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The Cleveland Indians and the Rediscovery of the Home Run

Something very interesting is happening to the 2013 Cleveland Indians. No, it isn’t the clubhouse chemistry. It isn’t the surprising change in the performances of the starting pitching. It isn’t even the roster management, which has been phenomenal to say the least. No, it’s none of that. The biggest change in the 2013 Cleveland Indians is the proliferation in which they jack long balls.

It’s incredible the difference a year can make. Last season the Tribe was one of the worst teams in baseball when it came to hitting home runs. In 162 games in 2012, the Indians only hit 136 round trippers. That was good enough for the 25th place in all of baseball. Only the Royals, Twins, Padres, Dodgers, and Giants were worse in terms of hitting for power.

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However, this season the Indians have tapped into some serious power potential. Through 30 games, they have hit 44 home runs, tied for the Major League lead. To put this into the proper perspective, the Indians are already at 32.4% of last year’s home run total. Even more remarkable is that they have only been through 18.5% of the season.

Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that as Progressive Field has aged, it has shifted from a more hitter friendly park to one that is more favorable to pitchers. Despite that, the Indians current home/road splits indicate that they have hit 23 home runs at home and 21 on the road. If you also take into account the number of home runs hit by the opposition at Progressive field, currently 19. and it would appear that Progressive Field may be primed to produce home runs in 2013 than it has in years past.

Another remarkable statistic concerning the Indians home runs is the fact that not a single player hit 20 home runs for them last season. Carlos Santana came close, hitting 18 homers and Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo each added 16 apiece, but overall this team had zero power threats for opposing pitchers to contend with.

This season, the Indians have Mark Reynolds murdering baseballs in a manner that can be described as nothing but impressive. He isn’t just hitting home runs, as Monday’s titanic blast off of Jarrod Parker indicated, Reynolds is hitting baseballs into other zip codes. Thirty games into the season and he is already half way to the elusive 20 home run mark. And even though Reynolds is known as a home run hitter, this season’s performance is absurd by his standards.

So far, Reynolds has produced a .350 ISO. Even during his peak years in Arizona, Reynolds produced a max ISO of .284. He is also averaging a career best 10 at-bats per home run and home run to fly ball ratio of 28.6%. He’s a shoe in to hit 20 homers, but just how many can he hit for the Tribe? It’s an excellent question-one that will be answered in time.

Meanwhile, the resurgences of Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera, the continued maturation of Jason Kipnis, and the addition of Nick Swisher‘s year in and year out consistency should all help add to the Indians continued improvement in the home run department. On top of all of that, there is still hope that Lonnie Chisenhall will explode on the seen as a bona fide Major League home run hitter to go along with an assorted cast of Michael Brantley, Drew Stubbs, Jason Giambi, and Ryan Raburn who are all capable of hitting the ball out of the park.

Does any of this explain the rediscovery of the long ball by the Indians? Maybe, maybe not. It’s hard to explain a game in which a team hits seven home runs. Sometimes these things just happen and they are beyond explanation. Whatever the reasons, it’s become apparent that the Indians have come to rely on the home run as a significant part of their offense. Whether it’s a wise strategy is a debate better served for another day, but one thing is very clear. This is fun to watch.

Tags: Asdrubal Cabrera Carlos Santana Cleveland Indians Mark Reynolds

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