This is an amazing fact at least to me that you have presented here. Bourn isn’t as slight as many speedsters and one could certainly interpret this blast to mean he has a certain (surprising) amount of strength. Good stuff as usual Jeff.
This piece was great/read like fine investigative journalism. I’m curious whether this insight enhances Bourn’s prospects for a 20-hr season, if he played in Yankee Stadium, for instance, and swung–as Ichiro evidently has–for the right field fence.
Maybe you’d be surprised how strong you have to be and how efficient hitting mechanics have to be to send a baseball 450 ft. Compared to non-athletes, many homerun lacking players are still very physical but when compared to sluggers, many just aren’t as strong. Some player’s swings just aren’t meant for power like you alluded to, but not being as strong is probably almost as likely.
Comment by Sammy Solis — January 8, 2013 @ 12:36 am
Bourn’s swing is obviously not geared for power, but he has pretty big forearms and the traps of a running back; people underestimate the kind strength a smaller elite athlete can have. Fast twitch athleticism is good for more than just running, doesn’t surprise me at all that he can hit the ball as far as power hitters when he really gets into one.
Did that homer really travel 457 feet? It was hit to the left of the 373 sign, so a conservative estimate would be maybe 60 feet past where it crossed the fence. I find it unlikely that it’s 20 yards from the fence to where it landed.
The dramatic increases in physical strength from steroids showed how that does affect batted ball distance, but the hitting mechanics you referenced have far, far greater impact on the number and distance of home runs. Remember that the first major leaguer who tested positive for steroids was Alex Sanchez, he of six career home runs in 1,527 official at-bats. More strength results in higher bat speed which means more distance, but that only produces home runs if the batter is already hitting arcing fly balls. The major leagues are littered with 210lb+ guys who don’t hit many home runs because their swings aren’t conducive to them. Strength isn’t the limiter in most cases.
Barry Zito got four hits last year, that factoid has got to be much more amazing than Bourne hitting one long home run. Zito is a terrible hitter.
He may be the worst starting pitcher hitter in baseball.
Comment by Hurtlockertwo — January 8, 2013 @ 9:59 am
There is one other piece of the puzzle that puts more ambiguity into these hittracker models. MLB accepts a +/- of 5% COR in their approved baseballs. If this was a +5% tightly wound ball, it would travel an extra 20+ feet to an average ball at this distance. If we take that 20 feet away, we are perhaps not having this discussion.
I would say a more relevant article about Bourn would be to examine the say 3 or 4 teams who might/should be looking at signing Bourn… or how much Bourn might have to sacrifice (in $) to sign… the fact that Bourn once hit a long HR… well next we’ll be seeing articles suggesting that Dan Uggla once laid off a slider…
Carl Yastrzemski (listed at 5-11, 175) who had 452 homers (and was at one time the only active player with three 40-HR seasons) has talked about the one time he really hit a pitch perfectly. I believe it reached the facing in RF at Fenway where the retired numbers are.
“people underestimate the kind strength a smaller elite athlete can have”
Comment by Jimmy Rollins — January 8, 2013 @ 1:03 pm
Yeah, I think you are right. That makes a lot more sense as if it didn’t hit that facing above the stands there is no way that went 457 feet. I was looking at the .gif on my phone so I couldn’t see it clearly.
Mike is definitely not 5’11”, he’s more like 5’9″. I never thought he’d make it in pro ball because he hardly ever hit the ball out of the infield in college with a metal bat. He’s definitely stronger than he was when I played with him, but even that one at Minute Maid isn’t 456 ft. Maybe more like 420-430. Doesn’t matter though because he gets paid for his speed, not power.
We’re talking about 450 ft homeruns. No doubt there aren’t many hitters who aren’t strong enough to hit more than a few each year, but you need excellent mechanics and strength to hit a homerun 450 feet. Many power hitters can’t send a baseball 450 feet.
Comment by Sammy Solis — January 8, 2013 @ 10:38 pm
I don’t understand the point of your comment. Knowing he is shorter than listed is normal for every short athlete and saying he didn’t have much power in college can be understood by seeing he has only 2 homeruns and 23 extra base hits total in his entire collegiate career. Then you post the final thing about not looking 450 ft that was said earlier and seemingly makes your comment look like you actually have some valuable addition to the discussion. There are two reasons you could have posted this. Either you want us all to be impressed with your participation in D1 baseball or you’re making this up for the same reason.
Comment by Downer Debby — January 8, 2013 @ 10:52 pm
It’s pretty clear to me that Bourn did that because of PEDs. Why is nobody talking about this?
Comment by Meyer Wolfsheim — January 9, 2013 @ 12:01 am
What if whoever was tracking this homer thought it hit the facing when it didn’t? It doesn’t look like it does to me, but then again, it’s just a grainy .gif.
It’s not that Fangraphs readers get defensive, it’s just such a waste of time to read critical comments from people who expect every Fangraphs article to provide them some gem to win their roto league. If you play fantasy, but don’t really enjoy any other facet of baseball, don’t come to the site.
Bourn has tremendous bat speed. After years of watching him hit, I am always struck by his bat speed. But he doesn’t have an upper cut swing. He is a line drive hitter. My recollection is that the long HR cited here drew concern from Astros’ fans and broadcasters that it might lead Bourn to try to hit HRs in the future, which probably would hurt his hitting.
Comment by CJ in Austin, TX — January 13, 2013 @ 11:25 am
I call BS on the 457 ft estimate. The ball landed first row ( and did not hit off of the facing on the upper deck). That was 420 tops.