Friday, July 12, 2024

10+ HR MONTHS: 1960-79

IT has always been Brock Hanke's thesis that the "Lords of Baseball" dampened the home run for roughly twenty years after Roger Maris exceeded Babe Ruth's fabled total of sixty...and, if not literally true, it certainly seems figuratively true. 

Our survey of "10+ HR months" tends to bear that out, even with the peregrinations within the data for the two decades shown at right (a strike zone expansion in 1963 undone six years later; the unprecedented and never-repeated four team expansion in 1969; the adoption of the designated hitter in 1973; another "half-round" of expansion in 1977).

Clearly the decline in offense during the so-called "second deadball era" that still haunts the scurrilous scribes today as the ghost of that era's ghoulishly dessicated batting average comes to visit them in the dead of night...but note that the corrections implemented to course-correct the decline in power that came to a head in 1968 produced only the briefest burst in the two years after baseball's biggest-ever expansion. It wasn't until 1977 that the game began to leave  its power drought behind once and for all. 

BUT we're here to celebrate and catalogue the folk who continued the semi-honorable pursuit of doggedly swinging from the heels, and whose efforts would from time to time produce monthly homer totals in double figures. Such an occurrence has become rampant in the last thirty years or so, which makes these forays into the past more poignant (and less crowded).

Let's look at the top producers of 10+ homer months in the 1960s (at left). As always, what first leaps out of the list (save for the fellow at the top: we'll return to him shortly...) is how rare it was for Henry Aaron to hit ten or more homes in a single month--we'll do a deep dive on Hammerin' Hank's monthly totals and make it part of a special post later on in the series. 

What also leaps out here, if your eyes are drawn to the trickeries in our color-coding mechanism, is the fact that Roger Maris became the second player in baseball history to have five 10+ homer months in the same season--no wonder the Lords wanted to do something to quell such blasphemy! But, of course, our yearly log demonstrates the measures they took in 1963 did not manage to detract from the relentless, clockwork-like power probings of the man Fritz Peterson called "The Fat Kid"--Harmon Killebrew

Given the offensive deprivations put into place during that "second deadball" era, it's possible to consider Killebrew's 10+ homer month achievement (sixteen in the 1960s, twenty overall in his career) as being every bit as impressive as Ruth's lifetime total of twenty-five. Let's do him the favor of displaying his full 10+ homer handiwork (below).









What's  alsonotable about Killebrew's achievement--as we'll find out in greater detail later on--is that he pioneered the phenomenon of the 10+ homer month accompanied by a persistently sub-.300 BA. Thirteen of his twenty 10+ homer months include that feature, which had first become a bug immediately after WWII, when it happened seven times in 1947. Over baseball history, the percentage of sub-.300 BA 10+ homer months is still lingering around one in three (34%), but the "sons of Harmon" have taken over in recent years and have pushed that percentage well over 50%--paging Kyle Schwarber and the 10+ HR month in which he hit .168 (!!). 

BUT let's not get ahead of ourselves. Here are the "also-rans" (or, if you prefer, the "one-hit wonders" of the 10+ homer klatsch during the 1960s (at right). As might be evident to those who've perused the earlier versions of this list, the instances of truly "unlikely" hitters who make their appearances on these list are declining in number. Some of these folk actually have more than one 10-homer month to their credit--they just happened to have them in months occurring in an adjacent decade (Ted Williams: 40s, 50s; Eddie Mathews and Ernie Banks: 50s; Dick Allen and Billy Williams: 70s).

There are still a few anomalies here, however: guys like Chuck Essegian, known almost exclusively due to his pinch-hit homer spree in the 1959 World Series, or Chuck Hinton, who (like Essegian) got a late start in his major league career. There's also Gene Oliver, famed mostly for being the nemesis of Sandy Koufax, who finally received steady playing time in mid-1965 and bagged a 10-homer month in the midst of that. And--last but not least--the unbelievable Felix Mantilla, who parlayed a fortuitous trade to a congenial home ballpark (Fenway) into an unexpected power surge. (Mantilla, nicknamed "Felix the Cat" due to his slight 160-lb. frame, hit more than a third of his lifetime HRs in Fenway, where he accumulated less than 20% of his total plate appearances.)

LET's move on to the 1970s, where it will immediately become clear how the Lords were able to leach out the power levels from the game as it was played in the sixties (even with the enlarged strike zone). 

Note first that the leader in the decade (Mike Schmidt, who'll have more 10+ HR months in the 80s) has only six instances, as opposed to Killebrew's sixteen. No one comes close to approaching Maris' five 10+ HR months in a single year, not even George Foster, who probably caused some defibrillating moments in the cold hearts of those "Lords of the Game" when he hit 52 homers in 1977. The youthful Johnny Bench, who looked like he might be a truly prolific slugger early in his career, was quickly ground down by the seventies trend for "iron man" catchers. And Reggie Jackson, who'd electrified folks in 1969 with his first-half homer surge (including two 10+ homer months), never followed with a similarly prolonged stretch of homer hitting as his career continued to play out. There are fifteen hitters on this list, but only nine new names, as opposed to twenty and fourteen respectively on the 1960s "multiple 10+" list.

And here are the one-timers in the 1970s--many of whom, as you'll see, are there by virtue of the homer surge that occurred during the first half of the 1970 season. 

That's a total of nine 10+ homer/month one-timers (try repeating that phrase rapidly...) in '70, though the Giants' two Willies (Mays and McCovey) had been previously prominent on the 60s list. But such an overall surge certainly boosted the chances of hitters like Bob Bailey, Rusty Staub, Tommie Agee, Tommy Harper, Tony Conigliaro and Tony Perez

The big drought on this list occurs in 1974-76, when only two players--John Mayberry and Richie Hebner--manage to hit 10+ homers in a month. Hebner, a guy who hit 203 lifetime HRs but only had one 20+ season over his career, is the unlikeliest guy to have a 10+ homer month in the season in which he did it (1975), a year when he hit a total number of just 15. 

The unlikeliest of all on this list, however, has got to be Mike Hargrove, known mostly for his skill at drawing walks and for the colorful nickname "The Human Rain Delay"--earned for his propensity to jump in and out of the batter's box at every opportunity (a "pioneering" behavior that came to infect baseball more generally in the years that followed, leading slowly but inexorably to the present-day pitch clock). Hargrove hit just 80 lifetime homers, 18 of which came in 1977, including ten in August (five in a six-game stretch) and sixteen in the second half of the season.

And we'd be remiss not to mention our old fave Sixto Lezcano, whose 1979 season was a gem--164 OPS+, 28 HR, 101 RBI, .321 BA, capped by a 10-homer month in August--making it appear that he was poised for greatness. It didn't quite happen, but it was fun while it lasted (a statement applicable to many activities that remain all too associated with some form of "feckless youth"). It's nice to have him on the list, and it's a nice place to stop (for now). Stay tuned...

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

10+ HR MONTHS: 1940-1959

WE figured out how to make the data displaying the "10+ homers in a month" that occurred in the 1940-59 time frame less overwhelming for our presentation format--so let us praise the Lord and pass the historical ammunition already. 

However, let's start by reminding you what the overall "data arc" for these occurrences looks like (the TimeGrid™ chart at right), which may make it clear that we may not be able to successfully show the "divisional play" details without visual pain/strain.

We bring you 145 instances of "10+ homers in a month" for 1940-59; that total will rise to 194 for the 1960-79 frame, and will then nearly double in 1980-99, when the post-postmodern "homer happy" world arrives and seizes us by the throat. It will be messy, but let's not get ahead of ourselves: there is still plenty of time for us, in the words of our dear departed friend Michael Peake, "to drive off that bridge when we come to it."

SO let's just dive into the data and let it have control of our wayward steering wheel...

The 1940-49 row shows how "clustered slugging" disappeared from the game in during WWII, with literally no one hitting 10 homers in a month for both 1944 and 1945. The total number of such occurrences just managed to reach the same level that had occurred in the 1920s (though sixty percent of that total was supplied by one man--Babe Ruth).

Post-war 10+ homer months take their time to reassert themselves, but they are jump-started by the oft-forgotten longball exploits of Ralph Kiner, whose prolific slugging set the tone for much of what has followed suite ever since. (Though Aaron Judge is clearly more athletic that Kiner overall, he is the latest incarnation of the behemoth-like right-handed slugger who has come to be the iconic symbol of the game over the past seventy years.)

The other "ur-models" of this archetype (Hank Greenberg, Joe DiMaggio) each lost significant portions of their careers to WWII, thus likely losing several more instances of "10+ homer months" in the process. Of the two Greenberg was the more prolific, but he was also three years older, which suggests that their overall home run production in the lost years (1942-45) would likely have been similar (producing at least two more 10+ homer months for each of them over that time frame.

The "master chart" in our TimeGrid™ chart shows the consistent uptick of this phenomenon during 1950-59, but it also shows how the frequency level remained in alignment for what occurred in 1947, eroding a bit in the second half of the fifties, and only propelled to a new level by the game's first expansion in 1961.

BUT let's go ahead and look at the denizens of the "10+ homer month" list in the 1950-59 time frame. As you'll see, we solved our data presentation problem by breaking the list into two--first, those hitters who managed the "10+ homer feat" more than once during the time frame.

This is your "slugger class"--the higher-end homer hitters of the decade, whose power levels as a group peaked in the middle years (1954-56) before dissipating somewhat as the decade played out. The Dodgers' slugging core (Duke Snider, Gil Hodges) has its potency fatally undermined by the simultaneous onset of old age and the cross-country move to a ballpark that was on balance less conducive to slugging (particularly for a lefty masher like Snider.)

But as you'll now see, there's another level of slugger capable of a "home run cluster" now and then, the type of hitter that teams became particularly focused upon finding during the decade. These are the folk represented on the second fifties breakout (at left), reflective of that nascent shift in the hitter types which is just getting underway. It will go a bit dormant in the 1970s, but will start to re-emerge in the mid-1980s, spiking in 1987 (a year that resulted in a change in how the strike zone was called, which served to delay the onset of lusty homer hitting that would inundate the game in the mid-1990s). 

THESE guys are the type of hitter that will start to have multiple manifestations of "clustered homer hitting" (as manifested in the "10+ homer month") on a more frequent basis in the 1990s, leading us to a kind of "steady state" phenomenon in which an average of 30 such "10+ homer months) would occur over the ten-year period from 1995-2004. 

There was simultaneously a peak level of performance and a depth of second-tier power hitters during this time frame, with the result that these "10+ homer months" reached their peak in the 1995-99 time frame. The 1999 total of 42 such occurrences in that single year is still the record, despite the exponential increase in the number of players swinging for the fences in the most recent ten-year period (2015-24). 

JUST to mark a little time, and to facilitate similar future comparisons, here's a chart that shows in which actual month the "10+ homer months" occurred in 1950-59. 

Possibly you'll remember from an earlier post that the traditional mid-April start date for the season that persisted into the early 1970s had prevented anyone from hitting 10 homers in April. That fact is dramatically present in the "month-by-month chart. The distribution pattern of lower totals on the edges of the season, as captured by the progression here (0-16-30-29-22-7), remained relatively constant until it began to flatten out into the August-September time frame in the late 90s--which is still the case today.






AND now for the truly fun part of this data set, those folk who make the "10-homer in a month" roll call despite having yearly totals that are a good bit less robust than you'd expect for someone who'd hit double figures in a single month. 

As we get deeper into the 50s, the dominant offensive shape pattern (the player having the spectacular overall performance in a month, including a high batting average) seems to leach itself out of the data. In the 1940s, all three "unlikely" members of the list conform to type; in the 1950s, however, we see that eight of the ten hitters on the list have sub-.300 BAs, showing that the throughline to the age where some have proclaimed that "batting average is dead" really begins in that decade. 

Bob Speake is the poster child for this "unlikely" list in the same way that Vince Barton was for the 1930s: two guys who had a hot long-ball month before pitchers figured out how to neutralize them. It's possible that there will be someone who has an even tighter ratio of seasonal HR totals to his "10 in a month" month than Barton (just 16 lifetime homers--even Speake had 31!), but it seems at least as unlikely than the fact that both of them are on the list at all. (But, as Jayson Stark likes to say:"because--baseball!"). 

WE will leave you to guess who on the 1950s lists of "10 homers in a month" will turn out to have even more occurrences on the list than Willie Mays (nine in the 50s, 18 overall in his career). Look over that list, and make your guesses--we move on to the seductive sixties in short order...

Saturday, July 6, 2024

10+ HOMER MONTHS: 1920-1939

DON'T expect to see all of the types of charts that we'll display in this installment of the "10+ homer months" series--if you go back two posts and look at the number of 10+ homer months that begin to accumulate in the 1950s, you'll understand how one of our charts in this post would overwhelm everything...

We've been teasing you with the identity of the hitter with the most 10+ homer months, but we figure that most of you have not been fooled by our feeble attempts at misdirection. So, without further ado, here are the twenty-five (25!) 10+ homer months by a man that needs no introduction:










Some of the slash line numbers in this display merge seamlessly into surrealism, don't they? Seven of these 10+ homer months feature SLG values above .900; five of them produce an OPS of 1.500 or higher. 

We think you won't be surprised to discover that the first nine entries on the list are also the first nine times in baseball history where a batter hit 10+ homers in a month...

...and we'll find out as we go along whether any other slugger will duplicate Babe Ruth's feat of five 10+ homer months in the same season (1921). 

Recall that there are currently 1289 instances of 10+ homer months...and note that on this chart we see five instances where the Bambino hit 14 or more homers in a month (capped by his great September 1927 run to sixty homers). A question for you to consider as we continue with the series: how many instances are there of a hitter slugging 14 or more homers in a month?

NOW for the chart that you will understand is going to be impossible when we move into decades where the home run has become chronic. From 1920-39, however, homers were less plentiful overall, reserved for a smaller class of elite hitter--all of whom you will see on the chart below...
















As you can see, the list is sorted in descending order of frequency: the numbers for Jimmie Foxx, Hank Greenberg and Joe DiMaggio are not all-inclusive, as each of these sluggers continued on into subsequent decades. But you can see the clustering of 10+ homer months in their big seasons, which also includes Hack Wilson's 56 homer season in 1930. Foxx and Wilson both logged four 10+ homer months in their biggest homer seasons; Foxx, Greenberg and Lou Gehrig managed three of 'em in other years.

Interestingly, Ruth only had two 10+ HR months in 1927, the year he hit sixty--but those two months (May and September) accounted for just under half of his seasonal total...

AT the bottom of the chart is where we'll find the hitters whom we'll be showcasing as the most unusual members of the "10+ homers in a month" fraternity. How are they unusual? Take a look at the chart and we think it will become immediately obvious to you...



Take a look at the "TotHR" column at the far right, and notice how many of these folk hit fewer than twenty homers in the season in which they had a 10+ HR month. Our first member of this list might not seem to really fit: the veteran Tillie Walker experienced a power surge at the tail end of his career, aided in 1922 by the decision by Philadelphia A's owner-manager Connie Mack to move the left field fences in. (Mack was not keen on Walker's relatively low batting average and benched the veteran the following year!)

The rest of our folk here (with one notable exception) are middling homer hitters who clustered their long-balls into a single month, which in many cases was accompanied by a month-long hot streak (George Harper in 1928 and Hank Leiber in 1939 being the most prominent examples). 

But the guy who sticks out on the list is Vince Barton, a young slugger that the Cubs brought up in mid-1931 in the wake of Hack Wilson's shocking collapse. Barton hit five homers in a week in early August, but struggled to keep his batting average over .200 throughout the month, hitting his 10th homer on August 29th to become this fraternity's most anomalous member. (Barton fizzled out in early 1932 and was sent back to the minors by the Cubs, never to return.)

PERHAPS we can consolidate the 1940s and 1950s into a similar presentation, as the war years (and the balata ball) caused homers (and, by extension, 10+ homer months...) to drop precipitously. Stay tuned...

Friday, July 5, 2024

10+-HOMER MONTHS: BY MONTH

JUST a quick post...to carry forward the 10+ HR month series a bit further...

Which month of the season has produced the most instances of 10+ homer months?

Give it a moment's thought before you take a guess... 

KEEP in mind that for a large portion of baseball history, the number of games played in April fell well behind the other months of the season. So you can eliminate April from the list.

(As a matter of fact, the very first instance of a 10-homer month in April didn't occur until 1969, whenFrank Robinson did it. There had already been 356 10-home months recorded before the very first 10-HR April occurred...)

It turns out that August is when the most 10+ HR months have occurred. The complete breakdown of 10+ HR months by month is shown at left.

We can see that the summer months (which tend to inflate home runs generally) are where 10+ HR months are likeliest to occur, with 811 of the 1289 occurring in either June, July or August.

Four of the first five September occurrences of 10+ HR months were achieved by Babe Ruth, in 1920, 1921, 1925--as he was recovering from his famous bellyache--and 1927, when the Bambino hit 17 HRs on his way to becoming the first player to hit sixty homers in a season.

The fifth 10+ HR September in the 1920s was performed by Rogers Hornsby, in 1922.

WE will delve much more deeply into this data shortly...stay tuned.


Wednesday, July 3, 2024

10+ HOMER MONTHS: THE OVERVIEW

OK, it's time to pick up on our earlier look at the 10+ homer months turned in by the late great Willie Mays and give you a sense of just how many times in baseball history a hitter has managed this feat.

After that, we'll spend time examining the leaders in 10+ homer months. (Mays' total of eighteen 10+ homer months is impressive, but it's not the record.)

SO let's dig in...the first thing we should establish is the current total of 10+ homer months--a figure that might be surprising to you. (Our TimeGrid™ chart can be seen at right.)

Did it occur to you that there might be more than a thousand of these in baseball history?

The three that occurred in June 2024 (Anthony Santander, 13; Shohei Ohtani, 12; Aaron Judge, 11) have brought that total up to 1289 instances.

The TimeGrid™ chart shows us that the first time anyone hit 10+ homers in a mother occurred in 1920. (Perhaps you can figure out who was the first to achieve that without our having to mention his name...)

WE can also see how the record for most 10+ homer months in a season has evolved over time, with what seemed like a big spike in 1930 holding the record at 15 in a season for more than thirty years--before being broken in the Maris-Mantle expansion year of 1961. 

That record held for another thirty-five years until it was broken in 1996, and again in 1998 and 1999--when the current record for the most 10-homer months in a season (42) was set. 

Since then, baseball sluggers have come close to breaking it, with 41 such instances in 2001, and again in 2019, baseball's most prolific home season ever. 

NEXT time we'll take a look at the 10+ homers in a month as they break out by calendar months, and we'll look at the higher levels of homers in a month...who, for instance hit the most homers in any single month? Who's had multiple 10+ homer months in the same year? Who hit the least number of homers in a season that included a 10+ homer month?

All this, and more...stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

OHTANI: INTIMATIONS OF MORTALITY AS THE 2ND HALF BEGINS

NO, we're not suggesting that anything sinister will be happening to Shohei Ohtani, the Dodgers' $700 million man. We are just looking at his monthly numbers and getting the impression that his hottest months might well be behind him. Take a look at the following data breakout and see what you think:


















FIRST, the yearly log for Ohtani in June since his arrival in MLB (recall that he missed the month of June in 2018, his rookie year). We were discussing 10+ homer months a bit earlier (before we got swamped with work on another project)--as it turns out, Ohtani has had three such months in his career--and you're looking at all of them in the June data. June of '23 was truly a monster month for him, but June of '21 was not far behind. This June just past wasn't too shabby, but note that his OPS for the month was actually lower than his collective lifetime OPS for June...
SECOND, the monthly summaries, showing just how elevated his June performance is relative to all the other months. The June totals really do look Ruthian in nature: when we prorate out to 162 games--which should be close to his actual June games played number this time next year--his HR total projects to 66. That's actually a bit more than Ruthian...

BUT now for the more sobering part. Though he's had two solid months of July in recent years ('21 and "23, both with OPS values above 1.000), overall it's been an off-month for him, as shown in the averaged numbers for each month (the data at the bottom of the graphic). 

All of Ohtani's numbers for July, August and September are still quite solid--they're just not superhuman the way those June numbers are. At the very bottom of the data set we show you the averaged sum of his his numbers for the de facto second half of the season--and you can see that in the past he's lost 80 points of SLG on average in those months as compared to his first half performance. 

NOW, as we all know as we watch the Federalist Society fraudeurs continue their goose-stepping antics, anything can happen, even the unthinkable. So it's certainly possible that Ohtani will buck the trends on display here. That said, a clear pattern has emerged showing that Shohei tends to wear down as the season plays out. We figure 15-18 homers from here to the end of the '24 season and a .270 BA, with an OPS under .900. 

STILL quite good, of course--but, as we said at the top, mortal. 

We'll circle back on this at season's end to see how it turns out--stay tuned...

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

WILLIE MAYS R.I.P.--HIS EIGHTEEN 10+ HOMER MONTHS...

ALL of us of a certain age will remember with awe and infinite pleasure the opportunities we had to see the incandescent Willie Mays in the flesh--there really was no one else quite like him. Among so many other singular things about his career, no one else ever had the distance in years between 50+ home run seasons (though if Mark McGwire had hit one more homer in 1987, he'd hold the record). 










Willie, who passed away earlier today just a month and a half after his 93rd birthday, remains the model for the ideal player--a slugging, superb-fielding center fielder who could hit for a high batting average and steal 25+ bases a year. That feat--hitting .300+, hitting 25+ homers, and stealing 25+ bases in a single season--has only been done 58 times in baseball history. While Barry Bonds now holds the record for achieving those numbers the most often--six times--Mr. Mays (his godfather...) did so four years in a row (from 1957 to 1960). 

A long time ago at this blog we feted Mays on his eightieth birthday with a list of his OPS performances by month: you are invited to revisit that post here (but not until you finish this article). What we focus on here is Mays the slugger, and the chart we present to you to commemorate him is one that shows us all eighteen times that he hit ten or more homers in a month:
















It's a chart filled with wonders, including the symmetry of the three 10-HR months in 1954 (Willie's first great year) and 1965 (arguably his last truly transcendent season). 

Arguments can rage over which of Willie's months were the greatest: he had six months in which his O{S exceeded 1.200. We say throw a blanket over September 1955, May 1958, September 1959, and May/August in 1965. 

That August 1965 was clearly his top HR month (17), but he'd actually slugged higher in September 1955 and May 1958. 

These are all wondrous feats, worthy of more detailed study in the game logs at Forman et soeur. It ought to be required reading in middle school, even for the girls.

Did anyone have more 10+ homer months? We'll answer that question a bit later on...stay tuned. 

RIP Willie--life will never be as sweet again as when we could watch you do everything transcendent on a baseball field...except pitch and be a one-man ground crew. May flights of giant angels sing thee to thy rest...

Sunday, June 16, 2024

TOP BOPS FROM THE PAST TEN YEARS (2015-24)

WHAT we said we'd have for you today isn't quite ready...it needs some more background data and some time to establish some additional context--but it will be here soon.

In the meantime, we've grabbed the best performances of the past ten years by batting order position (BOP). As you'll see, there are 31 such high-flying BOPs, each registering an OPS of .950 or higher.

We've also identified the hitters who populated those batting order positions--which will doubtless clue you in on who's going to show up on the list more often than anyone else. (Cue the primordial comedy line from the late 1960s, already: "Here come de Judge!")

Of the 31 BOP seasons listed, four of them are from the now close-to-halfway-complete 2024 season. It will be interesting to see which of these will remain on the list: we suspect the two Yankee sluggers have the best bet, followed by the Dodgers' Shoheo Ohtani, with the Orioles' Gunnar Henderson least likely in our minds (and yours) due to his dearth of a track record.

Here's the full list:

BREAKING that down by BOP, that's ten of the top 31 from the #3 slot, ten from the #2 slot, six from the #4 slot, and five from the #1 slot, Seven of the slots have a SLG of .600 or higher, while twelve have a batting average of under .300. 

Fifteen of the BOPs have totaled 40 or more homers in a season, as befitting the "launch angle age" in which we live...

Note that there is an on-again, off-again pattern to these "peaks of BOP performance (Mal Waldron, eat your heart out...) that focuses on the odd years, as the chart at right indicates. (Odd years account for 21 of the top 31 BOP performances since 2015, when HRs first started sucking the air out of the room.)

MORE soon, stay tuned...

Saturday, June 15, 2024

A "1" & A '2" REDUX + A "1" & A "2" & A "3": TOP OF THE LINEUP CHANGES IN AL ('23-'24)

SO, yes, we've been busy again (with the French noir book--still a beast, but being tamed & it will (finally) be out in the fall ahead of a two-part, 33-film festival. (We'll direct you elsewhere for all of that when the time comes.)

But back to baseball. Remember at the end of May we were talking about the Forman et soeur breakout for the number 1/2 slots in the batting order? In that post we told you about how Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani were racing ahead of every other 1-2 batting order combination in baseball history with their combined 178 adjusted OPS. (In "real" numbers, that translated into a 1.025 OPS.)

And remember also that we told you that they were "just a slump away" from coming back to the pack? Well, it turned out that we were more prophetic than we expected to be...


The top line here shows what the current OPS+ value for Betts and Ohtani stands as of earlier today (not including their 7-2 loss to the Royals this evening). They have lost twenty-six points of OPS+ and a hundred points of raw OPS in the past three weeks--and the Dodgers have gone 11-12 in that time frame. The data in yellow shows us what the #1 and #2 slots have done during that time--the two superstars have been hitting just a bit over league average.

Obviously, we'll keep an eye on this and update you again soon...

BUT now here's a sample of a more global comparison of batting order performance, showing how the top three batting order slots (which are now arguably the most important ones, as more and more teams are stacking the top of their lineup with their best/most powerful hitters) have shifted from last year to this one.

For purposes of this demonstration, we're going to focus on the American League, and show you how these changes tend to affect the on-field results in 2024 (thus far). Again, we must remind you (and ourselves that these changes are just a slump away--or a hot streak away--from a significant change; but let's go with it and see what it might tell us.

At right we have the summary values that show us the change ("delta") in the OPS production for the first three batting order slots (1-2-3) in the American league. 

This change is rendered in percentages rather than in raw numbers, and it's sorted in descnding order, so that the "Avg" column, which gives us that aggregate change for each team across all three top (1-2-3) batting order positions from the team with the biggest overall gain (apparently some team from New York...) to the team with the biggest overall loss (the team from Tampa Bay). 

The two teams with the best overall performance change in their top three BOPs--the Yankees and the Guardians--are the teams leading the AL East and AL Central respectively. Note, though, that the pattern is not quite monolithic: the AL West leader, the Seattle Mariners, has shed 15% percent of their offensive production from the 1-2-3 slots thus far in '24.

Still, note that the Royals and the Orioles, both having strong seasons thus far, are also showing a net gain in offensive performance in the 1-2-3 slots. 

At left we show you the detailed breakouts of these changing BOP slots, which reveals what folks know already--the addition of Juan Soto to the Yankee lineup has given those Bronx Bombers a lot more firepower...

WE'll look at the NL soon.

And we'll have something related but entirely different for you tomorrow...stay tuned.