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Home run winning percentage

Posted by Andy on March 29, 2011

After Steve's post a few days ago about most homers coming in a loss, it got me wondering what the team's winning percentage looks like for the top home run hitters.

So here's what I did. I made lists similar to Steve's that ranked the top HR hitters in both team's wins and losses. My lists are 1960 to present and I took the first 300 names on each list. Then I loaded all the data into Excel and found all the names the appeared on both lists. There were 263 of them.

Here are the top 20 guys in terms of their team's winning percentage when they homer in a game:

1	Lee  May	        76.7%
2	Steve  Finley	74.3%
3	Brooks  Robinson	74.0%
4	Manny  Ramirez	73.9%
5	D Strawberry	73.6%
6	Robin  Ventura	73.3%
7	Derek  Jeter	72.9%
8	Andruw  Jones	72.6%
9	Willie  Mays	72.4%
10	George  Foster	72.3%
11	Lance  Parrish	72.2%
12	Ron  Cey	        71.9%
13	Paul  Molitor	71.7%
14	Willie  Stargell	71.7%
15	Vernon  Wells	71.6%
16	Albert  Pujols	71.5%
17	Boog  Powell	71.5%
18	Bernie  Williams	71.3%
19	Moises  Alou	71.2%
20	Marquis  Grissom	71.1%

The first thing that occurs to me is that these guys primarily played on really good teams. There are Jeter and Bernie Williams from the Yankees' dynasty. There's Marquis Grissom who was on great Braves and Indians teams. The are Manny and Jones, whose teams have almost always made the playoffs. While there are a few exceptions, generally these guys seem to come from great teams.

My point is that there may be a bias in terms of team strength. For example, the 1998 Yankees were a powerhouse team, and it's a fairly good bet than when any given player did anything, his team won the game. The question is--how much did Jeter and Williams contribute to that and is their being on this list a measure of the impact of their home runs, or the luck that they were on such a good team?

Now here are the bottom 20 guys:

244	Rick  Monday	58.8%
245	Ryne  Sandberg	58.8%
246	Cesar  Cedeno	58.7%
247	Travis  Fryman	58.7%
248	Carlos  Pena	58.6%
249	Jeff  Conine	58.5%
250	Gene  Tenace	58.4%
251	Jay  Buhner	58.3%
252	Kent  Hrbek	58.1%
253	Todd  Hundley	58.1%
254	Jason  Thompson	58.0%
255	Toby  Harrah	57.9%
256	Brian  Giles	57.1%
257	Geoff  Jenkins	56.5%
258	Todd  Helton	55.7%
259	Richie  Zisk	55.6%
260	Andre  Thornton	55.2%
261	Matt  Stairs	55.2%
262	Jeff  Burroughs	53.0%
263	Aubrey  Huff	52.1%

Non-analytically, these guys seem to A) have hit fewer career homers than the top 20 guys and B) have played for teams that had less overall success.

Both points seem to be outcomes from the same trend: players who hit more homers help their teams win more, so players who hit fewer homers probably tend to play for more average teams. This is of course just a general rule...there are plenty of exceptions such as Andre Dawson in 1987.

In general, when a player homers in a game, his team historically has about a 64% chance of winning. I calculated this similarly to above by looking at batting games with a homer that came in team wins or team losses. This means that in 2010, for example, there were 2,867 "homer win" games and 1,457 "homer loss" games, good for a 66.3% winning percentage. Actually, 2010 was the highest winning percentage since 1920, save for 1943 when it peaked at 67.8%. In general, this winning percentage tracks inversely with offense. For example, 1994 has the second-lowest winning percentage since 1920 at just 62.3%.

17 Responses to “Home run winning percentage”

  1. iftheshoe_fits Says:

    Great fun. I may be mixing my stats (or metaphors, so to speak), but if you correlate the average Win Probability Added, wouldn't it produce a cool list of whos homers have the biggest impact in games their teams win?

    This way, late inning, meaningless tack on HR would be devalued...

    Or maybe I don't understand WPA and the situational value, and have no idea what I'm talking about....

  2. Doug B Says:

    Molitor I would not have expected. From 1983-1990 he played on some bad Brewer teams.

    Of course you could probably run it with winning percentage when they did NOT homer and Jeter might still beat a lot of the bottom 20 when they DID homer.

  3. John Autin Says:

    The Yankees have had a .588 W% in games that Derek Jeter played but did not homer. (1215 Wins, 853 Losses.)

    This is no surprise, since he's always been surrounded by a good team, and his own contributions to winning are not centered on hitting home runs.

    Extending the check to other Jeter stats, expressing the results in W% and projecting that to a 162-game season (with raw numbers in parentheses):

    -- No hits: .487 W%, 79-82 (253-266)
    -- At least 1 hit: .635 W%, 103-59 (1,126-648)

    -- No runs: .441 W%, 71-91 (470-596)
    -- At least 1 run: .741 W%, 120-42 (909-318)

    -- No RBI: .538 W%, 87-75 (800-686)
    -- At least 1 RBI: .717 W%, 116-46 (579-228)

    -- No BB: .581 W%, 94-68 (880-635)
    -- At least 1 BB: .641 W%, 104-58 (499-279)
    (This one seems interesting, somehow -- such a small difference in W% whether Jeter walks or not.)

    -- No times on base: .439 W%, 71-91 (127-162)
    -- At least 1 time on base: .625 W%, 101-61 (1,252-752)

    -- No extra-base hits: .565 W%, 91-71 (911-702)
    -- At least 1 extra-base hit: .688 W%, 111-51 (468-212)

  4. Larry R. Says:


    Does Jeter really get on base in >87% of the games he's played? I don't know if that's good or bad but it sounds pretty damn good. Or perhaps, like #1, I don't know what I'm talking about.

  5. John Autin Says:

    @4, Larry -- To estimate Jeter's chance of reaching base safely in an average game, figure his chance of not reaching safely in a game, then subtract that from 1.

    Here's how I would estimate his probability of not reaching safely:

    (chance of making out in a given PA) raised to the power of (avg. # of PAs per game)

    His chance of making an out in a given PA is (1 - OBP).
    His average number of PAs per game is about 4.6.

    By that method, Jeter has about an 89% chance of reaching safely in an average game.

    A more exact estimate would have to account for the variability in the # of PAs he gets in a game, which in turn is influenced somewhat by his own performance. For example, if Jeter makes outs in his first 4 times up, he's less likely to get a 5th trip; and that fact would tend to lower the original estimate. And other factors would also have relatively small effects.

    The few games in which Jeter gets just 1 PA would also have a small downward pull on the original 89% estimate.

    So, Jeter's actual result -- reaching safely in 87.4% of games played -- seems very much like what we'd expect based on his career OBP.

  6. deal Says:

    can we get a list of games relative to .500. As in how many Wins over .500 was Lee May in his HR games? I suspect WIllie Mays and Jeter will be right at the top of the list - I can't imagine Lee May was involved in as many games as those two.

  7. DavidRF Says:

    Jeter "only" has 234 HR. Lee May has 354 HR. Your method will likely raise Ramirez, Mays and Stargell while dropping guys like Jeter, Williams and Robinson.

  8. John Autin Says:

    Just for fun, I used the Play Index to find players from last year with the most games in which they hit a HR but still had a negative WPA.

    I expect the leaders in this category to reflect, among other things:
    -- The overall HR leaders.
    -- Those whose offensive contributions were most concentrated in hitting HRs.

    But see if you can guess which name on the list really surprised me:

    9 -- Jose Bautista
    7 -- Dan Uggla
    6 -- Mark Teixeira, Buster Posey, Paul Konerko, Aaron Hill, Nelson Cruz.

    Re-ordering the list based on pct. of total HRs that came in games with negative WPA (from lowest to highest):
    -- 15.4%, Konerko (6 of 39)
    -- 16.7%, Bautista (9 of 54)
    -- 21.2%, Uggla and Teixeira (7 of 33)
    -- 23.1%, Hill (6 of 26)
    -- 27.3%, Cruz (6 of 22)
    -- 33.3%, Posey (6 of 18)

    One-third of Posey's HRs came in games wherein he had a negative WPA.

    On the other hand, the Giants won all 6 games.

    So what does it all mean? Probably nothing. But the next time I hear a TV announcer say that the Knights are on a 6-game win streak sparked by Hobbs, who has gone 9 for 26 with 6 HRs and 10 RBI, I'll at least consider the possibility that the team won more in spite of him than because of him.

  9. BSK Says:

    This is more logical than analytical, but as a non-HR hitter, if Jeter hits a HR, I would assume it likely that one or more teammates, who are more prototypical power hitters, also hit a HR in the game. Which means his team likely had a better overall offensive game. Which means they were more likely to win.

    I guess it is a bit of a chicken or an egg thing, and of course, it may be based on an entirely false premise. I guess I'd be curious to see numbers on this, if someone can figure out how to do it. I don't mean to pick on Jeter (there may very well be even less powerful hitters on this list than he), but he seems to be the topic of discussion and is one I'm obviously very familiar with.

  10. BSK Says:


    I'm sure I could double-check, but I'd probably miss something. You have Bautista down for 54 games with a HR (by using 54 in the denominator). I believe he hit 54 HRs last year. But didn't he have at least one multi-HR game? Wouldn't that mean fewer games with a HR? And is it possible one of his negative-WPA games was a multi-HR game?

  11. BSK Says:


    I count 9 multi-HR games, none of which had a negative WPA. I'm not sure if that changes anything or if I'm misunderstanding. Does a multi-HR game count as two HR-games?

  12. DoubleDiamond Says:

    Two guys from the 2008 Phillies postseason roster on that bottom list! (Stairs and Jenkins.)

  13. John Autin Says:

    BSK -- Actually, I have Bautista down for 54 HRs, not 54 games with a HR. The percentages were expressed as (HRs in games with negative WPA) as a percentage of (Total HRs).

    I was going for a theme of "having a HR in a game doesn't always mean you had a positive offensive effect on the game overall," then looking at the raw-number leaders in such HRs, and finally expressing those HRs as a percentage of those players' total HRs. What really jumped out at me was that 6 of Posey's 18 HRs came in games wherein he had a negative WPA.

    The other thing that I noticed was that one of Mark Teixeira's negative-WPA games was a 2-HR game, in which he also walked and scored a 3rd run, but wound up with a -0.042 WPA. Both HRs came after the Yanks had fallen behind by 10-1; the team hit 5 HRs from that point on, but still lost, 10-8. In WPA terms, Teix's most important AB was his first, when the game was scoreless and he hit into a DP to end the 1st inning.

    (BTW, I should have emphasized that I figured those percentages only for the raw-number leaders; for all I know, someone might have hit 4 HRs on the season, all in negative-WPA games.)

  14. John Autin Says:

    BSK @ 9 -- Interesting thoughts ... with which I will now quibble.

    1. Jeter has averaged 16 HRs per season for his career, so I wouldn't go so far as to say he's "not a home run hitter." Of course, he's not a slugger, either. He's a medium-power guy.

    2. You speculated that, "if Jeter hits a HR, I would assume it likely that one or more teammates, who are more prototypical power hitters, also hit a HR in the game. Which means his team likely had a better overall offensive game. Which means they were more likely to win."

    This could be interpreted a couple of ways. One is, you're assuming that, if Jeter (a non-slugger) hit a HR, then the pitcher was more HR-prone than average on that day, and thus his teammates were more likely to also hit at least one HR.

    If that's what you're saying, I'm not sure that it's a valid assumption. There are just so very many factors that go into any one batter homering off a given pitcher in a given game: Is he a mistake hitter? Is he a guess hitter? Does he have an advantage against this pitcher that his teammates might not share? In my anecdotal observation, Jeter tends to HR more off "outside" pitches and "inside" pitches, but not so much pitches right over the plate; how does this compare to the multitude of teammates he's had over the years? It's just not clear to me that we can assume that a HR hit by this particular medium-power guy increases the likelihood that a teammate also homers.

    I can toss off a lot of numbers, but I don't know how to massage them to find out what we're after.

    The simplest fact is that the Yankees hit at least 1 HR in a great majority of their games -- about 71% during Jeter's career (1,719 of 2,248). They had 884 one-HR games, 875 multi-HR games, and 709 no-HR games).

    But without doing a whole lot of P-I searches and Excel work, I can't see how to estimate whether a Jeter HR meant a teammate HR was more likley.

  15. BSK Says:


    To your last post first, I realize that I may have been operating under a false assumption for all of the reasons you offered (and possibly more). It was more of just a thought, one that I couldn't possibly verify and probably could not be verified without exhaustive research, even if it was true. Thanks for speculating...

    To your first post, that makes sense. I just wanted to know what to make of the data. Was that Teixeria game a home game against the Sox? If so, I think I was there...

  16. Johnny Twisto Says:

    if you correlate the average Win Probability Added, wouldn't it produce a cool list of whos homers have the biggest impact in games their teams win?

    This would be an interesting list. I've run a few such searches in the past (I don't know how effective the site's search function is at finding them). One thing I recall is that there didn't seem to be too much difference in the average WPA of HR among different players, e.g. Alex Rodriguez was about the same as Clutch God David Ortiz. I don't think we mere mortals can get those numbers except by searching one player at a time, but perhaps Sean Forman has the power to say whose HR averaged the most WPA (among players with a lot of them).

  17. Opening Day Links and Open Thread | Ducksnorts Says:

    [...] Home run winning percentage (Baseball-Reference). Steve Finley’s team won 74% of games in which he homered. Nice. [...]