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Steve Lyons doesn’t want your filthy, rally-killing home runs

Oct 5, 2013, 12:31 AM EDT

Remember a while ago, some had the idea that having slow runners on base was a bad idea because they “clogged up the bases“? Even though having runners on base directly leads to scoring runs? It took a bit of work (and ridicule) to get that idea out of the zeitgeist. Now, thanks to Steve Lyons, we have to do some extra work to get another bad idea out:

Lyons, who spent nine years as a Major Leaguer and subsequently became a broadcaster, is referring to the two-run home run Hanley Ramirez hit against Braves reliever David Carpenter earlier tonight to bring the game from 4-1 to 4-3. The two-run home run Yoenis Cespedes hit in the seventh inning to bring his team from 3-0 to 3-2 also qualifies as a “rally killer”.

If the idea happened to be fleshed out a little deeper, there may be something to Lyons’ theory. Opposing hitters in the Majors posted an OPS 21 points higher with runners on base than with the bases empty. Is this alone evidence? Of course not, because pitchers that tend to allow runners on base frequently tend to be pitchers of poorer quality, so the results are biased a bit. And 21 points of OPS is not that much to begin with. It’s a theory that needs to be researched a bit deeper rather than adamantly defended as sacrosanct.

However, we’re talking about scoring guaranteed runs. If given the choice to score 2-3 runs on a home run to close your deficit to within one run, or to undo the home run and wait for a base hit, you choose the home run every day of the week and twice on Sunday. In a sport where you’re considering a hitting phenom if you can succeed three out of every ten attempts, the Dodgers were very likely to stop scoring runs after Ramirez batted anyway. Braves reliever David Carpenter struck out 74 batters in 65.2 innings, so it isn’t surprising that he got back-to-back strikeouts on Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig after surrendering the Ramirez dinger. Similarly, Max Scherzer — who held the Athletics to one hit in his first six innings of work — was likely to continue dominating the A’s even after giving up that Cespedes homer, and he did, recording three quick outs in succession to wrap up the seventh inning.

And hey, does anyone remember this homer-fueled rally?

  1. brandonmauk - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:37 AM

    This is almost as stupid as McCarver pondering what’s more likely to lead to a multi-run inning between a leadoff walk or lead off HR.

    • schlom - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:55 AM

      Two leadoff walks is actually fairly close to a leadoff HR: 1.47 for the leadoff HR vs 1.41 for two walks in a row. That might surprise some people.

      • kindasporty - Oct 5, 2013 at 8:54 AM

        I believe you, but is there any chance you could give a source for where you got that information?

  2. coryfor3 - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:46 AM

    Yeah scoring runs keeps you from…scoring runs? Lyons is a head case.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Oct 5, 2013 at 3:35 AM

      Come on, the Dodgers video just proves Lyons’ point. If they hadn’t killed that rally with all those home runs, they might have had a chance in that game. :-)

  3. schlom - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    Here’s BP’s run expectancy charts:http://www.baseballprospectus.com/sortable/index.php?cid=1405164

    No situation gets you close to 2 runs, at least with just one runner on. I wonder if Lyons knows that such a chart exists?

    • brandonmauk - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:52 AM

      A better question is, how many TV/radio analysts know a single thing about advanced stats. Only one I can think of David Cone.

      • jwbiii - Oct 5, 2013 at 9:38 AM

        Len Kasper and Pat Hughes for the Cubs are quite good. They don’t shove down their listeners throats but they often refer to B-Ref and Fan Graphs.

  4. yahmule - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    One doesn’t generally acquire the nickname Psycho without good cause.

  5. herkulease - Oct 5, 2013 at 1:13 AM

    Off a reliever sure. Sometimes its worth it to make him sweat out there on the mound and put pressure on bullpen.

    Against a pitcher like Scherzer, you take what you can get. Granted he was at or over 100 pitches at that point I can’t remember but A’s haven’t gotten anything all night. After Cespedes it was Riddick, Vogt, Barton. They combined for 0-6 at that point with 4 strikeouts.

  6. historiophiliac - Oct 5, 2013 at 1:27 AM

    Won’t someone think of the rallies?

  7. km9000 - Oct 5, 2013 at 1:57 AM

    People will look at a player’s past numbers to determine how good he is. But they won’t look at past numbers to determine how likely a team is to score in a given base-out situation. All that accumulated data, and not really that difficult to comprehend. But it’s not 100 yrs old so it’s useless?

  8. onbucky96 - Oct 5, 2013 at 2:13 AM

    This coming from the knucklehead who hits a single, then at 1st he forgets he’s on the field, undoes his belt, drops his pants past his ass, only to remember he’s at 1st and not the clubhouse shitter. Pyscho indeed…

  9. yankeepunk3000 - Oct 5, 2013 at 3:43 AM

    omg steve Lyons I had the pleasure of hearing this idiot speak for too many years since I spend a good chunk of my time in La now. this moronic ape is by far the worst and most biased anouncer I have ever met only second to hawk himself. I fear the day skully retires and this idiot is an every day broadcaster…il move to India before that!!!!

    • 4d3fect - Oct 5, 2013 at 8:36 AM

      Also, Lyons is UNNECESSARILY LOUD. Does he constantly shout for fear of someone not hearing him, or because he’s deaf?

      • yahmule - Oct 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

        Michael Irvin disease.

      • jwbiii - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:25 PM

        People who have nothing to say often speak unnecessarily loud because it makes their regurgitated pablum more difficult to ignore and thus makes them feel more powerful. They also tend to repeat themselves for emphasis. As in, “I missed the point that you failed to make the first four times you tried, but the fifth time really convinced me that you are a complete imbecile.”

    • jwbiii - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:12 PM

      Punk, I’m sure that if you move to India, two things will happen:
      1) You will become a cricket fan.
      2) You will find a cricket announcer or three who is absolutely appalling.

  10. sabatimus - Oct 5, 2013 at 4:48 AM

    Jeez, keep your pants on, Steve.

  11. sportsdrenched - Oct 5, 2013 at 6:37 AM

    Home Runs kill rallies? Is that like having sex for the sake of virginity?

  12. spacemaker101 - Oct 5, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Homeruns get the pitcher out of trouble. Thanks for the Win Hanley!

  13. bigblue86 - Oct 5, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    I wouldn’t use the term ‘rally killer’, but for a pitcher there is a much different stress level when pitching with runners on vs bases empty. I think for some pitchers it actually be a good way to ‘reset’ and bear down when they don’t need to worry about the guy on 1st or 2nd. This isn’t going to matter against a Kershaw or a Sherzer type, but for a 4 or 5 starter I think there is definitely a psychological benefit to giving up a HR in the 4th and clearing the bases.

    Like I said, it’s purely situational and 4 out of 5 times I’d rather keep the runs off the board, but from the pitching stand point I think there is some logic to this. I’ve also held this theory for years but have never really looked into the numbers to verify.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Oct 5, 2013 at 12:51 PM

      You can think it helps the pitcher, but math says otherwise [from 2000-2006 play by play data]:

      http://statspeakmvn.wordpress.com/2007/08/27/homerun-kills-rally-film-at-11/

      • bigblue86 - Oct 5, 2013 at 2:26 PM

        Actually the math says exactly what I said, whoever wrote that blog post was comparing the wrong scenarios for this argument. First he compared bases empty after a HR vs bases empty after something else. Then he compares the same situation just late and when the batting team was down 1-3 runs. Finally he compared the batting team down 1-3 runs following an RBI double vs a runner on 2nd following something else. The debate about rally killing HR you should compare the run expectancy following a HR vs following the RBI double. Here are how all of his numbers line up:

        HR HR Late RBI Double
        0 Out .567 .470 1.14
        1 Out .308 .256 .510
        2 Out .122 .094 .283

        In every situation there is a higher run expectancy following the RBI double.

      • Kevin S. - Oct 5, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        Except you forgot to add in the run you already have. Nice try.

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