There has been a lot of talk about home runs in 2019. I wrote about this a while back when I realized that basically half the league was on pace to obliterate their home run records. At the time I wrote:
These numbers are absurd. If home runs continue at the current pace the Minnesota Twins will set a new single season record with 312 homers, 45 more than the Yankees mark in 2018. As for the Cubs? They are currently on pace for 253 home runs, 18 more than their team record of 235 set in 2004.
Quite a few of these team records were already suspect. As you can see above the vast majority of the single season records fall in what’s commonly known as the Steroid Era (1993-2002, give or take a year). A handful of others coincide with the juiced ball. Still others look like clear park effects. The bottom line is while it’s enough to frustrate any fan looking for some continuity in the numbers, it’s not the first or last time an era will lead to some quirks in the record books.
A few teams have fallen off those paces since I wrote that piece in August, but 11 teams have already surpassed their records and five more have a really good chance to do it in their final few games:
Home run records by team
|Team||HR Record||Year||Current HR||GP||HR/Game||HR/162|
|Team||HR Record||Year||Current HR||GP||HR/Game||HR/162|
One of those teams is the Cubs, who are well past their previous team record of 235. Three times in the last week I’ve had different people ask me if I thought that dependence on home runs was correlated to the Cubs absurd home/away splits. So I decided to take a closer look.
Even after their latest six-game home losing streak the Cubs are one of the best teams in baseball at home. They went 51-30 for a .630 win percentage at home, playoff contender territory. The problem is they are 31-44 on the road for a .413 win percentage.
There are a couple of ways to look at those wins vs. home runs, so let’s walk through each below.
If the Cubs were simply taking advantage of the wind blowing out at Wrigley all year I would sort of expect the Wrigley Field HR park effect number to be higher than average. After all, the Cubs have a higher home run rate, and absurd splits at Wrigley, so it stands to reason that if those were related there would be a lot of home runs at Wrigley.
Here’s the thing though: Wrigley Field has given up substantially fewer home runs than most parks, as you can see from ESPN below:
Park effects through 9.22
|1||Oriole Park at Camden Yards(Baltimore, Maryland)||1.099||1.305||1.069||1.137||0.926||0.953|
|2||Rogers Centre(Toronto, Ontario)||1.022||1.291||0.989||0.931||0.892||0.974|
|3||Coors Field(Denver, Colorado)||1.404||1.280||1.311||1.305||2.280||1.090|
|4||Nationals Park(Washington, D.C.)||1.108||1.266||1.113||1.176||1.061||1.018|
|5||Guaranteed Rate Field(Chicago, Illinois)||0.971||1.234||0.932||0.816||0.340||1.088|
|6||Minute Maid Park(Houston, Texas)||1.058||1.181||1.005||0.862||0.783||0.969|
|7||Citizens Bank Park(Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)||1.040||1.176||1.008||0.878||0.857||1.033|
|8||Great American Ball Park(Cincinnati, Ohio)||1.033||1.134||1.032||1.022||0.424||1.061|
|9||Comerica Park(Detroit, Michigan)||1.106||1.112||1.108||0.922||1.869||0.976|
|10||Dodger Stadium(Los Angeles, California)||0.885||1.100||0.975||0.878||0.329||0.836|
|11||Angel Stadium of Anaheim(Anaheim, California)||1.043||1.089||1.018||1.013||0.840||1.031|
|12||Progressive Field(Cleveland, Ohio)||0.992||1.067||0.956||1.038||0.564||0.983|
|13||Globe Life Park in Arlington(Arlington, Texas)||1.218||1.046||1.135||1.091||1.571||1.082|
|14||Miller Park(Milwaukee, Wisconsin)||0.972||1.028||0.911||0.926||0.794||1.003|
|15||SunTrust Park(Cumberland, GA)||1.002||1.014||1.005||1.160||0.938||0.982|
|16||Citi Field(New York, New York)||0.891||0.987||0.885||0.842||0.502||0.952|
|17||T-Mobile Park(Seattle, Washington)||1.000||0.980||0.972||0.843||0.525||1.013|
|18||PNC Park(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)||1.016||0.937||1.001||1.287||0.990||1.159|
|19||Tropicana Field(St. Petersburg, Florida)||0.900||0.900||0.934||0.993||1.250||0.959|
|20||Fenway Park(Boston, Massachusetts)||1.093||0.885||1.020||1.408||1.111||1.112|
|21||Chase Field(Phoenix, Arizona)||0.976||0.876||0.996||1.005||1.703||0.934|
|22||Petco Park(San Diego, California)||0.857||0.871||0.909||0.892||0.692||1.051|
|23||Yankee Stadium(New York, New York)||0.808||0.858||0.873||0.716||0.581||0.901|
|24||Wrigley Field(Chicago, Illinois)||0.937||0.857||0.973||0.933||1.634||0.990|
|25||Target Field(Minneapolis, Minnesota)||0.959||0.847||0.999||1.152||1.389||1.061|
|26||Marlins Park(Miami, Florida)||1.103||0.841||1.035||1.033||2.108||1.056|
|27||Oakland Coliseum(Oakland, California)||0.849||0.821||0.937||1.079||0.778||1.036|
|28||Busch Stadium(St. Louis, Missouri)||0.918||0.817||0.949||0.882||1.000||0.939|
|29||Kauffman Stadium(Kansas City, Missouri)||1.073||0.736||1.086||1.175||1.323||0.952|
|30||Oracle Park(San Francisco, California)||0.796||0.672||0.939||0.837||1.412||0.859|
Home runs per win
However, park effects don’t capture everything I was interested in for this project. Specifically, I wanted to know if the Cubs were more likely to hit their home runs in their wins and the percentage of their runs in those wins that were home run dependent.
That led to a much more complicated game log that showed every win, runs scored and raw number of home runs per win. I started adding how many runs were dependent on home runs in each game, but pretty quickly realized that would need to be comparative by year to be useful, so I’ll work on that for a larger project for the offseason. I’ll also spare you the table (it’s big) but here are the preliminary results:
- The Cubs hit 158 of their home runs in wins and 91 in losses to date
- Of those 158 home runs, 66 came on the road and 92 were hit at Wrigley Field
One note of caution with this data, the Cubs have so many more wins at Wrigley Field (51 v. 31) that these numbers are basically a wash. There isn’t that big of a home field home run bounce for the Cubs in 2019. What I mean by that is 62 percent of the Cubs wins are at home, so the fact that they hit 58 percent of their “win HRs” at Wrigley is actually underperforming at home if anything.
The Cubs appear to be more dependent on home runs in their wins than their losses. However, while they hit more of those home runs at home than on the road, proportionally they had a better “win HR” rate away from Wrigley. Between that and park effect numbers, I feel pretty confident Wrigley Field didn’t boost the Cubs HR number this year. They demolished their HR record despite Wrigley Field being a not particularly friendly place for the long ball in 2019, not because of it.