And when Mike Brosseau of the Rays approached with a 100 mile fastball from Yankees, Aroldis approached Chapman with one in the bottom of the eighth inning and sent him over the fence in left field, the prophecy was fulfilled. The Rays had a 2-1 lead and moments later, after knocking out the Yankees in ninth place, a win that sent them to the American League Championship Series to face the Houston Astros.
And baseball had one more data point on a trend that is both breathtaking and more than a little worrying – and one that is becoming more acute. Home runs have always been the most efficient way to score, but this postseason they increasingly feel like the only way.
With the Rays victory on Friday evening, the teams are 22-1 this postseason when they overtake their opponents, which equates to a gain of 0.957 percent. The only defeat had the San Diego Padres in Game 2 of their National League Division Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, when they overtook the Dodgers by one, but lost 6-5.
Brosseau’s homer ahead of Chapman, who finished 10th in an epic bat game, was only the sixth hit of the night, but the third homer. As the final was taped, the Rays and Yankees had a staggering 75.6 percent of the runs in their series – 34 of 45 – over Homer, a record for a series of three or more games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
And while the Yankees-Rays series was kind of an outlier, it was also the ultimate distillation of the all-of-nothing nature of today’s pitcher-hitter matchup, which became particularly noticeable this postseason.
In the divisional series, 50.9 percent of runs scored this postseason were through Homer, up from 43.8 percent in the regular season and 47.0 percent in the 2019 postseason. Take the Dodgers with you, despite them being this season The majors topped at Homern have only scored two of their 30 runs at Homers this postseason, and the number for that postseason is 55.9 percent.
For years the prevailing philosophy was that a small ball – one run at a time through strategies such as sacrificial bunts, hit-and-run games, and “productive” outs that move a base runner – was the path to success postseason. The theory: Against the best pitching staff in the game, the run scoring atmosphere would be limited, which makes every run more valuable.
But if that philosophy were ever true, it surely wouldn’t be today (despite the insistent pleas from television analysts, many of whom were stars of earlier eras), not when nearly every pitcher appears to throw 98 to 100 mph with a devastating array of secondary pitches . It’s harder than ever to just get in touch, which is why batsmen understand that they need to maximize every bit of it.
While the postseason runscoring performance typically drops by about half a run and the collective percentage of hits based on plus slugging drops by about 50 points, the home run rate usually stays about the same as the regular one Season. But each of these homers means more in the reduced atmosphere of the runscoring.
Would you like to guess how many sacrificial bunts there were in the postseason? Try zero.
“It’s hard to bundle hits together. The pitching is too good, ”said Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves manager after his team eliminated the Miami Marlins in the NLDS. “Power is [what] plays in the postseason. “
In the entire division series, the eight teams achieved a hit rate for all 18.7 bats, which roughly corresponds to the career rate of Mel Ott, Roger Maris, Miguel Cabrera and Joe DiMaggio.
The Astros-Oakland Athletics ALDS matchup, played exclusively during the day at Dodger Stadium, where the ball tends to fly in warm conditions, was its own version of a home run derby.
Before that October, Dodger Stadium had seen only one postseason game with six or more homers in its 58-year history. But this week, the Astros and A’s hit or exceeded that number in three of their four games in their series.
“They knew to some extent,” said Oakland manager Bob Melvin, “that there would never be a head start that felt too big.”
No team in history had hit up to 12 homers in a playoff series of five or fewer games, but in the Astros-A matchup, both teams hit that many. The 24 combined homers, which covered a total of 9,862 feet, were the fourth-highest hits in a postseason streak, surpassed by just three sets of seven games. A total of 65.5 percent of the runs achieved in this series – 36 out of 55 – came from Homer.
“It just came down to getting the ball over the fence,” said track and field outfielder Mark Canha, a quote that could sum up the entire postseason, “and they did a little better than us.”