (55 games). If the Twins keep up their pace (1.93 home runs per game), they will hit 312 home runs.
Three hundred and twelve! That would not only break the MLB record, it would crush it by 45! The record is 267, set last year by the Yankees. 312 is 17 percent more than the record. It would be as if an individual player hit 85 home runs (that’s 17 percent more than the season record of 73). Not only that, but the Twins are slugging .511 — as a team! That’s almost 30 points better than the next-best team this year (Astros, .486) and it would also shatter the MLB record, .489, held by the 2003 Red Sox.
And the home-runs allowed record is most likely going to be demolished, too, by the Orioles. O’s pitchers have served up 117 (!) home runs in 56 games. That’s 2.09 home runs given up per game, a pace to allow 338 home runs this season. The record is 258, set by the 2016 Reds. Of the top 10 homers allowed totals, five of them have been since 2016. There’s a trend here, it would appear.
Back to the Cubs: With Kyle Schwarber’s homer Wednesday night, five Cubs are already in double figures in homers and Jason Heyward (eight), Albert Almora Jr. (seven) and David Bote (six) are likely to join them soon. Anthony Rizzo, whose career high in homers is 32 (three times), is on pace to hit 45.
No one’s hit 60 or more home runs since 2001, but Cody Bellinger and Christian Yelich are both on pace for that number, and seven others might hit 50. If those nine hit 50 or more this year, that’s only two fewer than the 11 players who have hit 50+ since 2002.
This home-run barrage is fun, I suppose, fans like seeing them (as long as their team is hitting them and not serving them up) and they do help increase scoring. In my view, something’s going on with the baseball, because all these home runs have been hit and we haven’t even really gotten to warm weather in much of the country yet, and that’s always more conducive to home-run hitting.
It’ll be interesting to watch the rest of the 2019 season.