I love the home run. The gasp of the crowd in anticipation. The bat flips and trots around the bases. The visceral joy of seeing a small spheroid mashed with extreme prejudice into the endless night sky. And if you're like me you are pleased as punch because Alfonso Soriano and his merry men have brought dingers back to the Bronx.
There is a subset of fans and managers that lament the boorish long ball. They pine for the execution and grittiness of small ball: bunts, steals, "productive outs". Style preferences aside, I don't think it's happenstance that the 2013 Yankees improbable start was bolstered immensely by a surprising display of power. Noted reanimated corpses Vernon Wells and Travis Hafner had double-digit dingers between them before the end of May.
April 1st through May 31st: 63 home runs/ 1.2 per game
But lo, the power was turned off for the Yankees by June. (I'm assuming Hal Steinbrenner skimped on the electric bill) A homer from a right-handed batter was now as rare as a Game Thread without a jab at Jayson Nix. These were dark days for those who longed for the round-tripper.
June 1st through July 25th: 25 home runs/ 0.5 per game
With Wells and Hafner having turned back into pumpkins and zero Yankees farmhands having turned into Hank Aaron, it seemed the best "The Cult of the Homer" could hope for were the returns of noted "play the wrong way types" Alex Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson. But nay, the Yankees front office realized that not having power in the lineup was a major problem (and made games really boring) and opted to bring back an old friend. A man who never saw a pitch he didn't like. A man who devours fastballs like a hitting woodchipper: Shelley Duncan. No, wait...Alfonso Soriano. In spite of a slow start from Soriano, the team's home run output has noticeably risen since his return (and that of the aforementioned Rodriguez and Granderson).
July 26th (Soriano's first game) through August 14th: 18 home runs/ 1.1 per game
Soriano's absurd half-week certainly skews those numbers, but such is the benefit of the home run: they can occur quickly and often in bunches. It goes a long way in to helping cover the warts of a lineup that still doesn't get on base that much and often features Chris Stewart, and not for ironic purposes. It's no coincidence that a lineup that now features four legitimate sluggers put up the best two-day scoring output for the Yankees in the 2013 campaign.
The return of home run power may very well be the key to the Yankees staying in the race for the final American League Wild Card spot. And while some coaches lament their teams' attempts to hit homers, the Yankees have gained three games in the race over the past week thanks to them. And as an added bonus, we home run aficionados no longer have reason to get a snack or doze off while the Yankees bat. The offense is exciting again! All hail the dingers!