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Me? I Like the Four-Run Home Run

Some people like "small ball."  Others talk about "chemistry" and "knowing how to win."  Still others insist that a team "play the game the right way" by "manufacturing runs."  Me?  I like the four-run home run.

I was reminded of this last night when Jayson Werth hit his seventh inning grand slam (the popular term that all the kids are using these days) to put the Phillies ahead 6-0.  What if Werth had not been swinging for the fences there (as he obviously was) and instead trying to just get a hit?  A ground ball fielded by any of the infielders would have been an out at any base.  A single would have scored one or two, still putting the game within reach (especially against the current Phillies' bullpen).  Obviously, even better results would have come with a double or triple.

But, with a home run in that situation, it's an automatic four runs.  Nothing to go wrong.  No contingencies that might come to pass, even if unlikely.  No manageable path for the other team to come back in the next two innings.  The four-run home run is that good.

Of course, this isn't really that controversial a statement.  In fact, it's kind of idiotic to be talking about it.  But, I feel like it's necessary in baseball.  Lauding small ball and productive outs and moving the runner over and professional hitters and situational hitting and manufacturing runs is the norm in this game.  You'd think a team that didn't do this was a team that lost most of its games.

In reality, though, what wins games is one thing and one thing only -- scoring more runs that your opponent.  There's no right way or wrong way to get to that result (other than cheating, but even that's allowed in certain circumstances in baseball).  But there are ways that are more efficient and more effective than others.  And the four-run home run is just that way.

As it happens, the Phillies are the best team in baseball at hitting the four-run home run.  The Phillies have 10, whereas the next closest teams have 7 (Detroit, Washington, and St. Louis).

And that's a great thing.  It's not something to be embarrassed about because the team isn't playing small ball well.  It's not something to fret about because the team doesn't know how to manufacture runs and instead relies on the long ball.  No, it's something to celebrate.

Take a look at this comparison.  It's between the Phillies and the Padres, two teams that have had roughly the same number of opportunities this season with bases loaded:

Phillies 172 34 16 27 15 10 131
Padres 179 34 15 31 3 1 98


What can we discern from this comparison? The Padres and Phillies both have had a lot of opportunities with bases loaded -- seventh and eighth most in baseball, respectively. They've gotten the same exact number of hits and have walked and struck out at almost the same clip.

But the results are wildly different. The Padres play small ball while the Phillies sit around waiting for the four-run home run. Listen to most baseball announcers these days and you'd think the Phillies were doing something wrong. But outscoring the other similarly-situated team by 33 runs with bases loaded says that the Phillies are doing things just right.

I've been convinced for a long time that this obsession with small ball is all about announcers, commentators, and "serious" fans trying to prove that they know more than the casual baseball fan. But I'm not afraid to say it, even though I'm a diehard: I like the four-run home run.