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Do more home runs mean more wins?

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Home runs are exciting, but do they actually help? A look at the relationship in 2016.

AP Photo

There have been tons of home runs in the MLB this year. Just a few weeks ago, the Orioles broke a 116-year-old record, set way back in 1900: they hit four home runs before recording a single out. Both the Orioles and the Cardinals have hit more than 200 HRs this season. The Blue Jays, Mets, and Mariners are also on pace to do so. This means the Mets are on pace to break their franchise record for most home runs in a single season; they have hit 192 so far this year, just eight short of their 200 in the 2006 season.

These are all fairly good teams. They all (with the exception of the Mariners) have a strong possibility of making the playoffs this season. Does this mean there’s a correlation between the number of home runs a team hits and the number of games they win?

Gathering data from ESPN and Baseball Reference, I created a table that summarizes the data necessary: a team’s number of HR vs. their win percentage.

Team 2016 HR 2016 Win %
ARI 152 0.42
ATL 99 0.388
BAL 218 0.547
BOS 175 0.558
CHC 170 0.645
CHW 143 0.482
CIN 144 0.42
CLE 168 0.577
COL 177 0.478
DET 182 0.54
HOU 173 0.536
KCR 125 0.522
LAA 141 0.446
LAD 167 0.565
MIA 113 0.489
MIL 158 0.424
MIN 172 0.367
NYM 189 0.529
NYY 152 0.526
OAK 143 0.429
PHI 137 0.449
PIT 129 0.493
SDP 156 0.413
SEA 188 0.507
SFG 112 0.536
STL 201 0.533
TBR 182 0.424
TEX 187 0.597
TOR 198 0.558
WHN 181 0.587

These values were then plotted, and the I ran a linear regression:

Initially, there appears to be a positive correlation between a team’s number of home runs and their win percentage in 2016. After running a linear regression, the R-squared value is found to be 0.1752, which gives an R value of 0.418. This correlation coefficient, R, is quite sizable! This implies that there is a moderate correlation between these two variables. Although the relationship is not very strong, this R value indicates that this positive relationship exists, and is probably not due to chance. After all, we would expect as much given that home runs lead to runs and outscoring your opponent is how you win.

There were a few teams whose values helped contribute to this linear relationship; their standing in the league and their ranking for number of home runs were similar. Probably the most obvious example were the Atlanta Braves. The Braves have been struggling all season and have the second-worst win percentage in MLB (0.388). They have hit the fewest number of HR, and are the only team to have not reached 100 HR (they have hit 99).

The teams who have hit the most home runs have done fairly well this season. The Orioles, as mentioned above, have hit the most HR in MLB and sit at a cool 218. They have the eighth-best win percentage at 0.547. The Cardinals have hit 201 HR, the second-most behind Baltimore. They are doing well with a win percentage of 0.533, good for 12th in MLB. The Blue Jays sit in third with 198 HR, and have the sixth best win percentage (.558) in the league.

The Chicago Cubs are having a fantasy season and have a whopping 0.645 win percentage. However, they sit fourteenth in the league in HRs with 170. These are not strongly related because the Cubs’ offense is not based upon home runs. They are productive in scoring runs through other means, such as doubles; the team has hit 83 more doubles than HR this season. They are also a strong team defensively, and do usually not need to score many runs to win games due to their overwhelming dominance against so many of their opponents. Chicago boasts a massive +221 run differential, which shows they are good at both scoring and preventing runs.

In contrast, the New York Mets seem to have an offense built upon home runs. In their 5-2 win against Cincinnati on Tuesday, all five of their runs were scored off home runs. They have hit 192 home runs this season compared to 128 against by opponents. Additionally, the Mets have 1140 H this year. A huge 16.8% of hits by the Mets have been home runs. They sit fourth in MLB for number of HR, and thirteenth in the overall standings. The Mets appear to be in good standing in the NL Wild Card race, but only time will tell if this home run powerhouse can push through September.

Although not all teams have a strong relationship between both quantities, there is still enough of a relationship overall to conclude that there is a moderate positive correlation between a team’s number of HR and their win percentage. Simply hitting a ton of home runs will not necessarily help a team be successful, but it certainly helps.

Julia Prusaczyk is a contributor to Beyond the Box Score. She has not hit a home run this season.