- FanGraphs Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs -

The 2012 Season In Outside Home Runs

Toward the very end of the regular season, I wrote a post entitled The 2012 Season In Inside Home Runs. It was what it claimed to be — it highlighted the most inside pitches to be hit for home runs, as determined by PITCHf/x. Though the season wasn’t yet completely over, nothing about the post would be different now. No extremely inside pitch was hit for a home run the rest of the way.

At the time, it looked like the post might mark the beginning of a series. Here we continue the series, because I am a man who keeps his promises, or what might be interpreted by some as promises. In this part two, we’ll look at the most outside pitches to be hit for home runs, as determined by PITCHf/x. Now, PITCHf/x didn’t properly capture every single pitch of the entire season, which means PITCHf/x didn’t properly capture every single home run of the entire season, but it captured nearly all of them. I’m pretty confident the list that follows is right on.

It was observed, after the inside-pitch post, that all six featured home runs were hit by righties. That seemed too strange to be a coincidence, but it was most certainly a coincidence. This post is going to feature five home runs, and four of them were hit by lefties. Curious, I looked at the 100 most inside home runs, and the 100 most outside home runs. That 100 was selected arbitrarily, but it’s a good-looking number. Now, right-handed batters accounted for 58 percent of all home runs hit this season. Of the 100 most inside home runs, 88 were hit by righties. Of the 100 most outside home runs, 25 were hit by righties. It isn’t impossible that this is a coincidence, but a likely contributing factor is that left-handed batters tend to get pitched more away, especially by right-handed pitchers. More outside pitches means more opportunities for outside home runs. It’s also possible that lefties in the majors are more able to drive outside pitches, since a lefty who can’t might get exposed right quick. Right now I’m speculating. The numbers are earlier in this paragraph.

So we’ll move on to the five most outside home runs of the year. An inside home run is impressive, because the batter can get all the way around on the ball. An outside home run is differently impressive, because it requires tremendous early bat speed. Every hitter is probably capable of pulling a home run, but not every hitter is probably capable of drilling a home run on an outside pitch. The most ideal thing to do would be to calculate the distance between the pitch and the batter’s body, but since we can’t do that, we’ll go with the distance between the pitch and the center of the plate. Onward.

(5) Chase Utley, September 5, vs. Mike Leake

video highlight

1.25 feet from the middle of the plate

The other four home runs on this list were all hit to the opposite field. This Utley home run was his least-pulled home run of the year, but it was still sort of pulled, even though the pitch was well outside. This is why it would be helpful to have the distance between the pitch and the batter’s body, because look at where Utley is standing in the image. He’s on the inner edge of the box, and one understands now how Utley gets hit by so many pitches. Between 2007-2009, Utley led the league in HBPs each year. In 2010 he started suffering from injuries. Left-handed batters seldom get pitched inside, but when they do, the pitch hits Chase Utley.

(4) Jason Heyward, May 11, vs. Kyle McClellan

video highlight

1.29 feet from the middle of the plate

(3) Nelson Cruz, July 27, vs. Chris Sale

video highlight

1.29 feet from the middle of the plate

With the other four home runs in this list, we see the pitchers wheel around after contact to watch the batted ball in flight. Here’s Chris Sale after Cruz’s contact:

It was the bottom of the first inning, and the score was 1-1. Against Cruz, Sale missed away with a first-pitch slider that Cruz took. He missed away with a second-pitch changeup that Cruz took. He missed away with a third-pitch fastball, but Cruz swung at it and killed it to right-center field. The pitch was, without question, a ball, with runners on and the count 2-and-0. Cruz probably shouldn’t have swung at it. But he swung at it and he hit a home run off it. So, should Cruz have swung after all? Every batter, in certain situations, will look dead-red. Every batter will have a different idea of just what that means.

(2) Mark Teixeira, April 21, vs. Matt Albers

video highlight

1.30 feet from the middle of the plate

According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, this fly ball gained 27 feet of distance from the wind, and under standard environmental conditions it would have left exactly zero ballparks. It left one ballpark, and it turned a 9-5 game into a 9-8 game. This was a game the Red Sox had led 9-0 going into the sixth. The Red Sox would go on to lose 15-9. The Yankees scored once in the sixth, seven times in the seventh, and seven times in the eighth. The Red Sox dropped to 4-10, and that early there were questions about Bobby Valentine‘s job security. Then the Red Sox won six games in a row and everything was back to normal. Then the Red Sox played inconsistently and eventually started to suck and Bobby Valentine lost his job. That game on April 21 was quite the baseball game.

(1) Shin-Soo Choo, August 5, vs. Max Scherzer

video highlight

1.43 feet from the middle of the plate

This was the most outside pitch hit for a home run all season long. It was hit to left field by Choo in a full count against Scherzer. The pitch was a fastball in the mid-90s. It was located in just about the same place as the first pitch of the at-bat, which was a fastball in the mid-90s. That first-pitch fastball was called a strike. Just going to stop here and let you think about that one.