The Indians have not been hitting many home runs this season. Friday night they managed to hit 3 in a game (for the first time in a month, but that outburst brought them to just 61 long balls on the season, which ranks 12th among the 15 American League teams*. The Indians are right in the middle of the pack in isolated power this season, but that's because they've hit the 2nd-most doubles (137) among all 30 MLB teams.
*The three AL teams behind the Indians in HR are Twins (58), Royals (54), and White Sox (53). The Tigers haven't been much better, tied for 10th with 65 HR. The AL Central has hit fewer home runs (291) than any division in baseball. Meanwhile, the AL East has already hit 420 of them.
While the three home runs the Tribe hit Friday night were an uncharacteristic outburst for the team, what wasn't uncharacteristic about it is that all three of the home runs came without anyone on base.The Indians have been woefully bad about going long with anyone aboard.
AL teams ranked by % of HR that are solo shots:
- Indians (44 of 61) 72.1%
- Mariners (53 of 75) 70.7%
- Orioles (58 of 87) 66.7%
- Rangers (48 of 74) 64.9%
- White Sox (33 of 53) 62.3%
- Blue Jays (60 of 97) 61.9%
- Astros (66 of 107) 61.7%
- Angels (46 of 75) 61.3%
- Rays (41 of 67) 61.2%
- Red Sox (42 of 70) 60.0%
- Twins (34 of 58) 58.6%
- Yankees (57 of 99) 57.6%
- Royals (28 of 54) 51.9%
- A's (32 of 65) 49.2%
- Tigers (31 of 65) 47.7%
Looked totals instead of the rate, the Indians have hit only 17 home runs all season with anyone on base, fewest in the American League. The Indians have hit only 8 HR with two runners on, and are yet to hit a grand slam this year, so a total of 25 extra runs (meaning not including the home run hitter's run) on home runs this season, which is also the lowest figure among all American League teams.
With the other teams who have hit solo shots on such a high percentage of their home runs, it's fairly logical. The Mariners are next in terms of solo shots, and they have the worst OBP in the AL. They aren't good at putting guys on base, so it's no surprised that few of their home runs have come with runners on. The Orioles, Rangers, and White Sox (who rank 3rd, 4th, and 5th on the list), none of them are above the median OBP for AL teams either. The Indians rank 3rd in OBP though. They're really good at getting runners on base, which makes their low percentage of home runs with runners on base all the more frustrating.
In 1,474 plate appearances with the bases empty, the Indians have hit 44 home runs, which works out to 3.0% of those PA. In 1,277 plate appearances with anyone on base, the Indians have hit 17 home runs, which works out to 1.3% of those PA. The Indians have been more than twice as likely to go deep with the bases empty as they have been with anyone on base.
I tend not to believe that it's mental, though I'm sure there are many who will speculate it is exactly that. It's a remarkable discrepancy though, one that has cost the Tribe a lot of runs, and at least a few wins.