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Entries in home runs (14)


Bronson Arroyo Stretches the Strike Zone, Survives Gopheritis

Admit it: you have no idea how Bronson Arroyo's still doing this. He's a wisp of a human being by starting pitcher standards, he slings more slop than a school lunch lady, and he coughs up home runs worthy of their own frequent flyer program. He was cut loose by the Pirates over a decade ago, back when their ace was...Kip Wells? A few years later, Boston swapped him to Cincinnati for prolific out-maker Wily Mo Pena. Yet, Arroyo keeps logging 200 innings a season and cashing checks: The Diamondbacks just signed the soon-to-be-37-year-old to a two-year, $23.5 million deal that includes an $11 million club option for the 2016 season.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Arroyo's unlikely longevity is how often -- and how epically -- he allows batters to take him deep. During his 14-year career, Arroyo has served up 314 home runs in 2,278.2 innings pitched (about 1.24 homers per nine frames). Pitchers who get blasted that often don't stick around the big leagues, much less perform well and pull in nearly $100 million in career earnings. Just five pitchers in MLB history have thrown 2,000-plus innings while allowing at least 1.2 homers per nine (Steve Trachsel, Brad Radke, Pedro Ramos, Arroyo and Woody Williams). And just three of those guys (Radke, Arroyo, and Williams) have managed to compile an above-average ERA once you account for park factors and leaguewide run-scoring levels.

Like Radke and Williams, Arroyo has overcome his severe case of gopheritis by displaying exquisite control. And the older he gets, the stingier he becomes with the free passes: Arroyo has lowered his walk rate in each of the past six seasons, from 3.1 per nine innings in 2008 to a mere 1.5 per nine in 2013. He nearly gave up more homers (32) than walks (34) last year, a bizarre feat that Arroyo actually accomplished back in 2011.

In his mid-to-late-thirties, Arroyo has become a devout follower of the Radke approach to pitching: Fill up the strike zone, walk no one, and learn to live with the solo and two-run bombs. Arroyo has steadily thrown more pitches over the plate (from 44.3 percent of his total offerings in 2008 to 53.8 percent in 2013), and he's getting more calls on the edges of the zone. Take a look at his called strike rate by pitch location back in '08, and then in 2013. Pay especially close attention to pitches thrown up around the letters, and at hitters' knees.

Arroyo's called strike rate by pitch location, 2008


Arroyo's called strike rate by pitch location, 2013

Arroyo has stretched the strike zone vertically, getting the benefit of the doubt from umps on both high and low pitches. His overall called strike rate, which sat at 33 percent back in 2008, climbed into the mid-to-high-thirties over the years and then shot all the way up to 41.4 in 2013. The only qualified starter with a higher called strike rate last season was Cliff Lee (42.2 percent).

Last year, we found that there's a connection between velocity and called strike rate: the slower you throw, the more calls you get from the ump. Arroyo certainly seems to be benefiting from this phenomenon. Never one for lighting up radar guns, Arroyo has become shown even less zip lately. He threw his seldom-used fastball an average of 86.8 MPH last year, down from 88.3 MPH back in '08. Arroyo's soft stuff is softer, too -- he averaged 75.1 MPH when lobbing a slider, curveball or changeup in 2013, compared to 76.3 MPH during his higher-walk days in '08. 

Despite Arroyo's durability and control, there's plenty that could go wrong over the next two years. His body could finally break down as he approaches 40. His receding fastball could enter Jamie Moyer territory. He could become even more homer-prone. But Arroyo has succeeded thus far by throwing his pedestrian pitches over the plate, benefiting from calls on the edges of the zone and tolerating the fireworks displays at his expense. It's not glamorous, but the D-Backs would gladly take another 400 innings of league-average slop-tossing from Arroyo.  


Mark Reynolds Getting Beat on Inside Stuff

Since he clubbed his way to the majors in 2007, Mark Reynolds has been a one-tool player. He's got an iron glove, costing his team more runs (76) compared to an average defender than every infielder not named Michael Young, Yuniesky Betancourt or Derek Jeter. And his D looks pretty good compared to his contact skills: Reynolds has struck out 1,276 times, second-most among hitters since '07 (Adam Dunn is first). But Reynolds' one tool -- pure, unadulterated pull power -- is special enough for teams to hold their noses and focus on his epic blasts.

Or, at least it used to be. Reynolds' home run total has dipped from 37 in 2011 to 23 in 2012 and 21 this past season, with his slugging percentage tumbling by nearly 100 points (.483 in '11, .429 in '12, and .393 in '13). Considering how often he punches out, Reynolds needs to maul the ball when he does connect. With elite power, he's a pretty good hitter (his park-and-league adjusted on-base-plus-slugging percentage was 16 percent above average in 2011). With average pop, he's a liability (his OPS was four percent below average in 2013).

The 30-year-old recently signed a minor league deal with the Brewers, though he's expected to make the opening day roster either as the club's primary first baseman or the short half of a platoon with Juan Francisco. Granted, even a diminished Reynolds would be better than the balsa wood-toting brigade that Milwaukee featured at the position last season (a combined .370 slugging percentage). But if he plans on giving Bernie Brewer a workout on Miller Park's homer slide, he'll have to reverse a three-year decline against inner-half pitches.

Reynolds' slugging percentage vs. inner-half pitches, 2011


Reynolds' slugging percentage vs. inner-half pitches, 2012


Reynolds' slugging percentage vs. inner-half pitches, 2013


Reynolds was a beast versus pitches thrown to the inner half of the plate in 2011, posting the eighth-best slugging percentage (.659) among qualified batters. But that figure declined to .575 in 2012, and just .398 this past season. Here's another way of looking at it: Reynolds crushed inside pitches like Jose Bautista and David Ortiz back in '11. In 2013, though? He barely outslugged waterbug shortstops Elvis Andrus and Erick Aybar.

Reynolds simply doesn't have the sort of well-rounded skill set that allows him to hit for good-not-great power. He's either jacking 30-plus homers, or he's riding the bus in Triple-A. Short of a return to elite slugger status, he could be looking at a succession of minor league deals in the years to come.


A Sign of Baseball without Steroids

Fatigue is setting in.

You can see it in the bats that are slower crossing the plate.

You can see it in the fly balls that are dying on the warning track.

You can see it, with the exception of the Red Sox last night at Fenway against the Tigers, as fewer balls fly out of the park.

It's the after the break need of a break for many sluggers.

It's the absence of steroids in baseball 

It was not like that during the steroid era

Take a look at the home run totals in MLB after the break for the last 20 seasons.

Rk Year G HR
1 2004 2252 2625
2 1999 2246 2540
3 2001 2252 2475
4 2006 2216 2444
5 1998 2268 2433
6 2002 2250 2410
7 2000 2268 2381
8 2007 2236 2368
9 2012 2294 2342
10 2009 2222 2335
11 2005 2236 2332
12 1997 2134 2257
13 1996 2104 2243
14 2003 2060 2162
15 2011 2124 2124
16 1995 2126 2117
17 2010 2212 2113
18 2008 2002 2075
19 2013 1342 1241
20 1994 766 775
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 9/5/2013.

Leading Home Runs Hitters Before the Break

Here are the leading home runs hitters before the break with their strikeouts and their well-hit balls

2013 Leading HR hitters before the break
Chris Davis (BAL)953933433710.8%11011028.0%
Miguel Cabrera (DET)93428362308.3%1416415.0%
Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)91399348257.2%944511.3%
Carlos Gonzalez (COL)91395354257.1%7610526.6%
Raul Ibanez (SEA)73296277248.7%747023.6%
Pedro Alvarez (PIT)85334304247.9%7710932.6%
Adam Dunn (CWS)87360310247.7%7910830.0%
Domonic Brown (PHI)95384355236.5%707218.8%
Nelson Cruz (TEX)92386350226.3%979424.4%
Robinson Cano (NYY)95409354215.9%1005212.7%
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)94406352216.0%1058220.2%
Mark Trumbo (LAA)93398359215.8%819824.6%
Adrian Beltre (TEX)93399374215.6%1084210.5%
Jose Bautista (TOR)87390335206.0%866917.7%
Jay Bruce (CIN)94412379195.0%10011227.2%
David Ortiz (BOS)77331287196.6%1094313.0%
Carlos Beltran (STL)84350330195.8%776017.1%
Adam Jones (BAL)96413395194.8%947618.4%

Leading Home Run Hitters After the Break

2013 Home Run Hitters After the Break
Miguel Cabrera (DET)351421251310.4%482114.8%
Alfonso Soriano (NYY)42178163138.0%264726.4%
Jayson Werth (WSH)43180152117.2%422815.6%
Edwin Encarnacion (TOR)46200165116.7%48136.5%
Paul Goldschmidt (ARI)42199156106.4%444120.6%
Justin Morneau (PIT)45194178105.6%393819.6%
Freddie Freeman (ATL)44186162106.2%443217.2%
Evan Longoria (TB)42185167106.0%474926.5%
Darin Ruf (PHI)43173152106.6%365230.1%
Chris Davis (BAL)42183154106.5%335831.7%
Brandon Moss (OAK)40138123108.1%312820.3%
Adam Jones (BAL)42181171105.8%473318.2%
Will Venable (SD)4217216295.6%313822.1%
Torii Hunter (DET)4218817595.1%343016.0%
Nate Schierholtz (CHC)3915114196.4%204127.2%
Mitch Moreland (TEX)4414112297.4%332819.9%
Coco Crisp (OAK)3816315096.0%252112.9%
Chris Carter (HOU)4016814496.3%336136.3%
Brian Dozier (MIN)4320318494.9%294019.7%
Andrew McCutchen (PIT)4619916995.3%563316.6%

Understand that the folks on this list are the HR leaders since the break.

So if you see a player on top, from the first half leaders, not on the bottom, that means that he hasn't hit at least nine homers since mid-July.

But it's more than that.

It's strikeout rates that have risen and the number of well hit balls that find grass or gloves instead of fans hands.

And that, my friends, is what baseball looks like without steroids.