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%.