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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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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