The Blue Jays Are One of the Most Home Run-Dependent Lineup in Baseball

This may not come as a surprise to many people, but the Toronto Blue Jays rely heavily on the long ball.

In 2016 more than ever, it seems like the Blue Jays truly are an all-or-nothing offense. They have personified what it’s like to be a “feast or famine club”. When they do score runs, it’s usually in large outbursts, precipitated by several home runs. But when the Jays can’t go yard, the offense often dries right up.

It led me down the rabbit hole, wondering just how home run-dependent the Blue Jays have been this season. The results are pretty much what I expected, but I didn’t anticipate the Jays would be this reliant on hitting home runs.


Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

The Blue Jays rank fifth in all of baseball when it comes to total runs scored via home runs. 322 of their 695 runs scored this season have come via home runs, which translates to 55.6%. Only the Baltimore Orioles and Seattle Mariners have scored more runs via home runs.

This is who the Toronto Blue Jays are – they swing for the fences. It often translates to home runs and an outburst of run scoring, but the Blue Jays’ one dimensional offensive approach also leaves them to long stretches of very-little-to-no offense.

The Blue Jays employ a lot of like-minded hitters in their lineup. When they’re all cranking balls out of the yard, things couldn’t be any better. But when the Blue Jays can’t go deep, it’s a real struggle to get guys across the plate. I think that’s been really evident during the Blue Jays’ current slide.

Being a home run-happy isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the top three teams on that chart above are currently in a playoff spot. But ideally, I think teams want to be in the middle of the pack and not lean so heavily on home runs to help them win games.

At this point in the season, it’s too late to abandon what’s gotten the Blue Jays to where they are right now. The Jays aren’t going to morph into a small-ball team overnight.

But with several players potentially leaving as free agents this offseason, the Blue Jays’ front office may look to build a more more balanced lineup by bringing in less swing-happy hitters as early as next season.

Ian Hunter

Ian has been writing about the Toronto Blue Jays since 2007. He enjoyed the tail-end of the Roy Halladay era and vividly remembers the Alex Rodriguez "mine" incident. He'll also retell the story of Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS to his kids for the next 20 years.

3 thoughts on “The Blue Jays Are One of the Most Home Run-Dependent Lineup in Baseball

  • September 15, 2016 at 8:59 pm

    i appreciate the great work ian.

    however, i think one graph isn’t enough to come to good conclusions. last year, what percentage of RSVHR did the jays score on a home run? how does RSVHR correlate to win%? how much do month-to-month home run totals vary? how does monthly home run variance compare to total runs per month variance? and so on.

    we’re all upset and eager for answers. i get it. and maybe your conclusions are right. i just think we need more data and research to determine if small-ball truly is superior to swinging for the fences.

    • September 15, 2016 at 9:28 pm

      Just a quick comparison to last year – 41.6% of their runs last year were via home runs. I started going through the “when the Blue Jays hit a home run, their record is X”, but it proved to be a large undertaking. I’m not saying they need to suddenly play small ball – because they just aren’t that kind of team. But if they aren’t hitting homers, they usually aren’t scoring many runs.

  • October 17, 2016 at 11:14 am

    So the team that hit the 4th most HR’s in baseball is also highly dependant on hitting HR’s to score. I’m not sure why this would be overly surprising. That is like saying there is a high correlation between drinking and DUI’s.

    Any team that hits a ton of HR’s is going to be in the same boat. 9 of the top 10 teams on your graph also happen to be in the top 10 in HR’s. That is not a coincidence.

    The most interesting team is the 1 team that is on your graph and not in the top 10 in HR’s. The Brewers. They rank 15th in HR’s. Which means they depend pretty heavily on HR’s to score but don’t actually hit all that many HR’s. Which is probably a big reason why the Brewers were awful this year.

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