Let us bury no ledes: At some point on Tuesday night, we'll very likely see the 5,000th home run in Major League Baseball this season. If that strikes you as a lofty tally, that's with good reason. That's because it's a lofty tally. Shall we explore this matter further? Lo, we shall explore this matter further ...
5,000 home runs has happened before but not often.
Going into Tuesday night's packed slate, MLB hitters have combined for 4,979 home runs. So, yes, at this writing it's probably a matter of hours. As it turns out, we've reached this threshold before. Specifically, we've topped 5,000 homers in 11 seasons, all of which have been since 1998. Yes, it's a growth economy for homers and has been for some time. Probably by the time the West Coast games start on Tuesday night, we'll have added a 12th season to that list.
We're going to set a record this year.
So with more than a month left in the regular season, 2017 has already given us the 12th-highest homer total in MLB history. The current record? It's 5,693, set back in 2000. Since we've averaged roughly 1,000 home runs per month in 2017, the current pace would need to drop off in a big way in order for us not to break the record. Framed another way, there's a real shot that, for the first time ever, we'll see 6,000 home runs in a single season. And this isn't just a function of the number of games ...
We're seeing more home runs per game than ever before.
Yeah, this is the expansion era, and we've have 30 MLB teams since 1998. That, of course, lends itself to higher gross totals across the league. Even when you break it down to average outputs, though, this is the most homer-rich season ever. Here are the top-five seasons in MLB history when it comes to average home runs per game by a team ...
|Year||Each team's home runs per game|
So 2017 isn't only setting the record, it's also setting the record by a wide margin. On average, a fan who attends an MLB game in 2017 sees more than 3.5 home runs. To state what should now be obvious, 2017 has been the best year ever for home runs, and it's not especially close. If paces hold -- and they've been stable for a while -- then, with more than 400 games left on the schedule, we should see almost 1,200 more home runs by the time the regular season ends. That'll pretty well blow away the current record noted above. Of course, it's even more significant than you think ...
Home runs as a percentage of runs scored are also higher than ever.
The home run boom of 2017 isn't just about a rising run-scoring tide lifting all boats. Overall, teams are scoring 4.66 runs per game this season, which ranks just 35th all-time since 1900. That's more run-scoring than we've seen in the average year across the sprawl of baseball history, but it's not really close to the top of the list. As already noted, though, 2017 has seen the most home runs on a rate basis ever.
For instance, over at Baseball Prospectus they track the percentage of a team's runs scored that result from home runs. (For reasons explained here, they call it the "Guillen Number.") Anyhow, if you eyeball the ten teams with highest Guillen Number of all-time -- i.e., the highest percentage of a team's runs that come via the homer -- then you'll find that teams from 2017 occupy five of the those top 10 spots.
You can of course see this on the individual level.
We know all about Giancarlo Stanton's power bestowals. At this writing, he's at 50 home runs, and we're not even to September yet. He's likely going to get to 60, and if he somehow maintains his scalding second-half pace then he could threaten Barry Bonds' single-season record of 73. As you know, it's not just a Stanton thing. To get an idea of how just pervasive the home run has become, consider this: In 2017, 206 hitters have hit 10 or more home runs. That's fourth all-time. The record belongs to the 2000 season, which gave 217 10-homer guys. Presently, we've got 58 hitters this season with between seven and nine home runs. It's very likely that a big chunk of those will get to 10, so we'll set another record in that regard. Interestingly, we'll almost certainly not going to set a record for the number of 20-, 30-, or 40-home run hitters. As such, what's going on in 2017 seems to be a matter of everyone hitter dingers, as opposed to just the upper-tier power hitters.
So if you like home runs, then please do enjoy the 5,000th home run of the season when it happens on Tuesday night. Then take uplift from the fact that you've got, oh, at least 1,000 more on the way before we get to the playoffs. This, people, is the Year of the Homer.