Mains: How much do solo homers dominate scoring?

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on August 22, 2018:

Last Tuesday, I watched the Phillies host the Red Sox. In the third inning, Sandy Leon hit a home run to put the Red Sox ahead, 1-0. Rhys Hoskins led off the home half of the fifth inning with a home run to tie the game at 1-1. In the eighth inning, pinch-hitter Brock Holt sent the first pitch he saw from Tommy Hunter into the right field seats. The final score was 2-1, Red Sox. Every run was scored on a bases-empty home run.

You already know that we’ve seen a lot of home runs along with a dearth of baserunners in recent years. On a per-game basis, 2016, 2017, and 2018 (so far) rank third, first, and fourth, respectively, all time (i.e, since the American League was formed in 1901) in home runs. But they’re also third, second, and first, respectively, in fewest singles per game. They’re eighth, third, and second, respectively, in fewest non-homer hits per game. Add all the ways to get on base other than long balls—singles, double, triples, walks, and hit by pitches—and we’re seeing the 16th-fewest baserunners in history this year, compared to the 21st-fewest in 2017 and the 18th-fewest in 2016.

It follows that if there are a lot of homers but a paucity of players reaching base otherwise, a lot of runs are going to come via the long ball, often with the bases empty. Here at BP we invented the Guillen Number to track the percentage of runs scoring via home runs. There have been only three seasons in which the Guillen Number has exceeded 40, i.e., over 40 percent runs have scored via home runs: 2017 (42.29), 2016 (40.20), and so far in 2018 (40.19).

How much has this homer-centric game resulted in games like last Tuesday’s, in which scoring occurs solely via bases-empty home runs?

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Originally published: August 22, 2018. Last Updated: August 22, 2018.