By Lee Goodman
Reading Time: 3 minutes
Anyone with a basic knowledge of the game of baseball is aware of the power of the long ball. With one swing of the bat, the whole vibe of the ball park changes. Fans cheer, players throw their arms up in celebration, and the jumbotron flashes celebration messages. However, can this effect be quantified?
In general, 2017 saw a giant uptick in the consistency of homeruns, as sluggers surpassed the benchmark of 5,694 home runs set in 2000. With the influence of supposedly “juiced” baseballs and the notorious Statcast giving sluggers a distinct advantage, one simply couldn’t watch a game this season without seeing a ball fly into the outfield stands. As the season comes to a close for more and more teams, many disappointed fans will turn their attention to the league MVP races.
Giancarlo Stanton, one of the NL MVP forerunners, is no stranger to homeruns. His 59 home runs on the year put him at ninth on the list of most home runs in a single season. This performance, for obvious reasons, put Stanton in the spotlight this year. Ultimately, this extra attention led to MVP considerations. So, is there any way to measure the effect of Stanton’s home run escapade? Also, how do we weigh the impact of home runs against many of the other “consistency” players vying for the NL MVP spot?
It is often argued that the MVP should be a player who, if removed from their respective team, will leave the biggest gap or have the biggest negative impact. For Stanton, much of this contribution came through the long ball. It is tough to judge where the Marlins would have finished without Stanton’s home runs, but through a little statistical inference, one can see how home runs affect a team’s performance.
In this new age of baseball, home runs are clearly becoming more and more significant. Looking at the slopes of both time periods, home runs since 2010 have had much more of a linear correlation with wins. So, it is clearly apparent that home runs have an increasingly important place in the scheme of the MLB. As of September 20th, of this past season, forty percent of all runs had been scored via home runs. When compared to ten years ago, that same statistic was only three percent, showing the clear impact of emerging home run hitters.
In a less quantitative manner, baseball fanatics are familiar with the age-old idea of hitting being contagious. A home run can be a game changing event, giving a team life in an otherwise deflating season. Interestingly enough, the two 2017 ALCS teams, the Yankees and Astros, led the majors in home runs throughout the regular season. With National League competitors having a distinct disadvantage of having pitchers hit, one can only try and speculate if the NLCS teams, Dodgers and Cubs, who finished at the eleventh and ninth spots, would have been even closer to the top of this list. Although this effect is much harder to quantify, it undoubtedly should still apply when addressing Stanton’s candidacy.
Some might argue that the lack of success for the Marlins might hurt Stanton’s chances of winning the award. However, since 2000, seven MVP selections have played on non-playoff teams. In the last two years alone, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout (2015 NL and 2016 AL MVPs) have received the coveted honor despite being on teams nixed from the playoffs.
All of this being said, the MVP selection committee definitely shouldn’t overlook the power of the home run, which in the past was more of a show than a strategy for success. As baseball continues to evolve as a sport, the home run clearly can make or break a team’s season. With home runs having this clear influence on the game, then there’s no doubt that Giancarlo Stanton should be the 2017 National League MVP.