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The 2012 Season In Slow Home Runs

A little over two weeks ago, I wrote up The 2012 Season In High Home Runs. That concluded a four-part home-runs-by-pitch-location series, but of course, pitch-location data isn’t the only data that we have, and there are other extremes to explore. Given that it’s late on Friday and R.A. Dickey hasn’t been traded yet, I think, I figured now would be a good time to mess around again with something similar. So now we’re going to look at the slowest pitches hit for home runs during the 2012 season.

Which makes you think the title here should be different, since this seems to suggest we’re going to look at the home runs that were the slowest off the bat, according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker. That would indeed be a thing to look at, but that’s not what’s happening here, and it’s only titled this way to be consistent with the other home-run entries. The headline is already up there and there’s nothing I can do about it now. Once a word is entered on a computer, it cannot be erased by any means with which I’m familiar.

Our top-five list is a top-six list, because there’s a tie for the fifth spot, or for the sixth spot, depending on your preference. I could’ve just left one of them off, and you probably never would have known, but I’m an honest, forthcoming kind of guy, and I would never attempt to deceive you for the sake of my own convenience. We’re limited here by two things, both having to do with PITCHf/x: for one, PITCHf/x didn’t capture every single pitch of the season, and for two, PITCHf/x velocity readings aren’t thought to be 100% accurate. There could be mathematical shenanigans afoot. But in the event of such misleading information, know that it wouldn’t be presented that way intentionally. Because, remember, honest and forthcoming. I want you to know what I know, reader of FanGraphs.

The slowest pitch hit for a home run this season might have been faster than the fastest pitch you could be capable of throwing. That would apply to at least some of you. Does that mean that at least some of you could pitch in the major leagues without ever surrendering an out-of-the-park homer? Based on the data I think the answer is irrefutably yes. Congratulations on being big-league caliber, and reverse congratulations on being under-appreciated. There’s a market inefficiency for the woefully unathletic. Someday you’ll be discovered, someday.

Here we go. Two pitchers, you’ll see twice. Only a small fraction of pitchers occasionally hang out toward this end of the velocity spectrum. If I had to guess, I’d say you’ve heard of all the pitchers shown here. “Wow, how did he know that?” you just exclaimed. Send me a $20 Paypal donation to find out my secret!

(5t) Corey Hart, August 31, vs. Jeff Karstens

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67.3 miles per hour

1-and-2 count, by the way. This hanging curveball was thrown up there in a 1-and-2 count. My favorite part is the catcher getting up like “daaammmnnnnn“. But the part I can’t stop thinking about is Jeff Karstens’ reaction. The ball was hit to Karstens’ arm side. Karstens watched it in flight — not interesting — but only after turning to his glove side. Karstens turned in…I’m not going to call it the “wrong” direction, but the unusual direction. Why did Jeff Karstens do that? It’s not like I could ask him, since this is the sort of thing no one remembers doing. It would be like asking you about the last time you put your toothbrush in your medicine cabinet. But Karstens turned first to the side without a baseball on it. Chalk that up as just another thing that’s kind of weird about Jeff Karstens.

(5t) Aaron Hill, June 29, vs. Randy Wolf

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67.3 miles per hour

Kottaras: low curve
Kottaras: low curve
Kottaras: low curve
Wolf: /high curve
Hill: /ding dong
Kottaras: I wanted a low curve
Wolf: I didn’t hear the low part
Kottaras: I didn’t say the low part
I signaled the low part
Wolf: oh
Wolf: oh is that what you’re doing

(4) Scott Hairston, June 15, vs. Bronson Arroyo

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66.9 miles per hour

Can’t stop watching that one guy in the upper left. Tried. Can’t stop. Can’t stop watching him. You got ’em all beat, buddy!

As a pitcher, when you get away with a slow curve like this, you feel kind of wicked and clever. When it gets pummeled, because it’s basically just a lob intended to trick the best hitters on the planet, you’re overcome with disgust and regret. Just ask Bronson Arroyo, immediately afterward.

The ball hit the facing of the second deck and returned to the field of play, as if in some way it was haunting Bronson Arroyo. Usually, when you give up a home run, at least the ball is gone and shortly forgotten. This ball tried to go all the way back where it started. I wonder if all of Bronson Arroyo’s home run balls do this? I wonder if Bronson Arroyo has had just the one same home run ball all along? If so he should probably stop throwing it.

(3) Danny Valencia, September 22, vs. Randy Wolf

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66.6 miles per hour

Compare Wolf here to Wolf above. Here, he’s pitching for a different team. But he throws the same pitch, he gets the same result, and he watches it fly out of the same pose. That’s a veteran pose, an experienced pose. That’s the pose of a guy who’s no stranger to the home run. Young guys, they’re more liable to panic. Their home-run responses will be inconsistent. Wolf, he’s got it down to a steady science. From Randy Wolf, you could learn a lot about the art of allowing a dinger.

(2) Brett Lawrie, June 10, vs. Livan Hernandez

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66.0 miles per hour


Boy, that’s a good sign. Him waiting on a breaking ball the way he did and then hammering it. He stayed back on it, didn’t drift forward, and turned on it, and more importantly Villanueva could just jog around the bases.

“more importantly”

(1) Tyler Greene, August 11, vs. Livan Hernandez

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65.7 miles per hour

And, as with Randy Wolf, we see Livan Hernandez twice, pitching for two different teams. I can’t imagine why these guys weren’t held onto. What I think is most remarkable here is how we see Greene literally waiting on the pitch to arrive. He plants his foot, then he pauses, then he resumes his swing once the ball is a little closer. Usually you expect to see it a little more fluid than that, but Tyler Greene‘s swing was a step function. My conclusion is that Tyler Greene is strong. Tyler Greene has a career .356 big-league slugging percentage. Big-leaguers are so much better than we are. Even Astros big-leaguers.