Jaffe: The case of the disappearing slugger: Where did MLB’s power go?

From SABR member Jay Jaffe at SI.com on September 3, 2014:

On Tuesday night, Giancarlo Stanton bashed his National League-leading 35th home run, and he did it with typical flair, connecting for a shot off the “Marlinator” home run sculpture, an estimated 414 feet away in centerfield, at the expense of the Mets’ Jon Niese.


Stanton’s homer was his second in as many days, and while he won’t maintain that blistering pace, he still has his work cut out to reach 40 for the season, something he’s never done before; he bopped 37 in 2012 despite being limited to just 123 games due to injuries. Barring five homers from him or a monster 10-homer month from Anthony Rizzo, the only other Senior Circuit slugger with more than 26, the NL will be without a 40-homer hitter for the second straight season, something that hasn’t happened since 1991 and ’92.

Forty homers is no given in the AL, either. While Nelson Cruz leads the majors with 36 after going deep in back-to-back games on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 20 of them came in April and May; since then, he’s hit just .218/.285/.407 with 16 homers, one for every 21.5 plate appearances. Given Baltimore’s 25 remaining games and possibly 100 plate appearances for Cruz, it’s still likely that he reaches 40, but he’ll need to avoid a long outage. If he can’t, Jose Abreu and Chris Carter, both with 33, will have to mash with increased impunity to prevent this from being the first season since 1982 in which nobody gets to that plateau.

The odds are that at least one of those four sluggers will do it, but even so, it’s worth considering the disappearance of the longball. This will be the second season in a row and fourth out of five in which teams have hit fewer than one per game. The current rate of 0.88 per team per game is down 8.6 percent from last year (0.96 per game) and down 13.7 percent from 2012 (1.04 per game); in fact, it’s the lowest rate since 1992 (0.72 per game). If that pace is maintained, it will mean 403 fewer homers than last year, 675 fewer than in 2012 and 1,435 fewer than in 2000, the year home runs reached their absolute zenith (1.17 per game).

Read the full article here: http://www.si.com/mlb/2014/09/03/home-runs-power-hitters-giancarlo-stanton

Originally published: September 3, 2014. Last Updated: September 3, 2014.