How Edwin Encarnacion Is Hitting so Many Home Runs in May
Edwin Encarnacion didn't hit a home run in the Blue Jays' 7-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.
This counts as news nowadays, seeing as how Encarnacion has seemingly been hitting a home run every 15 minutes or so during the month of May.
On Wednesday night, Encarnacion hit two home runs. The night before, he hit two home runs. The night before that, he hit one. In all, Encarnacion has hit 11 home runs this month, and those back-to-back, multi-homer games earlier this week made him the second Blue Jay in club history to have two consecutive multi-homer games (Jesse Barfield also did it in 1983).
His 11 May homers have all come in the last 16 games. And in those 16 games, Encarnacion has 22 runs batted in, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts and a slash line of .313/.353/.906. On the season, Encarnacion is now hitting .253/.333/.560 with 13 homers (third best in baseball) and a nERD of 3.05 (15th best in MLB), meaning Edwin is contributing just over three runs over a league average player per game (~27 plate appearances).
That's kinda "tight," as the kids would say. However, it was just a few weeks ago that folks were talking about his slow start, and were worried about Edwin's lack of power production. In 27 April games, he hit .250/.333/.413 for an OPS of .747, but with only two home runs.
Needless to say, those worried whispers have clammed up.
With those 11 May homers, Encarnacion is the hottest hitter in baseball, and could potentially set the record for most home runs in the month of May. With nine games left, he is six bombs shy of the 17 Barry Bonds hit in 2001, which is the Major League record. And he's five shy of the American League record of 16 set by Mickey Mantle in 1956.
Six homers in nine games is a tall task, but given how hot he is, it's not out of the question. However, he's still far away from the greatest month-long homer binges in MLB history.
|Sammy Sosa||Chicago Cubs||June||2008||20|
|Rudy York||Detroit Tigers||August||1937||18|
|Barry Bonds||San Francisco Giants||May||2001||17|
|Albert Belle||Cleveland Indians||September||1995||17|
|Babe Ruth||New York Yankees||September||1927||17|
|Albert Belle||Chicago White Sox||July||1998||16|
|Mark McGwire||St. Louis Cardinals||July||1999||16|
|Bob Johnson||Philadelphia A's||June||1934||15|
|Roger Maris||New York Yankees||June||1961||15|
|Babe Ruth||New York Yankees||June||1930||15|
|Alex Rodriguez||New York Yankees||April||2007||14|
|Albert Pujols||St. Louis Cardinals||April||2006||14|
Unless Encarnacion is able to travel back in time and get himself some BALCO Power Juice, there's no way he's catching Sammy Sosa's record of 20 homers in a single calendar month. Rudy York holds the August record with an impressive 18, done back in '37. And hey, Babe Ruth is on this list a bunch times. I never saw him play, but I understand from the Interweb that he was a bit of a masher as well.
Regardless of whether he breaks monthly records or not, what we need to ask is what has led to Encarnacion's insane power surge in May? And really, it's simple. He's pulling everything right now.
Below is his spray chart for April, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:
Here is his spray chart for May:
As you can see, in the first month of the season, Encarnacion was spraying the ball all over the field, and making a lot more outs in the process. But in May, he's abandoned going the other way with the ball, and is instead yanking everything to the left side of the diamond, with tremendous results. And it hasn't mattered what the pitch has been - he's pulling all of them.
In April, about 65.6% of all the pitches Encarnacion saw were fastballs and cutters, while he saw 24.5% breaking pitches and 10% off-speed pitches. In May, those numbers stayed relatively flat: 66.9% hard stuff, 25.5% breaking stuff, and 7.6% off-speed. But what Encarnacion has done with those pitches has changed dramatically.
In April, Encarnacion's line-drive rate (LD%) was 20.3%, his groundball rate (GB%) was 35.4% and his fly ball rate (FB%) was 44.3%. His HR/FB rate was 5.7%, meaning just under 6% of all fly balls he was hitting were leaving the yard, which isn't much.
However, in May, his LD% is just 11%, his GB% is about the same at 32.9%, but his FB% has exploded, up to 56.2% this month. And a staggering 26.8% of every fly ball he's hit this month has cleared the fences.
In other words, try to get the guy to hit the ball on the ground, pitchers.
Simply put, Encarnacion is simply in one of those zones right now. Eventually, these May tendencies will normalize themselves a bit and he'll settle into a groove that is probably somewhere in between his April power drought and his other-worldly homer binge in May.
Until then, just sit back and enjoy the show.