Baseball HQ Research: Home run streaks

by on April 25, 2013 @ 12:11:53 PDT


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By Patrick Davitt

Milwaukee Brewers OF Ryan Braun
Brains noting Braun bunches?

The other day, on a telecast of a major-league baseball game, one of the commentators (an ex-player) noted, "We all know that those big home run hitters hit 'em in bunches." He went on to say that the elite power hitters will often go two weeks without a tater before enjoying a homer spree.

At the risk of shooting fish in a barrel (ex-players being on the air chiefly to provide clichés and mostly uninteresting anecdotes, not insight), we thought these paired assertions deserved examination.

After all, if there's something to this, we might be able to identify patterns that would help us stream batters, drop them, trade them (or for them) and generally improve our power counts in the fantasy games we play.

So we looked into it. And, sadly but unsurprisingly, the "homer bunch" theory holds about as much water as the "rising fastball" theory -- which is to say, none at all.


To test the hypothesis, we took every hitter who clouted 35 or more HR in any season from 2010-2012. We identified 23:

Batter_Season       HR     Batter_Season       HR
==================  ==     ==================  ==
Bautista_2010       54     Hamilton_2012       43
Bautista_2011       43     Kemp_2011           39
Beltre_2012         36     Konerko_2010        39
Braun_2012          41     Pujols_2010         42
Cabrera_2010        38     Pujols_2011         37
Cabrera_2012        44     Reynolds_2011       37
Dunn_2010           38     Stanton_2012        37
Dunn_2012           41     Teixeira_2011       39
Encarnacion_2012    42     Uggla_2011          36
Fielder_2011        38     Votto_2010          37
Granderson_2011     41     Willingham_2012     35
Granderson_2012     43

Then we painstakingly logged every HR and all the batters' games played, and parsed the resulting data to explore:

  • How often did these sluggers hit HRs in "bunches?"
  • How often did they experience long droughts?
  • How often were the droughts followed by bunches?
  • Were there any indicators to provide advance warning that either a drought or a bunch is coming?

One note about the results: Any time we describe a span of games between HRs, the count excludes the first game with a HR in the span. So two straight games with a HR have a gap of 1, not 0.

Note also that we defined a batter game as a game in which he actually played; if he sat out for any reason, that game is not counted in his streaks or droughts.

Results 1: Overall

The batters in the study averaged just over 4 games between HRs, in a range of averages from 3.5 to 5.0:

Batter_Season       G     Batter_Season        G
=================  ===     =================  ===
Stanton_2012       3.5     Willingham_2012    4.2
Bautista_2010      3.5     Votto_2010         4.3
Encarnacion_2012   3.6     Braun_2012         4.3
Hamilton_2012      3.7     Pujols_2010        4.4
Bautista_2011      3.8     Beltre_2012        4.4
Dunn_2012          3.9     Teixeira_2011      4.5
Granderson_2011    4.0     Cabrera_2010       4.5
Cabrera_2012       4.1     Fielder_2011       4.6
Konerko_2010       4.1     Reynolds_2011      4.8
Granderson_2012    4.1     Dunn_2010          5.0
Pujols_2011        4.1     Uggla_2011         5.0
Kemp_2011          4.2

What did the numbers say?

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