By Chris St. John
A little over a week ago I looked at Home Run Damage, an attempt to quantify the awesomeness of home runs. Now, I'd like to look at the opposite end of the spectrum - home runs that barely made it over the fence, or just enoughs.
The question is raised: Do hitters who hit more just enoughs in one year hit fewer home runs the next? If so, how many? Well I have this information from the ESPN Home Run Tracker, so let's see! If anything, I like to get as much use out of one data set as possible.
I found each hitter's total amount of JE, JE/L and JE/ULs in one year and compared it to the difference in HRs hit between the two years. Only hitters with more than 10 total HRs both years qualified. This covers the years from 2007-2011.
I also looked at JEs divided by total HRs in one year versus the difference in HRs next year, thinking a power hitter will hit more home runs in general, including those that barely sneak over the fence. However, there was no correlation between the two.
(Yes, that outlier is Jose Bautista 2009-2010). There is a quadratic relationship between the two which tapers off at higher JE values. The correlation coefficient is usable, but not extremely high. Here is a chart that solves the quadratic equation for 0-20 JEs in year 1:
The average player with more than 10 HRs hits about seven JEs per year.
So what does that mean for the players last year?
At the top of the list, four players (Miguel Cabrera, Evan Longoria, J.J. Hardy and Albert Pujols) generally hit a lot of JE HRs. Cabrera's, Longoria's and Hardy's numbers are a bit larger than average, so it's possible they may lose a few HRs this year. Ryan Howard is another player who hits a lot of JEs, but he will miss a lot of the season with an Achilles injury. Adam Lind and Ian Kinsler are more likely than the other three to lose some HRs next year. Howie Kendrick is an interesting case because he actually hit a lot of JE HRs in 2010 (9/10 total HRs) and ended up hitting 18 the next year. Perhaps he will drop down closer to 10 or perhaps he had a breakout season. Michael Morse bursted onto the scene last year with 31 home runs. With 13 JEs, I imagine his numbers will go down a bit next year. Finally, there is Asdrubal Cabrera. After hitting a total of 18 HRs in four years, he hit 25 HRs last year and 60% of them were JEs. He is the most likely candidate for a good dose of regression.
The bottom of the list contains ten players who generally hit low JEs (Brent Morel, Mike Carp, Casey Kotchman, Juan Rivera, Kelly Shoppach, Eric Thames, Casper Wells, Desmond Jennings, Shelley Duncan and Scott Sizemore). However, many of them are young players with little or no history and have a chance to increase their output next year. The next group is Carl Crawford, Jason Bay, Colby Rasmus and Edwin Encarnacion. These players may have a chance to increase their HR totals a little more next season. Finally, we have Adam Dunn, Hideki Matsui and Carlos Pena. All three of these players moved to different teams last year. Dunn and Matsui were obviously worse than they have been in their career and there are some who believe their careers are nearly over. Pena's stats were actually more in line with his career norms. Perhaps Wrigley Field turned some of his JEs into Plenties? He will return to Tropicana Field this year as a Ray, so this will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on.
There are a lot of variables missing here: age, park effects, hitter power, regression, injury, playing time, the list goes on. However, there is a correlation between a hitter getting a lot of "Just Enough" home runs and having fewer total home runs the next year, but it's not a perfect relationship and the effect isn't huge.
I did look at how much a player varied from their average career amount of JEs and what percentage of home runs they gained or lost the next year from their career total. The trend is the same as the total amount of JEs, but the correlation coefficient is actually smaller. This means that a player's total amount of JEs in one season has more to say about what he will do next season than his deviation from his career average of JEs.
If you have any questions, you can contact me on Twitter @stealofhome.