The 2012 Season In Low Home Runs

I suppose this doesn’t really need much of an introduction. The season is over, and we have all the data. I’m particularly interested in things that happened at the extremes. At the end of September, I wrote up The 2012 Season In Inside Home Runs. That showed the most inside pitches that were hit for home runs. A week ago, I wrote up The 2012 Season In Outside Home Runs. That showed the most outside pitches that were hit for home runs. Now I’m going to show the lowest pitches that were hit for home runs. I bet you can’t guess what comes next in the series!

The thing about all of these pitches, incidentally, is that they were balls. They were really actually strikes — home runs are strikes — but they were destined to be balls, perhaps even intended to be balls, until the batters swung at them and hit them for dingers. Plate discipline is hard to teach for a number of reasons, I’m sure. Any sort of teaching is hard. But one of the reasons is probably that professional hitters are very confident, and not all swings at balls turn out bad. Sometimes they turn out good, allowing one to believe they might always turn out good. “I can punish anything even close to the plate,” one might believe. “I can punish anything even if it isn’t close to the plate at all,” the #1 hitter on this list definitely believes.

We’ve got us a top five. Or if you prefer, a bottom five! (low-pitches joke) (haha) As usual, PITCHf/x didn’t record every single pitch of the entire season, so there exists some possibility that a worthy inclusion has been excluded. Said possibility is small and there’s a comments section down there if you have a question about something. The average pitch hit for a home run this year was 2.51 feet off the ground at the front of the plate. That’s pretty much right in the middle of the strike zone. The standard deviation was about 0.48 feet. Three standard deviations below the mean is 1.06 feet. Two pitches at least that low were hit for home runs. Let’s proceed.

(5) James Loney, August 30, vs. Zack Greinke

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1.13 feet off the ground

The first pitch of this at-bat was a curveball just off the outer edge for a called strike. The second pitch of this at-bat was a curveball just below the lower edge for a called strike. The third pitch of this at-bat was a slider well off the plate down and in that James Loney slugged for a home run. Today I learned that James Loney has hit four career home runs in 0-and-2 counts. Today I learned that James Loney has hit four career home runs.

(4) Yoenis Cespedes, June 5, vs. Derek Holland

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1.12 feet off the ground

The first pitch of this at-bat was a hanging curveball that Cespedes took for a called strike. The second pitch of this at-bat was a low curveball out of the zone that Cespedes mashed for a dinger. There are a lot of things that could sum up Yoenis Cespedes. This paragraph is one of them.

(3) Pablo Sandoval, September 20, vs. Edgmer Escalona

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1.11 feet off the ground

0-and-2 count, fifth pitch of the at-bat, fifth swing by Pablo Sandoval. The first four pitches were all fastballs over the outer half. The fifth pitch was nothing like those. The fifth pitch left the yard in fair territory. I don’t know about you but given the benefit of hindsight I feel pretty strongly that Edgmer Escalona should’ve thrown a different pitch here. Maybe a fastball over the outer half.

(2) Pablo Sandoval, September 19, vs. Tyler Chatwood

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1.06 feet off the ground

This pitch is basically the same as the pitch above. During the regular season the Giants hit 31 home runs at home. You’ve just seen two of them, back-to-back on the list, and they were hit on back-to-back days, by the same player, against the same team, against pitchers of the same handedness, against more or less the same pitches. Baseball’s weird. Reminder paragraph.

Sandoval fell behind in the count here 0-and-2, as he does sometimes. Chatwood came with a slider.

Sandoval took it. Chatwood came with another slider.

Sandoval swung at it and homered. We may reasonably conclude:

According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, by speed off the bat, these last two were two of the three weakest home runs hit in San Francisco all season. Still good enough for this lady:

Note the use of “babies”, and not “baby”. This lady will have multiple little Pablos. All because Pablo Sandoval once hit a home run off of Tyler Chatwood in a game that meant basically nothing. Have fun explaining that to your unpopular daughters.

(1) Delmon Young, September 2, vs. Chris Sale

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0.96 feet off the ground

What were you expecting? What, seriously, were you expecting? This is exactly what you were expecting. About 1.2 percent of the time, the ball jumps off Delmon Young’s bat every time. It’s not that Chris Sale’s plan of attack was wrong. It’s that sometimes it’s hard to execute a good plan of attack against a guy who doesn’t have a plan at all. Delmon Young is never changing, and results like this are why.

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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.

35 Responses to “The 2012 Season In Low Home Runs”

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  1. Joe O says:

    That Delmon Young HR infuriated me. Sale makes a very nice pitch, low, and Young flings his bat at it for a HR. Sucks when bad luck happens to great young pitchers. Phil Humber, sure, but Sale? It was painful.

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    • Tomcat says:

      Imagine how Chatwood felt considering how few 0-2 counts he had last year

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    • MikeS says:

      I know. The plan against Young is “throw three pitches nowhere near the strike zone, move on to the next hitter.” Sale executes the plan perfectly and this is his reward. Heck, you could try to bean him in frustration and he’d swing at it.

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      • Jeff says:

        The problem with Sale’s pitch was that was about the third or fourth pitch he threw in nearly the exact same location. In that instance even Delmon Young could figure out the game plan against him.

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    • Eminor3rd says:

      Me too, man. I remember just throwing up my hands in frustration. What a BS homerun.

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    • BookWorm says:

      Bad process, good result for Young. Good process, bad result for Sale. Baseball IS weird!

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  2. deadpool says:

    Wonder how close Heyward came to this list, he went down and got a few off his shoe tops this year that looked like they were headed for the dirt.

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    • deadpool says:

      Also, I’d be curious if you looked at handedness for the top 100 like you did with inside/outside. I’d always heard right handed swings were quicker, and similarly I’d always heard lefties were inherently better low ball hitters.

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  3. Brian says:

    What I was expecting was a top 3 sweep by the Panda. It almost seems like you’re better off throwing a strike to him. I feel like all his home runs are off of pitches he has no business swinging at, let alone homering off of.

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  4. Miguel Cabrera says:

    How am I not on this list? Oh yeah, I know the strike zone and don’t get fooled. Props to Pablo.

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    • Bhaakon says:

      It’s hard to say that they were fooled on balls that were squared up and hit over the fence. If you can spank pitches at that location, why not swing at it?

      With all the batter heat maps floating around, I’d be interested to see a piece on hitters whose “hot zones” correspond least with the strike zone. I’m sure that just about everyone crushes balls down the middle, but I’d be interested to see who crushes balls that aren’t even strikes (if such players exist).

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    • Pablo Sandoval says:

      Thanks for the props… and the ring…

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    • Oasis says:

      Except for those two inside pitches you hit for a homer, including the one furthest inside …

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  5. Bryz says:

    Concerning HR #4, I was hoping the announcer was going to say, “And that ball is gone to Barbeque Terrace!”

    Almost as catchy as Souvenir City.

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  6. O's Fan says:

    Was completely expecting to see Chris Davis on this list. Man does he like a pitch down and in.

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  7. Jon L. says:

    “About 1.2 percent of the time, the ball jumps off Delmon Young’s bat every time.”

    More like this, please. Also, I can’t believe he hit that out.

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  8. Tim says:

    I presume when it says “we will name our babies after you” it means one apiece. What do you know about these ladies that we don’t?

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  9. Pablo says:

    You can walk off that island, when you don’t need to run.

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  10. William says:

    What about pablo’s 3rd home run in the world series?

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  11. BenH says:

    I think you made a copy/paste error in your link to your outside homers story.

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  12. Jeremy Affeldt gave up a HR to that Quentin guy on the Padres earlier this season that I was amazed he even made contact with, let alone hit for a HR to dead center @Petco @night, in a game eventually won on a Forsythe walkoff HR, June 5th. First of his career, iirc.

    Anyhow, that pitch from Afflak looked like it was at the ankles. Interested to see how low that one was

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  13. James d. says:

    I remember watching the James Loney replays, I think, on MLB Network. Baffling home run, and if there were ever a highlight reel of “Unlucky Zack Greinke,” that homer would have to be on it.

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    • ben says:

      seriously. there’s something about James Loney hitting a home run off of Zack Greinke that just does not compute.

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  14. Anthony says:

    I thought this was going to be about low line drive home runs, ha.

    If it was my vote would have to be for Trumbo’s off Holland 7/21/12

    Hyperlink Code

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