Be Wary Of Relying On The Home Run

By Rich Sparago

As we eagerly await the beginning of the real off-season for Mets fans, that being the Hot Stove League, speculation abounds as to potential targets for acquisition. Rumors have been flying about Shin-Soo Choo, Jose Reyes, Stephen Drew, and Jose Bautista. While we don’t know what Sandy Alderson feels about these players or any others, we know that he and his lieutenants value on-base percentage and the long ball. In fact, at one point Alderson mused, “Chicks dig the long ball, and so do I.” He requested the fences be moved in at Citi Field after the 2011 season, and that request was accommodated. Clearly, the Mets have a need for power. They hit 130 home runs in 2013, tied for 25th in the majors. But is the home run the panacea for a club’s offensive woes? Let’s take a look.

Here are the 10 teams that made the playoffs this year, and where they ranked in home runs among the 30 teams in the major leagues.

June 18, 2012; Flushing, NY, USA; New York Mets general manager Sandy Alderson (left) and owner Fred Wilpon before the game against the Baltimore Orioles at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Braves- 5th

Cardinals- 27th

Dodgers- 24th

Pirates- 13th

Reds- 17th

Red Sox- 6th

Tigers- 7th

Athletics- 3rd

Rays- 11th

Indians- 10th

Of these teams, the Dodgers, Cardinals, Red Sox, and Tigers are competing in the LCS. Interestingly, the Orioles and Mariners were 1 and 2 in home runs, and neither qualified for the post-season. Certainly there are many factors to consider when assessing why teams were or were not successful (one huge factor is pitching). However, it can easily be inferred that slugging a lot of home runs is not a guarantee of success.

Another reason to be wary of reliance on the home run is what happens to teams that do so when they compete in the playoffs. Naturally, teams with the best pitching are in the playoffs, and the old adage is true; good pitching will stop formidable hitting. The best examples of this are the 2013 Braves and the 2012 Yankees. Both teams bowed out quickly when they faced strong pitching (the Dodgers did the Braves in this year, while the Tigers stymied the Yankees last year).

The point is that a balanced offense is probably best. Sure, the long ball can quickly erase deficits, or put a team comfortably ahead. However, even the best home run hitters hit about 1.5 home runs per week during the regular season. Mixing in some speed, the well-timed hit-and-run, and strategic sacrifices also helps a team generate runs. If you think about the inning in which the Red Sox took the lead against the Rays in this week’s decisive game four of the ALDS, the go-ahead run scored on a single, a stolen base, a wild pitch, and an infield hit. It would be difficult to rely on that style of play, but fully excluding it may not be wise either.

That brings us back to the 2013 off-season for the Mets. Power is on Sandy’s shopping list, as it should be. However, here’s a vote to balance that power with some players who can execute situational “small ball”.

How do you vote?

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