MLB Sluggers Headed for a Big Power Outage in 2013
In 2012, there were nearly 5,000 home runs hit across the Major Leagues, about 400 more than in 2011. Some sluggers saw an emergence of their power swing last season that had not been evident before (or at least for a few seasons).
For instance, Edwin Encarnacion of the Toronto Blue Jays smashed 42 long balls in 2012, only seven fewer than the previous three seasons combined. And, at age 33, Josh Willingham launched 35 home runs for the Minnesota Twins, the first time he eclipsed 30 home runs during his nine-year career.
But, as in just about any season, there were some players that saw a significant drop-off in their power. Albert Pujols hit "only" 30 home runs in 2012, the lowest total of his Major League career. Justin Upton went from 17 home runs in 2010 to 31 in 2011, and back to 17 last season.
So with this phenomenon in mind, lets take a look at who could be in store for a power outage in 2013.
This includes players who may have left hitter-friendly parks for less amicable locations, as well as players who might be past their prime.
Edwin Encarnacion had the absolute career-year in 2012. He obliterated his personal best in home runs by hitting 42 to lead the league (his previous high was 26 in 2008). He also had career-bests in just about every offensive category.
And as impressive as his 2012 season was, it's difficult to expect the 30-year-old to duplicate those results in 2013. His track record speaks to a decent amount of power with a mid-.200 batting average. And while he may still have a productive campaign, a 40-home run season is likely not within reach.
In 2012, Josh Hamilton had the healthiest season he's had since 2008. In his fifth and final season with the Texas Rangers, he launched a career-high 43 home runs, good for second in the American League.
But keep in mind, the talented outfielder played his home games in what is one of the friendliest park for hitters in 2012, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
This offseason, Hamilton inked a five-year, $125 million contract with the Angels. In terms of home runs last season, the Texas stadium had a ballpark factor of 1.168, good for seventh highest in baseball. Meanwhile, Angels Stadium's mark of .759 was 25th in the game.
There's no question that the 2010 MVP has a lot of talent, power aside. He hit .285 last season, the lowest batting average he's had since 2009. But a reduction in his home run total should be expected in 2013.
Like Hamilton, Russell Martin is headed to a new city in 2013. After spending the last two seasons with the New York Yankees, Martin brings his catching duties to the Steel City as the new backstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates, backed by his two-year, $17 million contract.
And, also like Hamilton, Martin reached a career-high in home runs in 2012, launching 21 long balls. In his two seasons in the Bronx, the 30-year-old slammed a total 39 home runs, with the majority of them coming at the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium.
If we look at ballpark factors in terms of home runs, PNC park ranked fourth-to-last in all of baseball with a .631 rate, while Yankee Stadium was eighth in the game with a 1.143. So by that metric alone, another drop in power could be in the cards for Martin. But he will add some solid veteran leadership behind the plate for a promising Pirates club in 2013.
The 2012 season was a forgettable one for Lance Berkman. He played only 36 games for the St. Louis Cardinals before tearing a meniscus in his right knee.
So, if we forget the 2012 season ever happened for the Big Puma, we can go back to his 2011 season.
That year, Berkman was the National League Comeback Player of the Year, as he smashed 31 home runs, helping the Cards to the World Series Championship.
Fast forward to 2013, and Berkman is now a member of the Texas Rangers. And while his new home ballpark is much friendlier to hitters than Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Berkman will likely not reach the 30-home run plateau this season.
Not only is he coming off the injury-plagued 2012 season, but he will not be playing everyday.
The Rangers' lineup is stocked with many first basemen, designated hitters and outfielders, so playing time will be at a premium for the 37-year-old.
He will almost certainly hit more than the two long balls from 2012, but will not approach the 31 total from the previous season.
Once a promising prospect in the Florida Marlins' organization, Josh Willingham is now a 34-year-old outfielder with the Minnesota Twins. And after years of not completely fulfilling his status as a prospect, Hammer finally had his first 30-home run season in 2012—launching 35. He also had a career-high 110 RBI.
And while indeed some players do get better with age, it might be logical to expect Willingham's power to fall back down to at least his career norms—he has averaged 29 home runs during his nine-year career.
If he stays healthy, a 20-home run season is not out of the realm of possibilities. But another 30-home run campaign very well may be.
The 2012 season was Josh Reddick's time to shine. For the first time since making his major league debut with the 2009 Red Sox, Reddick got the opportunity to be an everyday player.
Manning right field in 2012 with the Oakland A's, Reddick smashed a career-best 32 home runs, while playing in all but six games last year.
And while Oakland certainly enjoyed the power boost from the 26-year-old, expectations should be set accordingly in 2013. Even in the minor leagues Reddick never showed this much power potential, having never hit more than 23 big flies in any single season.
That's not to say that Reddick isn't a talented outfielder—he is. He has a cannon for an arm in right field and even includes an element of speed in his game (he stole 11 bases last season). But another 30-home run season may be a reach for this young man.