We’re seeing a lot of grand slams early in the season

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Red Sox OF/DH J.D. Martinez hit a grand slam during Wednesday night’s game against the Yankees. It’s already the 15th grand slam hit this season, continuing a trend that is more or less in line with the recent home run surge we saw league-wide last year.

I was curious, so I dug into the numbers to see what the home run rate was across the league with the bases loaded dating back to 2000. From 2001-16, the league HR/PA rate with the bases loaded ranged from 2.1 to 2.9 percent. It reached a high of 3.1 percent last year. Entering today, the 2018 rate was 4.7 percent, the highest rate since 2000, when it was also 4.7 percent.

Here’s what that looks like in chart form:

The data:

Year HR PA HR/PA
2000 176 5107 4.7%
2001 134 4625 2.9%
2002 125 4767 2.6%
2003 123 4793 2.6%
2004 133 4949 2.7%
2005 132 4637 2.8%
2006 132 4949 2.7%
2007 134 4993 2.7%
2008 124 5090 2.4%
2009 127 5089 2.5%
2010 126 4705 2.7%
2011 98 4344 2.3%
2012 104 4164 2.5%
2013 96 4187 2.3%
2014 84 4041 2.1%
2015 108 4073 2.7%
2016 110 4298 2.6%
2017 133 4347 3.1%
2018 14 299 4.7%

In the past, we have gone over why the overall home run rate rose so sharply. Chief among those reasons is that the makeup of the baseball has changed, though Major League Baseball is unwilling to admit to that despite overwhelming amounts of evidence. Batters have also, in large percentages, begun utilizing analytics and many — including Martinez — have adopted a fly ball-centric approach at the plate. Those reasons, of course, also apply specifically when the bases are loaded.

March/April is usually when the fewest home runs hit, and the home run rate rises along with the temperatures as the season progresses. If that trend holds, we may be in for a season chock full of salami.