Homers Are A Residue of Hard Hit Balls
Chief Nocahoma began today’s comment string by noting that you have to hit homers to be a good baseball team in today’s game. I don’t disagree, but I want to modify it slightly. What you really need is good Isolated Power, which is Slugging – Batting Average. In other words, four singles is not nearly as good as a homer, but two doubles is pretty close.
Here is the list of the top Isolated Slugging teams of all time. This year’s Braves currently are 26th on this list, just a smidgin behind the 2019 edition. There are a few interesting thing about the teams in the top 25. First, other than the 1926 and 1928 St. Louis Stars of the Negro Leagues (boy… Mule Suttles could mash the ball), every one of these slugging teams is from 1996 or later.
Second, without even talking about the pitching of any of these teams, all but three finished over 0.500 and all but a handful made the playoffs.
The top home run hitting teams are of course largely the same teams, but now the top 25 contain twice as many sub-.500 teams and even more teams that fell short of a postseason berth. My takeaway is not that you have to hit homers, necessarily, but you have to hit the ball hard. A lot of those hard hits will leave the yard, of course, but peppering the wall is a pretty good substitute.
(Minor statistical note: there are a number of 2020 teams on the ISO list, but obviously none on the homer list. It probably would have been fairer to do home run percentage, not homers, but Stathead provides no easy way to do so and I was too lazy to program it up today myself.)
Pennant Race Baseball
Twelve days ago I was at Citi Field when the Battle of the Maxes saw Scherzer best Fried, the latter pitching an inning with a concussion. He came back for an even tougher assignment: a matchup with deGrom. Neither disappointed. Neither walked a man. Between them, they pitched 13 2/3 innings with 15 strikeouts and no walks. The Braves took a two-run lead on a single-double-single from the law firm of Grossman, Swanson and Reilly. A poorly placed fastball a couple of innings later tied the game at 2.
And so it stayed until the bottom of the seventh. A two out Grissom single chased deGrom and a seeing eye 3-2 four-hop single from Harris plated Grissom all the way from first. It was a thrilling play, with Grissom leveraging his speed and Nimmo’s less-than-stellar center field arm. It reminded me of Albies and Acuña making similar plays a couple of years ago. We are blessed.
Snit was criticized last night for not going to his best bullpen arms while down one. Well, he managed tonight from the other side: with a late one-run lead, he has no problem bringing in a fresh Iglesias for one batter. Successfully.
But then Jansen has the ninth. Lindor led with a single. Then came the sort of play that you need to get every once in a while: Lindor had 2nd stolen on the first pitch, but had to retreat when Alonso popped the ball into short right. When the ball fell between Grissom, Harris and Acuña, Lindor was out at second on a force play. A strikeout of Vogelbach and a tapper back to the mound by McNeil and the game was over.
Was deGrom pulled one batter too soon? The Mets are understandably being very conservative with deGrom, so it’s hard to second-guess. But unless he’s Gryboed (I promised I wouldn’t use that term any more, but the alliteration with deGrom makes it impossible to resist) I’m not sure how he ever loses a game.
Three out of four is not nearly as good as four out of five, but it was the minimum required to serve notice that the Braves aren’t throwing in any towels yet. I’m going to double down on what I said after last week: the Mets have better starting pitching and the Braves have a better batting lineup. A few breaks here and there will determine what happens from here on out. Game on.
I watched the Mets announcers again, so my text today comes from Chip last night: “You hear people talk about so-called high leverage situations. I don’t like that term because these innings are important to the guys involved.” Sure, Chip, sure. But no. You cannot maintain that some innings and some situations aren’t more important than others; you just can’t. And of course Chip can’t, with his “Right guys at the right time” and “Tension grows with every pitch” and every other idiotic thing he does during a game to try and raise the stakes. Try to deny the existence of high leverage situations, Chip, but then make sure in your announcing you treat the eighth inning of a 10-2 game exactly the same way you treat the bottom of the seventh of a tied game. But of course I know Chip doesn’t believe there’s no such thing as high leverage – he just has to find something to talk about in relatively low leverage situations. But be honest about it.