The 2018 regular season concluded on a historic note for the Yankees, who beat the 1997 Seattle Mariners’ record of 264 home runs by a total of three. That record lasted all of 11 months before getting surpassed by not one, but two teams, with a third team still on the table.
2019 has been an insane year for home runs, but the Twins have been the frontrunners of the craze since the season started. Minnesota hit 50 home runs in April, and that was the fewest they’ve hit in any month since the season started. Their home run pace not only set them on course to obliterate the Yankees’ record, but put them in line to finish as baseball’s first team to hit 300 home runs.
Their power is dispersed throughout the lineup, led by three 30-homer hitters in Max Kepler, offseason acquisition Nelson Cruz, and Mitch Garver (who’s played just 83 games this season). Eleven Twins have reached double-digits in home runs this season, and eight have sent at least 20 out. At one point, they were more than 30 home runs above any other team in baseball. So how did this become a competitive race?
Well, two changes influenced the home run standings. First, the Twins have cooled off from an amazing home run rate to merely a very good one. At their peak across the month of August, the Twins were hitting roughly 2.1 home runs per game, but that average dropped to 1.84 over the last 28 days. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ rate skyrocketed over August. The Yankees hadn’t eclipsed 50 home runs in a month this year before launching 74 bombs last month, the most ever for a team in a single month, at an insane 2.46 per game rate. They haven’t taken their foot off the gas yet in September, totaling 22 dingers in just nine games for a nearly identical 2.44 rate.
The Yankees, despite and possibly even because of their myriad of injuries this season, boast a lineup of 13 players that have hit double-digit home runs. They’ve gotten career-high power numbers from key contributors like Gleyber Torres and Brett Gardner who didn’t project to hit as much as they’ve gotten, big additions from guys they never expected to see play like Gio Urshela, Cameron Maybin, and Mike Ford, and have prospered despite missing their two biggest home run hitters for significant stretches of time. In fact, Giancarlo Stanton has only gotten one home run on that list, the same amount as Kendrys Morales and Troy Tulowitzki.
Considering all of this, the two teams inexplicably find themselves tied at 276 home runs this year entering Wednesday night’s games. The Twins have an advantage in that they have two more games left to be played than the Yankees, but the Yankees are entering this final stretch as the hotter hitting team. This is a race built to go down to the final day of the season, as no lead will be safe. Both clubs have displayed a tendency to pop a random six home run day or two out of nowhere, as evidenced by the extra-inning thriller that the two played last time they saw each other. It may not be a race as significant as the one for home-field advantage that the Yankees are running with the Astros, but it’s a fun one to keep an eye on.