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The Importance of a 30 Home Run Hitter

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The last two seasons the A's had a 30 HR hitter and they made the playoffs. Are they on to something?

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

A little while back I did a piece on Michael Choice grading his swing and making a projection on his performance. Not too surprisingly, a lot of the debate in the comments was in response to my prediction of Choice being a 20-25 HR guy as opposed to a 30 HR guy (a prediction I still stand by BTW). Certainly a 30 home run season has more sex appeal than say 24 home runs, but is it really that important?

To find out, I ran a couple tests. First I swung for the fences to determine what impact a 30 home run guy has on a team's playoff chances. I ran a script that grabbed all the seasons a player hit 30 or more home runs for a team since 1995 (year the Wild Card was implemented). Then I checked the years the teams made the playoffs to see if there was a difference. The results are pretty interesting.

Total AVE
Seasons 30 HR in PS 126 0.807692
Seasons 30 HR in nonPS 232 0.568627
30 HRs in PS 201 1.288462
30 HRs nonPS 335 0.821078

So we see that 80% of teams in the postseason had a 30 HR guy, compared to only 56% of teams who missed the postseason had a 30 HR guy. On average, teams in the postseason have roughly 1.3 thirty home run hitters, while non-postseason teams have .82. Of the 353 seasons teams had a 30 HR hitter, 126 times the team made the playoffs. Meaning if you have a 30 HR on your team, you had a 35.7% chance of making the playoffs on that dude alone.

Maybe asking a hitter to carry a team to the playoffs alone is a little much to ask. How about the team's ability to score runs with a 30 HR hitter in the lineup? Let's take a look.

Runs with 30 HR hitter 276878 784.3569 99.9334 782
Runs w/o 30 HR hitter 148292 702.8057 122.1795 706

Pretty cool. On average, teams with a 30 HR hitter score 80 more runs over the course of the season. Also the standard deviation tightens up by 22 runs, meaning your run production will vary less year to year with a 30 HR hitter.

The 30 home run hitter brings the "Hot Bartender Effect" to a ball club. A single hot bartender can significantly increase the patronage, separating it from the rest of the clubs on a Friday night. Same with a ball club, just replace inflated bar tabs with runs. And it also doesn't hurt to have more than one hot bartender (30 HR hitter) to help win "Best Nightclub Award" (make the playoffs).

It looks like having a big bat in your lineup is pretty important. What does that mean for the A's? Frankly, a lot. Thirty home run hitters don't grow on trees and typically are pretty expensive in free agency. That leaves Beane and Co. left with drafting, developing, or trading for power bats. Let's keep our fingers crossed for more hot bartenders in the future. (Is that really too much to ask?)