Mar 5, 2015; Sarasota, FL, USA; Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis (19) hits a three run home run in the third inning during of a spring training baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Ed Smith Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Baltimore Orioles first baseman Chris Davis has three home runs this spring. The first two were three-run shots that powered the Birds to two of their too-few victories in Florida. They also inspired the main idea of this article – that when Chris Davis hits home runs, the O’s win a high percentage of those games.
So it stands to reason that he yesterday hit a solo shot in the 10-9 loss to the Twins. Although, honestly, when you score nine runs, your team really should win the game.
Though it is certainly true that there is no single statistic or person that carries a baseball team to victory, a big home run bat goes a long way in a lineup. Even so, all the great hitting in the world will not produce a championship team if the pitching staff is among the worst in the league. And the inverse is true as well.
But it does remain a fact that when the primary power hitter on a given team does what he does best, which is drive the ball to places where it cannot be caught, his team’s chances of winning that game are exponentially higher than games where he fails to hit it out of the park.
Let’s take a look at Davis’ home runs over the past two years, comparing the team’s winning percentage in those game relative to the whole season…
In 2014, Davis hit 26 home runs in 23 games. The Orioles won 18 of those games, which equals a percentage of .783 versus the team’s .593 for the season.
In 2013, Davis hit 53 home runs in 50 games. The Orioles won 31 of those games, which equals a percentage of .620 versus the team’s .531 for the season.
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I grant that this statistic is not one that is unique to the Baltimore Orioles and Chris Davis. It is likely most often true of the primary slugger on most teams. Here are a few examples, beginning with Nelson Cruz in 2014, who hit 40 home runs in 37 games. The Orioles won 26 of those games, which equals a percentage of .703 versus the team’s .593 for the season.
In Miguel Cabrera’s MVP season of 2012, he hit 44 home runs in 39 games. The Tigers won 29 of those games, which equals a percentage of .744 versus the team’s .543 for the season.
Does this observation hold true as well for a losing team? Let’s look at Chris Carter and the Astros last year. Carter hit 37 home runs in 30 games, with Houston being 18-12 in those games … so .600 versus a team winning percentage of .432. Yes, Carter had seven games with a pair of homers, and the Astros were 5-2 in those contests. (Actually, when researching this, teams almost never lose a game when their team-leading HR hitter has multiple long balls.)
Here is another slugger from 2014 – Jose Abreu of the White Sox. His 36 home runs were hit in 32 games with a team record of 20-12, .625 … whereas Chicago’s team win percentage was .451.
I admit this is pretty far from complex sabermetrics. But it does in simple form present the value of a primary slugger on a team and that team’s chances of winning games. By any measure or any standard, the Orioles need Chris Davis to have a big year and power them toward a significant number of victories.
To finish off the totals for Davis as an Oriole, in 2012 games the Birds were 21-9 when he homered. His two homers as an Oriole in 2011 were in wins. So, for his career in Baltimore, when Chris Davis hits a home run, the Orioles win 68.6% of those games (72-33). That is like a team winning 109 games for the year.