Jose Abreu’s First and Worst

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:

abreuhrsemien

Unknown, for a few moments: whether the ball had been caught. The ball had very, very nearly been caught.

abreuhrbarnes

Ultimately, as long as I’m playing with screenshots:

abreuhr1st

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.

abreuhrangle

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:

Hitter Distance Date Ballpark
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:

5

4

3

2

1

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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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


29 Responses to “Jose Abreu’s First and Worst”

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  1. JimDuck says:

    He is going to hit some monster shots this summer at The Cell. Both of his HR’s yesterday were murdered. Oh, and Hawk loves all Cuban people. Said so last night on the broadcast

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Jon Snow says:

    I also like how the HitTracker page also says it would have been a HR in zero parks.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Sandy Kazmir says:

    286 clears the monster by several dozen cubits

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  4. MikeS says:

    I approve of a weekly feature on Jose Daniel Abreu.

    By the way, the other three HR have been hit pretty well. The average true distance of the other three is well over 4oo’.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Four Eyed Jackson says:

    “The optimal angle is around 25-27 degrees.” What?

    If you believe that, you must have never taken a physics course or had a decent coach to help you throw the javelin. 45 degrees splits the altitude and distance curves perfectly, and is the path of flight for the greatest distance of a spear, a cannonball, or a batted or thrown baseball.

    Perhaps there are bio-mechanical reasons that mitigate against such an angle, but the fact is, if you make solid contact and launch Mr. Spalding at 45 degrees, that ball is going to go a long, long way.

    -49 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Mike says:

      Congratulations, you took high school physics. Unfortunately, it turns out that reality is much more complicated. Here are two reasons among several.

      1. Fly balls don’t fly in perfect parabolas. Due to spin, they travel much further on the way up than the way down. Look at the trajectory of any home run on hittrackeronline.com and you’ll see that.

      2. If you’re hitting the ball at a 45 degree angle, by definition you’re not hitting it very hard. You get much more velocity at a lower angle because you’re hitting the ball by swinging a bat close to horizontally. Even with an uppercut swing, your max velocity is not going to be at 45 degrees.

      +30 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Big Daddy V says:

        The best way to hit the ball hardest is to match its trajectory. With a fastball this is a pretty low angle, but on a curveball the uppercut will probably hit the ball farther.

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    • sarcasmftw says:

      I did a double-take as well, but after some googling, empirical evidence suggests that Jeff is correct, namely that the optimal angle is ~27 degrees or so…
      http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15562

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    • C'mon Man says:

      I think it’s worth pointing out that major league baseball’s are not being made by Spalding.. I don’t know who is launching basketballs with a baseball bat, but it certainly isn’t any major league players.

      +19 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Justin says:

      Wind resistance dude. Congrats on being wrong and smug about it.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I Agree Guy says:

      I’ll keep this in mind the next time I launch myself from a cannon whilst throwing a javelin at Mr. Spalding.

      +15 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • vivalajeter says:

      Are there a lot of people that have never taken a physics course, but have had a decent coach to help them throw the javelin?

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      • Stan Gable says:

        Lamar Lattrell had more than a little aerodynmic assisance at the Greek Games at Adams College on an autumn in the 1980s.

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        • Booger says:

          An upvote just doesn’t seem enough. I have to voice my deep appreciation for this comment. So, so many things done right.

          Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Dave b says:

    Just noting author was mentioned on YES by David Cone last night

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    • Brian says:

      Cone is awesome on Yanks broadcasts. When he started talking about BP / pitch framing research last night, he got even awesomer.

      +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. NS says:

    Hawk Harrelson is just so awful.

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  8. Four Eyed Jackson says:

    Spin or rather underspin, makes a ball fly further. An uppercut swing is more likely to produce underspin.

    As for javelins and physics, some of us are Renaissance men, and some others just pretend.

    -18 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • I Agree Guy says:

      The best course of action once you’ve clearly been proven wrong once, is to double-down.

      +16 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • The Restless Spirit of Ted Williams says:

      There are numerous reasons why you are wrong. Some of them have already been pointed out, but I will enumerate them nonetheless as you don’t seem to have paid them any heed the first time:

      1. Air resistance can never be ignored in the physics of baseball. Air resistance causes a ball’s trajectory to deviate from a parabola, meaning that an angle of 45 degrees is no longer necessarily optimal.

      2. As was pointed out in the article, the direction and magnitude of the wind is a huge factor. Hitting a ball at a high angle with the wind blowing in will turn a home run into a routine fly ball. Hitting it at a high angle with the wind blowing out will do what the wind did to Abreu’s blast.

      3. Some amount of spin helps a ball fly farther due to the Magnus effect, but beyond a certain point, all you are doing is diverting energy that could have gone into giving the ball linear momentum into giving it angular momentum. That is not good considering that linear displacement what makes a home run a home run. Barring a knuckleball, the spin put on the ball by the pitcher is sufficient to cause a Magnus effect, and you aren’t going to hit the ball perfectly squarely anyway, so trying to put additional spin on the ball is usually counterproductive.

      4. An exaggerated uppercut swing will have a higher angle of incidence with the path of the pitch, making it harder to hit the ball squarely. A slight error in timing can turn your fly ball into a pop-up, grounder, foul tip, or whiff. Even if you still hit a fly ball, odds are good that you will have put significant torque on the ball and therefore not enough linear force.

      5. An exaggerated uppercut swing takes longer and works against gravity for part of its path. This makes catching up to high velocity pitches very difficult and saps some of the work you put into accelerating the bat.

      It seems as though most of your practical ballistic experience is with a javelin, a projectile that is highly aerodynamic and which, ideally, does not spin when thrown. A baseball is not a javelin. It isn’t a tennis ball either. Or a cue ball. A baseball is a baseball and batting is not throwing.

      Both the physical theory and the empirical data are against you. As a self-professed Renaissance Man, you should know what that means.

      +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jan Zelezny says:

      At the risk of piling on, watch a few videos of me throwing. Sub 45 degree angles are optimal for javelin, too.

      +10 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Value arb says:

      My condolences on the F you got in high school physics.

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  9. Ben says:

    Should we revisit this?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

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