Baseball is seeing a record number of homers, but scoring is down
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Major leaguers continue to pound home runs at a record pace and along the way they’ve reached milestones on both sides of town.
Through Sunday’s games and with less than a month left in the season, there have been 5,189 home runs, or 1.27 per team per game. The record is 5,693 in 2000, or 1.17 per team per game. At that pace, the 2017 total will be a record with more than 400 homers to spare.
Scoring has not followed suit. Teams are averaging 4.66 runs per game this season, nearly half a run less than the 2000 average of 5.14.
That’s largely a byproduct of declining batting averages and on-base percentages. In 2017, teams are hitting .255 with a .325 OBP. In 2000, the BA was .270 with a .345 OBP.
With fewer men on base, teams have become more home-run dependent. In 2000, 36.8 percent of runs were driven in by home runs. That’s risen to 42.5 percent in 2017.
The Cubs are slightly more homer-dependent than average, with 44.6 percent of runs via home runs. On the South Side, the White Sox have driven in 42 percent of runs with homers, near the MLB average.
Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant reached similar milestones last week.
Abreu became the first Sox player with 25 or more home runs in each of his first four seasons and Bryant became the first Cub to hit 25 or more in his first three. That came the week after Anthony Rizzo became the fifth Cub with four or more consecutive 30-homer seasons.
The Sox have had five players in addition to Abreu with at least four 25-homer seasons in a row. Frank Thomas had six consecutive starting in 1993, Magglio Ordonez, Jose Valentin and Jermaine Dye had five-season streaks and Paul Konerko had two four-season streaks.
Across town, the Cubs set a club record when rookie Ian Happ surpassed 20 home runs. That gave the Cubs six players with 20 or more home runs, with Happ joining Rizzo, Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javy Baez and Willson Contreras.
Three Cubs teams had five players reach 20. The first was in 1958, with Ernie Banks, Dale Long, Walt “Moose” Moryn, Bobby Thomson and Lee Walls.
The others were in 2008 (Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Geo Soto, Mark DeRosa, Derrek Lee) and 2004 (Moises Alou, Ramirez, Lee, Sammy Sosa, Corey Patterson).
In 2004, Alou was 37 and Sosa 35, and in 2008 four of the five were over 30, with Soto the youngster at 25.
The five in 1958 included three players over 30. The oldest was Thomson, best known for his “shot heard ’round the world” homer that gave the 1951 National League pennant to the Giants, was 34.
The current group is much younger. Rizzo, at 28, is the oldest of the six. With Bryant next at 25 and ranging down to Happ, who turned 23 last month, there is potential for a long-term power surge.
Follow me on Twitter @GrochowskiJ.