Last night saw Derek Dietrich go all out against the Pittsburgh Pirates. After the brawl that sort of wasn’t in Pittsburgh after Dietrich hit a home run into the river, then his hitting a home run on Monday and possibly offending someone in the Pirates dugout, there were questions about whether or not Pittsburgh would hit Derek Dietrich on Tuesday. They didn’t. Instead it was Derek Dietrich that hit the Pirates. And the dingers. He hit THREE dingers against the Pirates on Tuesday night.
Whether something happens later this afternoon, I guess we’ll all have to wait and see together. But for now, let’s talk about what it is that Derek Dietrich is doing.
If you watched the interview after the game from above, you’ll have already heard that Derek Dietrich has set a new career high in home runs for a season. It’s May 29th. He’s hit 17 home runs. That’s a pretty good pace, and it puts him in some rare company in team history.
Most recent Reds with 17+ HR in team's first 55 games
2019 Derek Dietrich 17
2006 Adam Dunn 17
2004 Adam Dunn 17
2003 Adam Dunn 18
1987 Eric Davis 20
1972 Johnny Bench 18
1970 Johnny Bench 18
1970 Tony Perez 20
— Joel Luckhaupt (@jluckhaupt) May 29, 2019
Derek Dietrich has 17 home runs this season. He’s got 2 doubles and 1 triple. That ratio is almost unfathomable. Basically, if he’s hitting the ball in the air to the outfield, it’s either going over the fence or it’s being caught.
His OPS is currently sitting at 1.085 thanks to a .254/.364/.720 line in 140 plate appearances this season. He’s not qualified for the leaderboard when it comes to OPS, but if he were, he’d rank 4th in both the National League and Major League Baseball – trailing just Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, and Josh Bell.
He’s tied for third in baseball with his 17 home runs. Everyone else with at least 11 home runs in baseball has at least 135 at-bats this season. Derek Dietrich has 118. Dietrich is on pace for 50 home runs this season for the Reds based on his 17 through 55 team games. Going back to the number of doubles from above, assuming the same pace is kept there, he would shatter the record for fewest doubles in a season while also hitting 40+ home runs. In 1964 Harmon Killebrew had 11 doubles to go with 49 home runs.
Where did all of this power come from? Derek Dietrich has been an above-average hitter in the past. From 2015-2018 with the Marlins he posted an OPS+ of 114. The ballpark in Miami wasn’t exactly doing him any favors in terms of non-park adjusted numbers. At home he slugged just .385 in those four seasons. On the road he slugged .468. There’s an enormous difference between .468 and the insane .720 that he’s slugging this year. But Great American Ball Park helps some. He’s also still in his “peak” age frame, sitting at 29-years-old.
There’s not much to really explain what’s going on. It’s probably a lot of little things all coming together to make for a magic first two months. There’s some luck in play here. 17 home runs and 2 doubles simply doesn’t make sense. But here we are. One home run every 6.94 at-bats doesn’t make sense. Yet here we are. Getting into a more friendly home ballpark, and division with some friendly ballparks for hitters helps – but not this much. And yet, here we are.
Derek Dietrich is having a magical season. He’s killing the baseball right now. We’re all having fun watching it. There’s not much explaining what’s going on, but in his own words:
The Reds have let me be myself
And for now, it’s been joyous to watch.