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Where Have All the Homers Gone?

June 7, 2015
Hugh Atkins

Hugh Atkins

There seems to be a power shortage in Atlanta. Through 55 games this season the Braves have only 37 home runs. Freddie Freeman leads the team with 10 and he hit five of those in the last eight games. Before Freeman’s power surge, Kelly Johnson led the Braves in homers with six and he hasn’t played a game since May 13. Only the lowly Philadelphia Phillies with 34 long balls have fewer home runs than do the Braves. At their current pace the Braves will finish the season with a paltry 110 home runs.

You had to figure power would be down in Atlanta this season after the Braves traded away their two biggest long-ball threats during the off-season. Justin Upton led the Braves in homers in each of the past two seasons with 29 last year and 27 in 2013. Evan Gattis hit 22 home runs last season and 21 in 2013 despite being a part-timer both seasons.

The good news is, the Braves are getting strong production from second baseman Jace Peterson, whom they obtained in the Upton deal and pitcher Mike Foltynewicz, whom they got in the Gattis trade. While I’m at it, I may as well mention that the Braves are feeling good about pitcher Shelby Miller, whom they got for Jason Heyward and his 11 home runs from last season. So a couple of seasons with fewer home runs may be a small price to pay if most of the prospects the Braves picked up turn into solid big league players.

© T.C.G.

© T.C.G.

Even if the Braves finish with around 110 home runs this year, they will hit quite a few more than they hit in 1968, their least-powerful season since moving to Atlanta in 1966. The ’68 Braves Bombers hit a grand total of 80 home runs; Henry Aaron led the team with 29. After Aaron, the totals drop off sharply. Felipe Alou and Joe Torre with 11 and 10 homers respectively were the only other players in double figures. The rest of the starting lineup combined hit just 16 home runs: Deron Johnson (8); Clete Boyer (4); Tito Francona (2); Felix Millan (1); and Sonny Jackson (1). Backup catcher Bob Tillman was a power threat with five home runs and Mike Lum came off the bench to hit three. Tommie Aaron, Wayne Causey, and Sandy Valdespino each hit a homer. The final three home runs came from the pitching staff; Phil Niekro hit two and Milt Pappas hit one.

Perhaps we should forgive the ‘68 Braves for their lack of power since that season is known as “The Year of the Pitcher.” The league average for home runs by a team was 89 and three other teams actually hit fewer homers than the Braves. The St. Louis Cardinals hit just 73 home runs but won the National League pennant and should have won the World Series. The Los Angeles Dodgers hit 67 home runs and the Houston Astros hit 66. Even without the long ball, the 1968 Braves still managed to finish the season at .500. It will be interesting to see if this year’s version of the Braves can pull off an  81-81 season.

In 1976 the Braves hit just 82 home runs and Jim Wynn led the team with 17; that’s the lowest total for a team leader since the Braves moved to Atlanta. Unless something drastic happens, Freeman should hit more than 17 home runs, but I’ll be surprised if any other player on the team hits over 20 this season.

Yes, Braves fans, power is in short supply this summer in Atlanta.

(all statistics are from Baseball-Reference.com)

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 7, 2015 6:51 am

    Thank you for a great article, you helped me a lot.

    Like

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