Baseball’s Power Outage: Revisited

Nearly three months ago, I took a detailed look at the power outage happening in baseball. Initially, I set out to see if it was real or perceived. As I did my data research and put the column together, I saw that it was quite real, at least through two months of the season. With another three months in the books, I wanted to see if things had normalized over the summer or if the 2008 season as a whole is just going to end up as a down year for power. At the end of that initial piece, I briefly mentioned how a lot of the wall-scrapping home runs had thrust instant replay onto the table as an item for discussion. Now, it’s a reality.

Concentration
For fantasy baseball players, this can be key. Are the same reliable players knocking their allotment of home runs while the periphery is to blame for the drop or is it a fundamental decrease that is negatively impacting the masses? Two months in, the concentration of home runs at the top wasn’t wildly different from the previous four seasons which gave credence to those in the camp of the power outage being judged on too small of a sample. Now with five months in the books, there is a larger body of work to judge from, especially when looking at the leaderboards.

Interesting stuff here. There are fewer with 30 or more, but that gap is made up for two-fold in the 25+ home run hitters. With a dead heat over the last two seasons of hitters with 15 or more home runs, it’s the minor contributors that have fallen off or disappeared all together. You look at Carlos Quentin and see a nice emergence, but he replaces a trio of Alex Rios, Jimmy Rollins and B.J. Upton who all experienced huge power drops this year. For fantasy players, there is still a nice reliable base there at the top with few names coming as a major shock, but now instead of getting 10-12 from your bit players, those totals are still staying within the upper crust of players like Rios, Carlos Guillen and Jeff Francoeur.

By Month
In the first column, I showed the month-over-month home run totals from 2004 to this season. Through May, the home runs hadn’t fallen much off of the average from those previous four seasons. April’s total was 99% to the average while May checked in at 95%. April was up from 2007 while May’s figure was just six away from 2007. Here is how it has gone since May:

The June-July patterns were similar to April-May in that June was almost 100% of the average while July had a small dip off of the pace. Both June and July beat out last year’s totals including a significant edge in July. At first glance, August looks like a huge outlier. Of course, there are still four days worth of home runs headed towards that total. The current pace would end the month around 888. If pace is held, then August will check in at 95% of the four year average. So while the 2008 season is off the pace at large, home runs haven’t really gone down in massive quantities. The 2004 and 2006 seasons skew the averages up by a healthy margin. If August holds pace and September doesn’t fall off too much from the average, then the 2008 season will end right in line with 2005 and 2007 with respect to home runs.

It seems that rumors of the home run’s demise were greatly overstated. Of course, a definitive look at the 2008 power numbers will be done this Fall after everything is wrapped up.

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