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The 2012 Season In Fast Home Runs

Posted By Jeff Sullivan On December 21, 2012 @ 3:47 pm In Daily Graphings | 22 Comments

A week ago, I wrote up The 2012 Season In Slow Home Runs, which was actually The 2012 Season In The Slowest Pitches Hit For Home Runs. That would’ve been a much more accurate but much worse title. That just begged for a follow-up, and that’s what this is, as we’re now going to examine the fastest pitches hit for home runs during the year. Originally I was going to say the timing feels right since nothing is happening in baseball, but then the Pirates signed Francisco Liriano and the Rangers signed A.J. Pierzynski, so instead I’ll say the timing feels right since nothing you care about is happening in baseball. This is a good time for frivolous reflection.

Once again, what the title suggests is that we’d be looking at the fastest home runs off the bat, and we might do that later. That would be possible on account of the incredible and invaluable ESPN Home Run Tracker. In the event that I write up that list, I don’t know what I’m going to title it since the obvious one’s already kind of taken. Thankfully this stuff is entirely unimportant and it doesn’t even need to be discussed out in the open on the front page of FanGraphs. You know how you can know I don’t have a regular editor? This paragraph is how you can know that.

You’re going to find a top-five list, in order of ascending pitch velocity. Between number five and number one we have a velocity difference of just 1.4 miles per hour, so we’re clumped, but even in the tightest clumps you’ll find your mosts and leasts. I should let you know that all of the pitches you’re going to see below were fastballs. None of them were 100 mile-per-hour changeups or screwballs. Those pitches don’t even exist but this just goes to show how little I assume you know about the game of baseball. “Always treat the reader with contempt,” is what I was instructed to do on my first day on staff. It’s kind of an organizational philosophy, and maybe that clears some things up for you.

The standard caveats apply. We’re basing this all off PITCHf/x, and PITCHf/x velocity readings can be slightly inaccurate from park to park. I can’t guarantee that the fastest pitch hit for a home run was actually the fastest pitch hit for a home run. Additionally, PITCHf/x captured most of the season’s pitches, but it didn’t capture literally all of the season’s pitches, so maybe an extreme dinger is missing. There is uncertainty here, and there is uncertainty everywhere, even where you might assume there would be absolute certainty. Uncertainty is an unavoidable part of life, and you should embrace it, because uncertainty means mystery and mystery is like life’s pinch of seasoning.

Off we go. You won’t be surprised by the names of the pitchers featured on this list. You might be surprised by the names of some of the hitters. And actually maybe one of the pitchers, since you might not know anything about the pitcher. The first thing I ever knew about this pitcher, aside from his name and his team, is that he seems to have a really little mouth. Now you know this about him, too. Good luck unknowing that.

(5) Billy Butler, August 7, vs. Nate Jones

video highlight

99.1 miles per hour

And here’s ol’ Little Mouth, serving one up to Country Breakfast. For the sake of context, this was the third pitch of the at-bat. Below, the first pitch of the at-bat:

That was 98.5 near the chin. Then there was 98.2 on the corner. Then there was 99.1 over the fence. When a player gets buzzed, even unintentionally, emotions flare, and all you want as a fan of the hitting team is immediate revenge. I don’t think revenge gets much more satisfying than launching a following fastball way over the fence. Maybe launching it way over the fence off of the pitcher’s shoulder or back somehow. One day.

Check out the guy sitting in the first row, right behind the catcher. At the time of the pitch, he’s making casual conversation with someone seated to his right. Then he hears the crack of the bat and turns to look toward the field. No biggie, guy in the first row. You only missed the fifth-fastest pitch hit for a homer all season long. I’m sure you’ll see a faster one tomorrow.

(4) Colby Rasmus, April 21, vs. Kelvin Herrera

video highlight

99.3 miles per hour

I was going to talk about Colby Rasmus’ smooth, easy power. Look at the way he turns on this heater and blasts it way out to right-center field. There are players who could homer off this pitch, but there are far fewer players who could look this good and talented doing it. Rasmus, as always, just oozes ability. That’s what I was going to talk about, but then I realized that’s what the Blue Jays’ announcers talked about, and every morning when I wake up I make it my day’s mission to have as little in common with the Blue Jays’ announcers as possible. So instead in this paragraph I’m going to talk about something else.

(3) Edwin Encarnacion, April 21, vs. Kelvin Herrera

video highlight

99.5 miles per hour

The catcher’s body language. This was not a really good half-inning for Kelvin Herrera.

(2) Jose Lopez, June 13, vs. Aroldis Chapman

video highlight

100.2 miles per hour

Listen to the Indians’ broadcasters. Look at Ryan Hanigan. You’d almost think this wasn’t a solo home run to narrow the score from 5-2 to 5-3 with two outs in the top of the ninth and a nigh-unhittable pitcher on the mound. In fairness to the frustrated Hanigan, Chapman threw a 1-and-2 fastball right down the very middle of the plate. In fairness to Chapman, it was Jose Lopez. Lopez and Matt Dominguez accounted for half of the home runs that Chapman allowed in 2012. This is your daily reminder that even the worst players in major-league baseball are so much better than you at baseball that they’re probably better than you at most other things too. Make all the fun of Jose Lopez that you want. Jose Lopez is more talented at what he does than you are at what you do, probably. Think about that. Jose Lopez is amazing! He’s just a little less amazing than the people who are the very most amazing.

Hanigan’s reaction just kills me. Every single time. And the guy standing in the first row behind him.

(1) Tyler Greene, May 21, vs. Andrew Cashner

video highlight

100.5 miles per hour

As a St. Louis Cardinal, on May 21, Tyler Greene slugged the fastest pitch hit for a home run all season. As a Houston Astro, on August 11, Tyler Greene waited on and slugged the slowest pitch hit for a home run all season. For a week, I’ve been thinking about how I ought to talk about this. What I came up with is basically unpublishable. Tyler Greene may be the first player to ever do this throughout baseball history, and while that’s something we’ll never be able to confirm, it’s the stuff of legends, and to think that Greene did it as a member of two different teams within the same division. If Greene goes on to become something extraordinary, people will remember this, and people will talk about this. If Greene doesn’t go on to become something extraordinary, he’s already done something extraordinary, which in a way is just as good. My official response to Tyler Greene: holy crap, baseball. Just, holy crap. Baseball is nuts.


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