I remember a Sunday several years ago, when I was in college, when I got myself all interested in pitcher release points. I wasn’t interested in anything, specifically — I just wanted to come up with some kind of measurement, because I hadn’t seen data like that before. So I spent many, many hours capturing screenshots from MLB.tv and marking pixel coordinates on a spreadsheet. In that way, I worked hard to estimate a handful of release points from one pitcher, and I was satisfied, at least with the concept. I felt like the labor was worthwhile. These days you can get release-point information instantly, and it’s better and a hell of a lot more thorough.
The advantage of having all this information is that we get to have all this information. If there’s a disadvantage, it’s that it used to be fun to try to figure things out by hand. Analysis used to take longer, and be longer. It was a journey, for everyone involved. Now almost everything’s quantified. The ESPN Home Run Tracker can spit out tons of details about every single home run hit during the season. It’s insane, how far we’ve come. Oh, but, the ESPN Home Run Tracker isn’t active during spring training. And Giancarlo Stanton plays in spring training.
I don’t know how much you know about Jack Leathersich, but you’ll at least now know him as the guy who gave up that spring-training dinger to Giancarlo Stanton on a beautiful day in the middle of March. It isn’t often spring-training baseball highlights go viral, but Stanton made the rounds, just as Josh Reddick did a little while ago for his defense. A game doesn’t have to count for a Giancarlo Stanton home run to drop jaws. When, after all, has a Marlins game ever really counted with Stanton on the roster?
This is the homer in lousy .gif form for some reason:
This is the thing that it hit:
Here’s another visual, to give you a sense of where that batter’s eye is. It’s the batter’s eye for the other field, behind the field that Stanton was playing on. And note that the ball didn’t hit it around the base. It hit the screen somewhere in the middle, bouncing up off a horizontal bar. The ball hit the screen behind that middle palm tree. “Thumped”, is a word people probably used.
Though the game was irrelevant in the bigger picture, Stanton got at least one of his teammates jazzed:
But the question follows automatically: how far did that home run go? They don’t provide distance estimates for the Grapefruit or Cactus Leagues. As mentioned earlier, the ESPN Home Run Tracker doesn’t cover this stuff. It could, but there wouldn’t be much of a point. Except for dingers like this. I can tell you that the batted ball had a launch angle of right around 26-27 degrees.
I can tell you the ball was in flight for something like 5.2-5.3 seconds before striking the batter’s eye. I can estimate the ball hit the screen something like 12-15 feet above the ground, given that the walls are ten feet high. All this information would be of use to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, but as I found out pretty quickly, I can’t do their math all on my own. I’ve taken physics before, but I’m not certain the basic kinematics are sufficient. I needed to find another way to estimate the dinger distance.
One idea: crowdsource. Here’s an estimate of 500 feet.
This is 500 feet of awesome, from Giancarlo Stanton. http://t.co/VVz5V9qaos
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 10, 2014
Here’s an estimate of 525 feet.
— Seamus Doyle (@saintseamus) March 10, 2014
Here’s an estimate of 550 feet.
…I sacrifice bunted. Giancarlo hit one 550 feet. That’s the difference between Brad Coleman and Giancarlo Stanton. Yep.
— BRAD (@ayyocolo) March 10, 2014
Here’s an estimate of 600 feet.
realistically, this homer might be 600 feet… http://t.co/f5EgPXpft6
— steve_kedro (@steve_kedro) March 10, 2014
Here’s an estimate of 800 feet.
So Giancarlo Stanton hit a homerun about 800 feet today…sick
— Joe Mazzola (@Jmazz218) March 10, 2014
Here’s an estimate of 900 feet.
— Patrick McDonough (@pmcdonough) March 10, 2014
Here’s an estimate of 10,000 feet.
Here’s Giancarlo Stanton Hitting A Ball 10,000 Feet And Simultaneously Changing The Minds Of Anyone Who Doesn’t Wa… http://t.co/JCf3M8C8lg
— Barstoolsports.com (@BarstoolBoston) March 10, 2014
Here’s an estimate of 48,287 feet.
Giancarlo Stanton hits the ball 48287 feet, every gaaat damnnn time
— Eric (@E540) March 10, 2014
Those estimates were all over the place. I had to take things into my own hands, by which I mean, I had to go to Google Maps. This was going to get done manually, with the help of a little basic trig.
Stanton launched the baseball out of Tradition Field, which has its own Wikipedia page and location on Google, with overhead imaging. The park is symmetrical, 338 feet down the left-field line, 338 feet down the right-field line, and 410 feet to center. Using that known information, I was able to calculate an approximate distance to the screen that Stanton’s dinger hit.
The yellow dots represent a distance of 500 feet from home plate, more or less. The star represents about where Stanton’s baseball came down and hit the bar on the batter’s eye. According to my calculations, it’s about 462 feet from home plate to the base of the batter’s eye in that particular spot. Given that Stanton’s dinger didn’t hit the eye at the base, you have to add some more distance. This is where I’m unable to do anything but offer a reasonable guess, but Stanton’s homer would’ve been coming down faster than it went up, in terms of angle, and it hit the screen around the center, about 12-15 feet up. So my estimate is that Giancarlo Stanton hit a 470-480 foot dinger. Not quite 500, but then, the wind was slightly blowing in the other direction, and, 500 is a mighty high bar. There hasn’t been a 500-foot homer in meaningful play since Adam Dunn in 2008. Last season, Stanton maxed out at 463. He did a number on this pitch, in other words.
Moments after doing a number on an earlier pitch.
I know the ball kind of disappears there, but trust me, it went a really long way, foul. That was the eighth pitch of the at-bat. The actual homer came on the 11th. Stanton and Leathersich had quite the showdown, where Leathersich almost put Stanton away but where Stanton looked pretty good the whole time.
The Mets broadcast had a bad feeling all along. After the third pitch:
That’s that lagging arm right there, you see that? When the arm lags behind, you just leave a lot of them up and then when you try to correct that you yank them way inside to the righties.
Folks, when Bob said he lags, too, when you lag you get the ball up and Leathersich is NOT going to win pitching upstairs. He’s gotta be down in the strike zone.
After the fifth pitch:
Gotta be careful pitching, another pitch was upstairs out of the strike zone. You pitch Stanton upstairs, you do so at your own peril.
And a psychological aside, Stanton doesn’t want to walk. It’s spring training, he doesn’t want to walk, he wants to take his swings. Ideal time to expand the zone down.
After the seventh pitch:
Stanton’s having some very comfortable and vicious cuts.
He’s had three pitches pretty close to being souvenirs.
And after the last one:
Fastball up, see, upstairs, see how he stays level-
All they wanted was for Leathersich to try to expand Stanton’s zone down. All they wanted was for Leathersich to make Stanton look a little less comfortable. Leathersich kept pitching up, and Stanton figured him out. Once, but really, twice, if not more than that. Sometimes, a pitcher gets away with mistakes, and doesn’t learn a lesson. If Leathersich doesn’t learn something from this, it won’t be because the experience slips his mind. He got himself Stantoned, right and true.
No, it doesn’t look like Giancarlo Stanton actually hit the homer 500 feet. And Felix Hernandez‘s perfect game against the Rays featured 36 called balls. Now that I’ve worked through so many of the details, let’s please not get too wrapped up in the details of something extraordinary.
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