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Solo Home Run Rate and the 2014 St. Louis Cardinals

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Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Almost seven years ago, I attended a St. Louis Cardinals game at Busch Stadium that went into extra innings. Ryan Ludwick ended that contest against the Rays with a walk-off home run. It was a solo shot. After the game, I remarked that the Cardinals seemed to hit a lot of solo homers. So I decided to see if my observation was true. I had to develop a new stat, which I called Solo HR%, which measures the share of homers that come with the bases empty, to answer my question, so I wrote a Fanpost about it. I've kept track of Solo HR% ever since.

The MLB overall Solo HR% typically ranges between 55 and 60%. In 2013, the MLB Solo HR% was the highest it has been over the last decade. It fell back down to earth a little bit in 2014. Here's a chart with the MLB-wide Solo HR% for each of the last ten years.

MLB Solo HR% (2005-14)

Year

Total HR

Solo HR

Solo HR %

2005

5,017

2,842

56.65%

2006

5,386

3,089

57.35%

2007

4,957

2,812

56.73%

2008

4,878

2,754

56.46%

2009

5,042

2,951

58.53%

2010

4,613

2,648

57.40%

2011

4,552

2,668

58.61%

2012

4,934

2,822

57.19%

2013

4,661

2,811

60.31%

2014

4,186

2,390

57.10%

You may recall the Cardinals' tremendous performance with runners in scoring position during the division and league championship 2013 season. That performance carried over into the dinger department. The Cards clubbed the majority of their homers with ducks on the pond. In fact, at 52%, their Solo HR% was one of the lowest in baseball.

The Cardinals' Solo HR% fortunes changed for the worse in 2014. Their Solo HR% went up. Consequently, they didn't score as many runs via the long ball last season as they had during the season before. Not only did the Cards hit the fewest number of homers in all baseball last year, but they scored runs at a lowest rate when they did swat a pitch over the outfield wall than they did in 2013.

In 2013, the Cardinals scored an average of 1.63 runs per homer. That was the fourth-highest such rate in all of the majors. Last year, St. Louis plated 1.53 runs per home run. That was below the MLB-wide rate of 1.58 runs per dinger.

Solo HR% and R/HR don't make a huge difference, to be sure, but they do have any impact. If the Cards had equaled their 2013 R/HR rate, they'd have plated about 11 more runs in 2014. So they would have leapfrogged the Mets and placed eighth in the NL in runs scored. If St. Louis has posted the same R/HR as the Yankees, they'd have scored 11 fewer runs, which would have dropped them to 11th in the NL in runs scored.

The following chart shows each MLB club's solo homer total, overall homer total, Solo HR%, and the average number of runs per home run (R/HR). You'll note that R/HR doesn't correlate exactly with Solo HR%. Every solo home run may be worth the same run total, but multi-run dingers aren't. Some clubs hit more grand slams or three-run jacks than the clubs that had a similar Solo HR%.

MLB Solo HR% (2014)

Team

Total HR

Solo HR

Solo HR %

R/HR

Yankees

147

99

67.35%

1.42

Brewers

150

101

67.33%

1.45

Padres

109

73

66.97%

1.48

Rangers

111

70

63.06%

1.49

Twins

128

80

62.50%

1.50

Pirates

156

97

62.18%

1.49

Tigers

155

95

61.29%

1.55

Angels

155

94

60.65%

1.53

Giants

132

79

59.65%

1.57

Cardinals

105

62

59.05%

1.53

Rockies

186

109

58.60%

1.53

Nationals

152

89

58.55%

1.53

Rays

117

67

57.26%

1.53

MLB

4,186

2,390

57.10%

1.58

Braves

123

70

56.91%

1.56

Orioles

211

119

56.40%

1.60

Cubs

157

88

56.05%

1.52

Mariners

136

76

55.88%

1.60

Astros

163

91

55.83%

1.61

Indians

142

78

54.93%

1.58

Marlins

122

67

54.92%

1.61

Athletics

146

80

54.79%

1.65

Blue Jays

177

95

53.67%

1.62

White Sox

155

83

53.55%

1.63

Phillies

125

66

52.80%

1.64

Red Sox

123

64

52.03%

1.71

Reds

131

68

51.91%

1.67

Diamondbacks

118

61

51.69%

1.64

Royals

95

48

50.53%

1.72

Dodgers

134

67

50.00%

1.66

Mets

125

54

43.20%

1.77