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Oakland A’s lead American League in home runs

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It’s late May and we’re more than a quarter of the way into the 2017 season, and the Oakland A’s lead the American League in home runs. After hitting four on Saturday, they enter Sunday with 63 long balls on the season, one ahead of the Yankees and Rays. They rank third in MLB, behind the Brewers and Nationals.

The rankings change a bit if you look at games played — the Yankees have been most efficient (40 games), then the A’s (43), and then the Rays (45), with the Orioles lurking (60 HR in 41 games). But don’t be a buzzkill; we’re number one!

(Update: If you’re reading this after Sunday’s game, the A’s, Yankees, Rays, and Orioles each hit exactly one homer, so the AL rankings didn’t change and Oakland is still on top with 64.)

A few dinger facts:

  • Leading the way are Khris Davis and Yonder Alonso, both in double-digits. Khrush’s 13 put him in a 6-way tie for third place in MLB (second in AL, behind Aaron Judge). Alonso’s 12 tie him for ninth in MLB.
  • Three of the homers have been walk-offs, with one each by Ryon Healy, Jed Lowrie, and Mark Canha.
  • One reason the A’s hit it out so much is they own the lowest groundball rate in MLB (38.0%). Their homer-to-flyball rate is only seventh, so although they hit it hard (4th in hard-hit rate) they also just hit lots of flies in general.
  • Oakland’s pitching staff has been the complete opposite. The starting rotation has the lowest HR/9 in the game, thanks in part to its high groundball rate. It’s tempting to write off the rest as an effect of the Coliseum, but seeing the A’s hitters pound out dingers so regularly in that same park actually lends some legitimacy to the success the pitchers are having.
  • Speaking of which, 38 of Oakland’s homers have come at home (22 games), and 25 have come on the road (21 games).
  • Jed Lowrie has six homers. Last year he had two, in 87 games. (And of course we’ve already mentioned Yonder Alonso setting a career-high in early May.)
  • The A’s are especially homer-happy in the month of May, with an MLB-leading total of 32.

Here’s the breakdown of all of Oakland’s 63 dingers!

Player HR wRC+
Khris Davis 13 121
Yonder Alonso 12 167
Ryon Healy 7 100
Jed Lowrie 6 125
Trevor Plouffe 6 104
Matt Joyce 5 79
Chad Pinder 4 156
Mark Canha 3 165
Adam Rosales 3 76
Stephen Vogt 2 73
Josh Phegley 1 66
Rajai Davis 1 65
  • UPDATE: Pinder hit one more on Sunday, not included above.
  • Pinder, Canha, and Phegley have notably fewer plate appearances than the rest, as they’ve generally held part-time roles to this point.
  • All the homers have been hit by players currently on the 25-man roster. Only five others have appeared at all, combining for 141 sad, dingerless plate appearances (Decker, Semien, Maxwell, LaMarre, Olson) (that’s one regular who quickly got injured, two backup CF, and two prospects getting quick cups of coffee).
  • Bummer to see the catching contingent so low, after years of strong hitting from that position (and three straight years with an All-Star backstop, between Vogt and Derek Norris).
  • Joyce’s wRC+ mark sticks out on that list. He’s chipped in a few long balls but hasn’t done much else. He’s shown signs of life in May but hasn’t been hot by any means. His Statcast data says he’s hitting the ball quite well so bad luck could be a factor, but it’s worth noting his walk rate is less than half what it was last year.
  • And finally, we have to talk about Pinder’s home run on Saturday. Statcast measured it at 460 feet, to a section of the stadium only reached four other times in the two decades it has existed. ESPN’s HitTracker goes even further, claiming the shot to be 483 feet — that would make it MLB’s longest homer of the year so far, and the A’s longest in the last nine years.

The A’s can’t do much else at the plate, standing at 24th in MLB in both batting average (.238) and OBP (.308). But dangit, they can slug, and that’s both fun to watch and enough to put them in the top 10 in wRC+ (102).

Dingers!

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