The Braves' Home Run Drought Is Hard to Believe
The Atlanta Braves are on an incredible home run pace.
Unfortunately for them, it's in the wrong direction.
the braves are on pace to hit 27 home runs this year. like, the entire team
— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) April 25, 2016
If you did a double-take and had to re-read that tweet, you're not alone. At the time of its writing, the Braves had hit just three home runs as a team through their first 18 games, which is a 27-homer pace. Without hitting any balls that left the yard on Monday against the Boston Red Sox, their home run pace has fallen to 25.6 for the season.
Three is an incredibly low total, but it could have been even lower.
All three of the Braves' long balls have been classified as "Just Enough" home runs by ESPN's Home Run Tracker, which means: "The ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, [or] that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones that barely made it over the fence."
This doesn't mean that the homers weren't well hit balls or ones that didn't deserve to go out but simply that they were close to staying in the yard, meaning we could have been just five games away from a team going homer-less for the first month of the season.
What's even more surprising is that two of them came in the Braves' season opener against the Washington Nationals and their ace Max Scherzer. Freddie Freeman homered in his first at-bat of the season...
...and Adonis Garcia hit one out in the fourth inning, both solo shots.
Four games later, Drew Stubbs hit a three-run homer off of Adam Wainwright, giving the Braves three home runs in five games. They have since gone 14 straight games without hitting a home run as a team, and there are currently 45 individual players who have hit more than 3 home runs this season.
Braves have gone 14 straight games without a HR for the first time since 1970.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 26, 2016
In the past 10 seasons, the fewest home runs hit by a team for March and April was 9, which happened three times.
No team that finished the first month of the season with the fewest home runs ended the year ranked higher than 16th for total home runs, and the team that did was a bit of an anomaly.
The 2015 Minnesota Twins own this distinction and can thank their top four home run hitters at the end of the season for it. These hitters -- Brian Dozier, Trevor Plouffe, Torii Hunter, and Miguel Sano -- hit a combined six home runs in March and April, which didn't include any from Sano, who was called up in July.
Taking the 2015 Twins out of the equation, no team that ended April with the fewest home runs finished better than 23rd, with 8 of the 13 instances resulting in a bottom-three finish. (There are 13 teams and not 10 due to teams being tied for fewest home runs hit.)
|Team||Year||March/April HR||End of Year HR and Rank|
|Twins/White Sox||2015||12||156 (16), 136 (26)|
|Astros/Mariners||2010||9||108 (29), 101 (30)|
|Padres/Royals||2006||14||161 (23), 124 (30)|
This isn’t to say a lack of home runs is a death sentence. The Kansas City Royals had the fewest in March and April, as well as at the end of the season, in 2014, and they made it to the World Series that year, losing in Game 7 to the San Francisco Giants.
However, it’s not a good sign. Besides the Royals, only 3 of the remaining 12 teams to have the fewest home runs in March and April posted even a winning record, and there were actually more instances (5) in which a team failed to reach even 64 wins.
The Braves will have to hit 10 home runs over their next five games without the Miami Marlins or Pittsburgh Pirates hitting any in order not to finish April with the fewest as a team.
Considering this requires tripling their current output in a third of their games played so far, it’s safe to say they will finish the first month of the season with the fewest long balls.
With a current record of 4-15, they are well on their way to joining the list of teams who failed to reach 64 wins after posting the fewest team home runs by April's end. ( Our projections currently have the Braves winning 71 games.)
It makes sense why the top video on their YouTube page is this:
There certainly aren't many opportunities to show home runs.