It’s been a hell of a stretch for Jose Dariel Abreu. Coming out of Cuba, he signed with the White Sox for life-changing money. He put together a decent spring training under completely unfamiliar circumstances, and then in his major-league debut, he went 2-for-4 with a double. He was intentionally walked twice in his second-ever game, and at this writing Abreu owns a .300 average, and eight extra-base hits and four home runs, those dingers all in the span of three games. Few players in baseball are flying higher than Abreu at the moment, so I don’t feel guilty about pointing something out.
Right now, Abreu has four home runs. A few days ago, Abreu had zero home runs, when he stepped in against Chad Bettis in Colorado. Abreu worked a 12-pitch at-bat, and on the final pitch — low and in — he unloaded. Abreu blew the game open, and for the first time, he’d gone deep in the bigs. It is, presumably, a memory he’ll keep and cherish forever.
It’s a strange video highlight, because it takes a few seconds for Hawk Harrelson to realize what happened. While the ball was in flight, Harrelson was urging it onward, but when the ball came back down, Harrelson didn’t know whether or not it’d been caught. He ended up having to rush to and through his signature call, and Harrelson wasn’t alone in being a little confused and surprised. Marcus Semien hesitated on the basepaths:
Unknown, for a few moments: whether the ball had been caught. The ball had very, very nearly been caught.
Ultimately, as long as I’m playing with screenshots:
What’s immediately obvious is that Abreu barely hit the ball out, in Colorado, down the line. Suffice to say, Abreu’s first career homer wasn’t the most impressive career homer. But we can go even further than that, with the help of the ESPN Home Run Tracker. See, at least according to the Tracker, there’s more to the story.
Abreu’s homer is given a true distance of 353 feet. However, the ball was hit at altitude, which is calculated to have contributed 37 feet. Conditions were kind of cold, which is calculated to have cost the ball three feet. But — and here’s the kicker — it was also apparently windy. Abreu hit the ball at a very high elevation angle and it sailed in the breeze, and according to the Tracker, the wind gave the ball an extra 40 feet. Those numbers by themselves don’t all add up perfectly, but right there on Abreu’s page you can see Standard Distance: 286. The estimate is that, under standard environmental conditions, Abreu’s fly ball would’ve gone 286 feet from home plate.
Which, of course, is not a home run, under standard environmental conditions anywhere. Based on previous communication with the site, I know that the wind estimates have the greatest error bars. We know only so much about wind and wind interactions, so some of the numbers on the site aren’t perfectly accurate. But if we use what’s provided, we can see that Abreu’s homer is one of the very worst (out-of-park) home runs for as long as home runs have been tracked.
Incidentally, the Tracker says the ball left Abreu’s bat at a 45-degree elevation angle. That’s an extremely high angle. I hand-calculated an angle of more like 42-43 degrees.
The optimal angle is around 25-27 degrees. Abreu got under the ball, and that’s what allowed the ball to sail as far as it did.
Data stretches back to 2006, and since 2006, here are all the out-of-park home runs with standard distances below 300 feet:
|Jason Bay||277||9/13/2009||Fenway Park|
|Garrett Jones||279||4/5/2010||PNC Park|
|David Wright||283||4/24/2011||Citi Field|
|Chris Iannetta||284||5/30/2008||Wrigley Field|
|Kevin Youkilis||284||6/22/2008||Fenway Park|
|Jose Abreu||286||4/8/2014||Coors Field|
|Brandon Inge||287||7/24/2006||Jacobs Field|
|Nolan Reimold||288||5/5/2010||Yankee Stadium|
|Luis Gonzalez||290||7/25/2006||Citizens Bank Park|
|Rafael Furcal||292||8/29/2009||Great American Ball Park|
|Ryan Raburn||295||8/1/2013||Progressive Field|
|Jason Lane||295||4/17/2006||Minute Maid Park|
|Jeff Keppinger||296||9/9/2006||Fenway Park|
|Jed Lowrie||298||5/5/2012||Minute Maid Park|
|Michael Cuddyer||298||4/15/2010||Target Field|
|Paul Konerko||299||9/24/2006||U.S. Cellular Field|
Abreu’s home run shows up as the worst since April 2011. It’s all very close, and because these home runs all had big wind influences, we don’t know the true numbers or order. But this does give you a pretty good sense, and it’s clear that Abreu’s homer was a legitimate homer only in that it counted as a homer. Kudos to him for doing what he had to do at the right time, but unless Abreu was acutely aware of the wind conditions and responded accordingly, he essentially flew out, except his fly out counted as four bases and no outs.
For your entertainment, here are video highlights of the five worst home runs from the table:
Bay’s left the bat at 87.1 miles per hour. Jones’s left the bat at 85.0 miles per hour. The average home run leaves the bat at around 103-104 miles per hour. To succeed, you can either hit the ball hard, or aim. Aim when it’s windy. Aim when it’s windy and blowing out.
Anyway, Abreu’s first career home run was one of the worst home runs we’ve seen in the majors in years. Because his home ballpark is something of a bandbox, Abreu ought to hit plenty of home runs that might not be homers in other parks. But for as long as he’s around — and it looks like he could be around for a long, long time — Abreu might not ever hit a home run as cheap as his first. When is 286 feet long enough to count as a big-league home run? On one of the most magical nights of Jose Abreu’s life.
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