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How friendly were the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field for home runs in 2019?

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Wrigley’s home run rate wasn’t the cause of the Cubs weird home-road splits in 2019

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Nicholas Castellanos hits his career high 27th HR at Wrigley Field on Sunday
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

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
Twins 225 1963 297 156 1.90 308
Yankees 267 2018 298 157 1.90 307
Astros 249 2000 277 156 1.78 288
Dodgers 235 2018 268 156 1.72 278
Athletics 243 1996 250 156 1.60 260
Cubs 235 2004 249 156 1.60 259
Brewers 231 2007 242 156 1.55 251
Braves 235 2003 243 157 1.55 251
Red Sox 238 2003 237 155 1.53 248
Mariners 264 1997 238 156 1.53 247
Blue Jays 257 2010 234 156 1.50 243
Mets 224 2017 231 155 1.49 241
Reds 222 2005 221 156 1.42 230
Nationals 215 2017 218 154 1.42 229
Padres 189 2017 215 156 1.38 223
Angels 236 2000 215 156 1.38 223
Rangers 260 2005 215 156 1.38 223
Diamondbacks 220 2017 213 156 1.37 221
Indians 221 2000 213 156 1.37 221
Rockies 239 1997 212 156 1.36 220
Phillies 224 2009 204 154 1.32 215
Rays 228 2017 206 156 1.32 214
Orioles 257 1996 200 156 1.28 208
Cardinals 235 2000 197 156 1.26 205
White Sox 242 2004 173 155 1.12 181
Giants 235 2001 161 156 1.03 167
Pirates 171 1999 160 156 1.03 166
Royals 193 2017 159 157 1.01 164
Tigers 225 1987 145 155 0.94 152
Marlins 208 2008 134 155 0.86 140
Team record, year and pace updated as of Sept. 22 Baseball Reference, ESPN, Sara Sanchez

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.

Park effects

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

RK PARK NAME RUNS HR H 2B 3B BB
RK PARK NAME RUNS HR H 2B 3B BB
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
Park Effects sorted by HR ESPN

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.

Takeaways

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.