Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Those 1973 Atlanta Braves: was there something in the water?

At age 30, Baltimore second baseman Davey Johnson joined the Atlanta Braves and hit 43 home runs. His previous high had been 18 at age 28.

Everyone assumed this was due to Johnson playing his home games in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium, which was supposed to be conducive to home run hitting. However, Johnson hit 26 at home and 17 on the road. 17 is only one fewer than Johnson's previous high for a season. Why did Johnson have such a big power surge?

Teammate Darrell Evans played his first 7 seasons with Atlanta. In 1972 at age 25, Evans hit 19 home runs. In 1973 Evans hit 41 home runs: 24 home, 17 road. Very similar to Johnson. Unlike Johnson who faded quickly, Evans did hit 40 homers 12 years later at age 38. His next highest were: 34 at age 40 with Detroit, 30 at age 36 with San Fransisco.

Use this link to view details about Hank Aaron's home runs including graphs.

The great Hank Aaron hit 40 homers in 1973 in only 392 at bats at age 39. 1973 was Aaron's personal best in AB/HR: 9.8. Second best: age 37, 10.5 AB per HR. Aaron entered the 1973 season with 713 career home runs, one short of Babe Ruth's record. Aaron hit his career high for a single season at age 37, the same as Barry Bonds, in 1971 with 47 in only 495 at bats.

Aaron's best seasons for home runs:
1971 age 37: 47
1962 age 28: 45
1957 age 23: 44
1963 age 29: 44
1966 age 32: 44
1969 age 35: 44

Aaron's best seasons for AB/HR:
1973 age 39: 9.8
1971 age 37: 10.5
1969 age 35: 12.4
1962 age 28: 13.155
1972 age 38: 13.205
1970 age 36: 13.6

Aaron's best seasons home runs at home:
1971 age 37: 31
1973 age 39: 24
1967 age 33: 23
1970 age 36: 23

Aaron's best seasons for AB/HR at home:
1971 age 37: 7.84
1973 age 39: 8.66
1970 age 36: 10.96
1972 age 38: 11.6

Aaron's best seasons home runs on road:
1962 age 28: 27
1957 age 23: 26
1963 age 29: 25
1966 age 32: 23
1969 age 35: 23

Aaron's best seasons for AB/HR on road:

1962 age 28: 11.33
1973 age 39: 11.5
1957 age 23: 11.96
1969 age 35: 12.2

Aaron's total HR by team:
team HR AB AB/HR
MLN 398 7,080 17.789
ATL 335 4,548 13.576
MIL 22 736 33.454

Aaron's home HR by team:
team HR AB AB/HR
MLN 185 3,390 18.324
ATL 190 2,226 11.716
MIL 10 352 35.2

Aaron's road HR by team:
team HR AB AB/HR
MLN 213 3,690 17.324
ATL 145 2,322 16.014
MIL 12 384 32

Clearly Aaron benefited from playing his home games in Atlanta from 1966 through 1974. In 7 of those 9 seasons his AB/HR was better at home and in the other two seasons the road advantage was very small.

Just as clearly Aaron if not actually improving with age certainly performed very well late in his career.

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