By Patrick Davitt
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
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
What did the numbers say?
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