FanPost

Making the Playoffs – The Need for Power

A while back, when the Jack Cust thread-wars were still raging, there was a comment by StJosephBurningTheOakTreesToTheGround that I've seen made by others in various forms, namely that:

 

There is no proof that a team needs power to win. There just isn’t.

By this logic, a team that doesn't hit many home runs (relative to the rest of baseball) is just as likely to win as teams that hit a lot of home runs, or an average amount of home runs. This seemed counter-intuitive to me, so I took a look at the teams that made the playoffs for the last twenty years to see if there were (more-or-less) an equal number of weak and strong home run hitting teams. What I discovered was that stronger home run hitting teams are far more likely to make the playoffs, and advance to the World Series, than weaker home run hitting teams.

Here's a breakdown of playoff teams by year, with home run ranking by team in parenthesis (WS losers are noted by *, WS winners by **).  The ranking data comes via MLB's Historical Team Stats.

 

2010:

Yankees (3), Reds (4), Phillies (9), **Giants (10), *Rangers (11), Rays (12), Twins (19), Braves (20)

Six of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.
No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

2009:

**Yankees (1), *Phillies (2), Red Sox (4), Rockies (7), Angels (11), Twins (13), Cardinals (16), Dodgers (23)

Six of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

One of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2008:

White Sox (1), **Phillies (2), Brewers (5), Cubs (8), *Rays (10), Red Sox (12), Angels (19), Dodgers (22)

Six of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

One of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2007:

Phillies (2), Yankees (5), Indians (9), *Rockies (14), Diamondback (16), **Boston (18), Cubs (21), Angels (28)

Four of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

Two of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2006:

Yankees (5), *Tigers (6), Mets (7), **Cardinals (12), A's (16), Padres (23), Dodgers (27), Twins (28)

Four of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

Three of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2005:

Yankees (2), **White Sox (5), Red Sox (6), Braves (10), Cardinals (13), *Astros (16), Angels (21), Padres (25)

Five of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

Two of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2004: Yankees (2), **Red Sox (5), *Cardinals (7), Dodgers (8), Twins (12), Astros (14), Braves (18), Angels (20)

Six of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2003:

Red Sox (2), Braves (3), *Yankees (4), Giants (12), A's (13), Cubs (14), **Marlins (19), Twins (20)

Six of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2002:

Yankees (2), A's (4), *Giants (6), Cardinals (10), Twins (13), Diamondbacks (16), Braves (17), **Angels (23)

Five of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

One of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs (and that team won the World Series)

 

2001:

Indians (6), **Diamondbacks (7), Astros (8), *Yankees (10), Cardinals (11), A's (12), Braves (17), Mariners (18)

Six of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

2000:

A's (3), Cardinals (5), Giants (6), White Sox (8), **Yankees (10), Mariners (12), *Mets (13), Braves (16)

Seven of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1999:

Rangers (3), Diamondbacks (5), Indians (8), *Braves (11), **Yankees (13), Mets (17), Red Sox (18), Astros (20)

Five of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1998:

Braves (4), Cubs (6), **Yankees (7), Red Sox (8), Rangers (9), Indians (11), *Padres (13), Astros (14)

Eight of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

(The Giants (16) lost a one game playoff to the Cubs to determine the NL wild card)

 

1997: (First year of interleague play, last year with 28 teams)

Mariners (1), *Indians (3), Orioles (5), Braves (9), Giants (11), Yankees (13), **Marlins (22), Astros (24)

Six of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

Two of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs (including the team that won the World Series).

 

1996:

Orioles (1), Rangers (4), Indians (6), *Braves (9), **Yankees (16), Dodgers (18), Padres (22), Cardinals (23)

Four of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

Two of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1995: (A shortened 144 game schedule; first year of the expanded playoff format)

*Indians (1), Rockies (2), Mariners (4), Red Sox (5), **Braves (8), Reds (9), Dodgers (15), Yankees (21)

Seven of eight playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

One of eight playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1994: Strike year

 

1993: (Last year of the four-team playoff format)

Braves (4), White Sox (6), **Blue Jays (9), *Phillies (13)

Four of four playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1992: (Last year with 26 teams)

**Blue Jays (2), A's (7), *Braves (8), Pirates (13)

Four of four playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1991:

*Braves (8), **Twins (10), Blue Jays (12), Pirates (14)

Three of four playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1990:

*A's (4), Pirates (9), **Reds (14), Red Sox (21)

Two of four playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

One of four playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

1989:

Blue Jays (3), *Giants (4), **A's (11), Cubs (13)

Four of four playoff teams ranked in the top half for home runs.

No playoff teams ranked in the bottom third for home runs.

 

As you can see, teams that ranked in the bottom third for home runs have only made the World Series twice in the last 20 years (the Angels and Marlins, who won in 2002 and 1997, respectively). Teams that ranked in the bottom third for home runs represent just 10.8% of all playoff teams during the period (when you'd expect them to make up roughly 33% of all playoff teams if home runs were not a factor). And teams that ranked in the bottom half for home runs represent just 27% of playoff teams (when you'd expect them to make up roughly 50% of all playoff teams if home runs were not a factor).

 

If we only look at the last ten years, the numbers get slightly better for weak-power teams, but not much. Teams that ranked in the bottom third for home runs represent just 12.5% of all playoff teams during that period (when you'd expect them to make up roughly 33% of all playoff teams if home runs were not a factor). And teams that ranked in the bottom half for home runs represent just 32.5% of playoff teams (when you'd expect them to make up roughly 50% of all playoff teams if home runs were not a factor).

 

So there is significant evidence that poor power-hitting teams are less likely to win – i.e., less likely to make the playoffs, and less likely to advance to the World Series. That's not to say that decent power is sufficient for a team to win – it's not. There are plenty of bad teams that hit a lot of homers, and there are many elements that must be present to create a playoff-caliber team. But a lack of team power clearly makes success less likely. Which means our beloved A's, who finished 28th, 27th and 25th in home runs the last three seasons, need to hit more home runs to maximize their chances of success. Based on 2010's home run totals, they would need to hit 30 more home runs to make it out of the bottom-third, and 43 more home runs to make it out of the bottom half. And they have to make up for the 30 home runs generated by Cust (13), Rajai Davis (5), Eric Patterson (4), Jake Fox (2), Jeff Larish (2), Travis Buck (1), Eric Chavez (1), Gabe Gross (1) and Jeremy Hermida (1) last year.

 

Do the additions of Hideki Matsui (21), David DeJesus (5) and Josh Willingham (16), plus increased power from holdover players such as Daric Barton (see the recent article in the Chronicle), add 60+ home runs to the A's totals in 2011? If the newcomers stay healthy it's certainly possible (DeJesus and Willingham both lost at least 200 AB's to injuries last year), but we all know the club's recent injury history....

 

Finally, some people may argue that home runs are really a proxy for other, related, team-attributes (perhaps extra-base hits) that do an even better job of predicting the likelihood of making the post-season. If so, let's discuss those theories and the accompanying data.

 

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