The Oakland A’s had a solo homer problem in 2021.
They showed decent enough power last year, ranking middle of the pack in the majors with 199 dingers, but too often those taters came with nobody on base. They’d load the bags and strand them one inning, then come up in the next frame and go deep, frustratingly ending the whole sequence with just one run. Regardless of the extent to which it was a statistical fluke, it still happened, all year long.
- A’s 2021 solo homers: 138
- A’s 2021 non-solo HR: 61
That rate of 69% is not so nice when it’s describing a solo job. Compare it to the league average of 58% and Oakland didn’t get enough teamwork on their long balls.
Only two clubs had more solo homers (Blue Jays and Dodgers), but both of them simply hit more dingers of every type overall, so their rate of solo shots was normal. A cursory scan suggests the A’s led the majors in solo rate, by a wide margin, as I’m yet to find any other team who even exceeded 60% in this regard.
This has not been a problem so far in 2022. In fact, the new roster has completely flipped the script, replacing the abundance of solo jacks with an inordinate helping of more valuable clutch blasts.
Through their first six games this season, Oakland hit nine homers. Six of them came with at least two runners on base, which ties an MLB record, per tonight’s NBC Sports broadcast. Only the star-studded 1995 Cleveland lineup ever hit six such dingers in their first six games of a season. Several different hitters have chipped in, with one grand slam and the rest three-run shots:
- Seth Brown twice
- Elvis Andrus
- Jed Lowrie
- Sean Murphy
- Sheldon Neuse grand slam
To put that collection into further perspective, last year the A’s only had 17 such efficient homers, including two grand slams. They’re already more than one-third of the way to that total after the first week. Their three solos (two by Chad Pinder, one by Billy McKinney) represent just 33% of their total output.
I ran the numbers on this to see how much of a difference it makes, and the results are striking.
3 runs > 1 run
The math checks out.
Oakland didn’t clear the fence at all on Thursday, but they still continued their knack for three-run plays anyway. With two runners on base in the 2nd inning, rookie outfielder Cristian Pache grounded a sharp single up the middle for an RBI. However, two different outfielders clanked the play, including one Platinum Glove defender, and Pache raced all the way around the bases in 15.9 seconds for a three-run Little League homer.
It only counts as a single in the box score, but we all saw what happened. The A’s are so locked into three-run homers right now that they can even do one on a grounder to short.
Of course, they won’t keep capitalizing this often forever, as no team averages a three-run homer every day all year, but at least they’ve snapped last summer’s frustrating streak of minimum-value dingers for now. And it’s already helping in the standings, as the two extra runs on Murphy’s blast made the difference in a two-run victory.