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Do the Rays have a solo home run problem?

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The Rays have been cranking out the home runs with the bases empty this season.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This offseason the Rays looked to bring in offense with more power and to this point they have accomplished that goal. They have hit 44 home runs through their first 31 games (1.42 per game).

If the Rays continued at that rate they would hit 230 for the season. They have played a ton of games at the Trop so far and have an impressive 22 home runs in their 17 games (1.3 per game).

The problem is that this hasn't led to more runs as the Rays have only managed 108 runs through their first 31 games (3.48 per game) that would put them on pace to score 564 on the season. Last season the Rays managed 644 runs and their goal was to bring in offensive pieces to increase that total.

Are the Rays doing less with their increase in home runs?

One potential problem that has been discussed is the Rays proclivity to hit a majority of their home runs when no one is on base.

Team Solo HR Total HR Solo % Runs Runs/HR
Rays 30 44 68.2% 61 1.39
Diamondbacks 31 46 67.4% 65 1.41
Astros 29 41 70.7% 58 1.41
Mets 28 49 57.1% 77 1.57
Nationals 28 41 68.3% 59 1.44
Rockies 26 42 61.9% 63 1.50
Cardinals 26 48 54.2% 80 1.67
Orioles 25 45 55.6% 74 1.64
Athletics 24 33 72.7% 45 1.36
Brewers 24 39 61.5% 56 1.44
Yankees 23 30 76.7% 40 1.33
Mariners 23 45 51.1% 75 1.67
Rangers 22 35 62.9% 56 1.60
Twins 21 27 77.8% 35 1.30
White Sox 21 31 67.7% 45 1.45
Reds 20 36 55.6% 61 1.69
Cubs 20 37 54.1% 64 1.73
Marlins 20 31 64.5% 45 1.45
Blue Jays 20 39 51.3% 66 1.69
Giants 19 31 61.3% 48 1.55
Royals 18 29 62.1% 44 1.52
Pirates 17 30 56.7% 49 1.63
Angles 16 25 64.0% 35 1.40
Tigers 16 36 44.4% 66 1.83
Indians 16 26 61.5% 41 1.58
Red Sox 15 37 40.5% 68 1.84
Dodgers 15 25 60.0% 36 1.44
Padres 14 27 51.9% 48 1.78
Phillies 14 26 53.8% 40 1.54
Braves 7 8 87.5% 10 1.25
Total 628 1039 60.4% 1610 1.55

The linear weight value of a home run is 1.39 runs above average. The Rays fall just below that, but there's also the value of an average at bat which is roughly .11 run (in a 4.00 average run environment with a .320 OBP). The league has run a little better than the 1.50 runs per home run average that is expected.

As for some Tampa Bay specific observations:

1. The Rays have the fifth highest percentage of home runs that are solo shots and fifth lowest runs scored per home run. They have ran a little below expectation, but there are some reasons that would explain the results.

2. The Rays have had an above average rate of at bats with the bases empty, 61.6%, compared to the league average of 56.9%. This is to be expected as the Rays have a .294 OBP that ranks fourth to last in MLB.

3. The Rays have also hit a home run in 3.9% of plate appearances compared to the league average of 2.8%.

4. The Rays are only trailing the Mets in overall homerun rate, as they have hit a home run in 4.0% of plate appearances.

Are solo home runs the reason they haven't scored as many runs as expected?

If the Rays ran average you would expect the Rays to have scored five additional runs due to their home runs (66 runs on a 1.50 run average).

It isn't zero and the Rays might have been unlucky to some degree, but the perceived lack of runs has more to do with their low on base percentage -- which is to say, limited opportunities with runners on base.

Although it should be noted: After a home run, you are guaranteed a plate appearance with nobody on base.

Information courtesy of Baseball Reference, as of May 10, 2015.