Monday was an important day for the Chicago White Sox. After a weekend sweep at the hands of the Detroit Tigers left them in a tie atop the AL Central, they rebounded with a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Twins. Come nightfall, the White Sox once again had sole possession of first. Monday was a less important day for the Twins. The Twins are a bad team just trying not to finish last in the league. On any given day, they don’t have a whole lot at stake.
But Monday was an important day for one Twins player in particular. With one out in the top of the fifth, Jamey Carroll batted against Hector Santiago. Carroll worked a trademark long, annoying at-bat, and then he lined a 2-and-2 fastball just over the fence in left field. It wasn’t the first home run of Carroll’s career — in fact, it was the 13th — but it did snap the longest homerless drought in major-league baseball. Carroll hadn’t homered since August 2009, and while home runs in Chicago aren’t quite like home runs in Seattle or home runs in Oakland, we don’t award fractional homers. You either hit a home run or you didn’t, and Monday, Jamey Carroll hit a home run.
To understand the significance of that image isn’t very complicated. Revere debuted in the majors in September 2010, and by that point Carroll had already gone more than a calendar year without a dinger. Carroll wouldn’t hit a dinger until yesterday. Revere’s still looking for the first dinger he’s ever hit. The numbers say Revere went deep a few times in the minors, but we don’t really care about what people did in the minors, and besides those numbers are easy to fudge. Who’s even checking! It’s a big moment to hit your first professional home run, but it’s a bigger moment to hit your first big-league home run, and Revere’s still stuck on zero.
After 950 trips to the plate. Revere batted 30 times in 2010, hitting .179 with zero homers. He batted 481 times in 2011, hitting .267 with zero homers. He’s batted 439 times so far in 2012, hitting .300 with zero homers. There have been ten triples, and triples are just one base short of being homers, but the sensation is very different. Revere’s even come close to recording an inside-the-park home run, and that’s one way to get on the board, but again, the sensation is very different. Revere has the speed to avoid going homerless, but what one wants to do is to hit a ball over the wall. Joey Gathright did it, once. Jason Tyner did it, once.
Only one position player in recent history has batted as often as Revere without hitting a homer, and that’s Reggie Willits. Willits has amassed just over a thousand plate appearances without a dinger, and Revere is closing in, as Willits isn’t in the majors and Revere is. Pretty soon Revere’s going to be in the lead, probably, and he’ll have to wonder whether this is ever going to happen for him.
On the one hand, as far as I can tell, these are Ben Revere’s two deepest balls in play as a major leaguer:
On the other hand, this is Jamey Carroll’s 2012 spray chart, from Texas Leaguers:
You wouldn’t think that Carroll could do it, until he did it. Odds are that the major leagues are selective for hitters who have the bat speed to hit a baseball over a wall, somewhere. Odds are that Ben Revere is indeed physically capable of an out-of-the-park home run. The question is whether he’ll ever hit one outside of batting practice. The second question is whether he’s ever hit one in batting practice.
If you want an idea of what a Ben Revere home run might look like, here are two handy YouTube clips that were saved and uploaded and made public for a reason. The uploader in question hit home runs with Ben Revere in a video game, recognized how that was odd, and decided to share his accomplishments with the world. That tells you right there what people think about Ben Revere’s power potential.
But it looks like Revere is going to keep on playing. And as long as a guy keeps on playing, you figure he might eventually run into a ball by accident. If Ben Revere’s odds aren’t 0%, then as you increase the sample of plate appearances, you increase the odds of a homer. Revere might well be around for the long haul.
And that’s because he’s a useful player even with arguably the least power in the league. Last season, Revere was worth two wins over replacement over the equivalent of about two-thirds of a season. So far this season, Revere’s already been worth nearly three wins, by FanGraphs’ own numbers. Revere’s managed a .336 OBP. He’s managed a bunch of steals and general quality baserunning. He’s played outstanding defense in the outfield, which shouldn’t take many people by surprise. Revere doesn’t have a single home run. He’s got a higher WAR than Shin-Soo Choo and Jay Bruce.
Not a lot of things have gone right for the Twins in 2012, but Ben Revere is among them. He’s shown that he should have a lengthy big-league career, and if he does, chances are he’ll hit a home run at some point. He’ll play games in Chicago, he’ll play games in New York, and he just saw Jamey Carroll do the impossible with his own eyes. If Gathright could do it, and if Tyner could do it, Revere could probably do it. But we’ll all wonder until he does. We will, and he will. He’ll be hoping that it eventually happens. Me…well, I don’t know what I’ll be hoping for. I don’t know at all.
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