There were a combined 10 runs scored in the two wild-card games to begin this postseason -- nine of them from home runs.
In Game 2 of the American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, the Toronto Blue Jays won 5-3, scoring all five runs on home runs. In fact, the Jays knocked out the Baltimore Orioles, then swept the Rangers, scoring 16 of their 27 runs on homers.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs came into Tuesday with 11 runs scored in their first three games -- seven of them from home runs.
Anybody else seeing a trend here? Indeed, the league has become homer-centric, maybe even homer-reliant, as two seemingly contradictory trends are happening right now in Major League Baseball: (1) Pitchers are harder to hit than they've ever been, owing in part to increasing velocity; and (2) the game has experienced a home run surge, dating back to around the 2015 All-Star break.
We saw a jump in home runs during the regular season, and they've carried the utmost importance this postseason; of the 108 runs scored this postseason heading into play Tuesday, half of them were as a result of home runs, the highest percentage in the wild-card era. And let's not forget, playoff teams normally trot out their best pitchers in the playoffs, not scrubs.
And it's not a coincidence. Like it or not, this is how the game is played these days. Pitchers are seeing a lot of the worst possible outcome (home run), while also seeing increasing amounts of the better outcomes. Strikeouts are up, walks are down. More long fly balls, fewer easy outs. A bloop and a blast. Or maybe it's just the blast; in Game 1 of the AL Division Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians, nine runs were scored -- six of them on solo homers.
Let's take a closer look at what's happening -- and why.