Mains: Living and dying by home runs in the playoffs

From SABR member Rob Mains at Baseball Prospectus on September 17, 2019:

While it’s hard to hit home runs against the great pitchers that are featured in the postseason, it’s even harder to string together three singles, or a walk and a double, or whatever succession of baserunners is needed to put runs on the board.

Of course, the last [Bill James Baseball] Abstract was written in 1987. Has this dynamic changed?

First, we need to define the reliant on home runs. James is right about those old Yankees teams. Babe Ruth hit more homers in 1927 (60) than the Pirates team the Yankees swept in the World Series (54). But hitting a bunch of home runs doesn’t imply that’s the only way a team scores. This year, for example, the Yankees lead the American League in home runs. But they’re also fourth in singles, seventh in doubles, and fifth in walks. Last year the Red Sox were sixth, third, first, and second in those categories. Teams that hit a lot of homers tend to do a lot of other things well, too. You’re not overly reliant on homers when you’ve got guys on base all game long.

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Originally published: September 17, 2019. Last Updated: September 17, 2019.