The 2013 Season In High Home Runs

If you’ve been following this series from the start, then this post doesn’t need any introduction. If you haven’t, you’re probably not starting now, so this post doesn’t need any introduction. If this counts as an introduction, then, I’m certain that it’s entirely unnecessary. If this doesn’t count as an introduction, then, what does it count as? “A waste of my time,” is probably a popular suggestion.

Here are the first three installments, from earlier in the week:

This post will do what the others did — it will document the highest pitches of the 2013 season that were hit for home runs. It would seem that that would close the books on a neat and tidy four-part series. Yet this could be expanded by taking into account each hitter’s personal strike zone, to come up with relative pitch height. Then we could have new lowest home runs, and new highest home runs, depending on how the numbers shook out. I’m not sure why I didn’t do it that way from the beginning, but I didn’t, and here I am today writing this, and I suppose the upside is I’ve left for myself future content ideas, as a result of my own sloppiness. That’s what writers like to call a “trade secret”.

Per usual, it’s going to be a top-five list, with screenshots and links to video. Help was provided by Baseball Savant and the ESPN Home Run Tracker. As noted previously, the average pitch hit for a homer last year was 2.51 feet off the ground at the front of the plate, and the standard deviation was about 0.49, so the point three standard deviations above the mean is 3.97. All of the following home runs were hit against pitches higher than that. The only conclusion we can draw from this is that the entire field of statistical probability is a steaming pile of stinky beans. You’re throwing your time away, mathemagicians.

Just missing the list: a pitch thrown by Boone Logan to Prince Fielder on April 5, a pitch thrown by Drew Pomeranz to Paul Goldschmidt on July 6, and a pitch thrown by Sergio Santos to Mark Reynolds on April 3. Maybe you’re sad that you won’t get to see Paul Goldschmidt. I have good news! Maybe you’re sad that you won’t get to see Mark Reynolds. I don’t have good news. I do have this list, starting now.

(5) James Loney, July 26, vs. Adam Warren

video highlight

loney5

4.06 feet off the ground

As with a homer earlier in this post series, if you click on the video highlight, you see it tagged with Michelin Longest Drives. According to the Home Run Tracker, the homer had a calculated distance of 352 feet, 45 feet below the MLB average. It was tied for Loney’s shortest home run of the season, and it was the weakest as measured by speed off bat. It’s that kind of careful attention to detail that’s allowed Michelin to become the industry leader in the field of whatever they suck at. I don’t know, I haven’t done the research, that’s too detailed for me. I don’t ever worry about details. That’s how I was promoted to president of Michelin!

(4) Evan Gattis, April 13, vs. Stephen Strasburg

video highlight

gattis4

4.06 feet off the ground

Evan Gattis homered in his big-league debut, and he homered against Roy Halladay, but Halladay was pretty clearly pitching as a shell of his former self. Shortly thereafter, Gattis homered again, but he homered against Wade LeBlanc. Then he homered again, but he homered against Alex Sanabia. A few days later, he did this to Stephen Strasburg. The fastball was out of the zone, it left the hand at 96 miles per hour, and a bare-handed Gattis simply clubbed the pitch nine miles, or some distance less than that. This was when Gattis really and truly announced his presence as a big-leaguer to worry about. The Evan Gattis story is still being written, but this home run probably takes up a chapter. After this, Evan Gattis wasn’t just an idea anymore.

(3) Paul Goldschmidt, September 24, vs. Tyson Ross

video highlight

goldschmidt3

4.07 feet off the ground

The third-highest pitch hit for a homer, and Goldschmidt hit it to the opposite field, in Petco Park. And Ross threw the pitch almost 96 miles per hour, which, when elevated, has an even greater perceived velocity to the hitter. Something I’ve learned from making a whole bunch of .gifs and screenshots is that catchers routinely close their eyes when the ball is arriving, so Nick Hundley isn’t actually doing anything weird above, but it’s fun to imagine that this is how catchers respond when Paul Goldschmidt initiates his swing mechanics. It’s like when you can watch the fuse burn down on a cannon you’re right next to. You know, like when you’re in war?

The pitch, incidentally, was thrown in an 0-and-2 count. Here’s where Hundley set up:

goldschmidt3hundley

“Not a bad miss,” said the operator of a medieval trebuchet.

(2) Brian McCann, August 2, vs. Ethan Martin

video highlight

mccann2

4.07 feet off the ground

Click through to that video highlight. As you watch it, you’ll know that this was the second-highest pitch hit for a home run of the year. You’ll probably be expecting something that looks extreme. Yet McCann looks totally comfortable, the swing looks normally powerful, and the homer doesn’t seem particularly insane at full speed. It only looks crazy in retrospect, because it turns out home runs are selective for swings that worked well against pitches that got barreled up. Here’s Brian McCann making something remarkable look ordinary. This is the reverse of his on-field defensive persona.

(1) Alex Rios, April 24, vs. Zach McAllister

video highlight

rios1

4.30 feet off the ground

First thing I notice: against a hitter as tall and straight-up as Rios, an extremely high homer pitch looks like a regular high homer pitch. Second thing I notice: just how many people are paying absolutely zero attention. Even the mascot literally has its back turned, making polite conversation with a man leaning down over the tunnel. We don’t pay for entertainment. We pay for opportunities to be removed from locations of anxiety. The ballpark is a safe space, regardless of what’s going on on the field. The experience is simply about being there. Team attendance doesn’t reflect team success or entertainment value. It just tells us which populations are the most and least stressed out. Seems like Miami’s a pretty chill city.




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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.


23 Responses to “The 2013 Season In High Home Runs”

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  1. Eric F says:

    The awesome thing about that Rios homer is that a guy like Pedroia would be looking up or at eye level with that ball.

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  2. Anon21 says:

    Knew Gattis was gonna make this list. That homer was really something.

    Tangentially related: everyone seems to want to bury him as an everyday catcher because he had a .291 OBP last year. I know we saber types love OBP and that .291 is no good, but when you’re saying a catcher can’t play because of his bat based on a year in which he put up a 110 wRC+, you need to think long and hard about what the point of batting actually is.

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    • deadpool says:

      Not to go too far astray here, but I saw similar things said about a former Braves RFer. If you swing at bad pitches then you don’t get good pitches, so in extended play time the question will become, “can Gattis’s ability to hit pitcher’s pitches outweigh the fact that he gets relatively few hitter’s pitches?” I think its an open question, but there’s a real possibility the Even Gattis who goes forward looks more like his second half 84 wRC+ than his first half 146 wRC+. It probably won’t come down to patience so much as whether he can make enough contact to hit .260+

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      • Anon21 says:

        I think that’s a legitimate concern. I was just responding to the reflexive (e.g., Paul Swydan, in last night’s After Dark Chat) “.291 OBP = not a regular” stuff you see around here sometimes. The overall line he put up last season is more than playable, it’s a solidly above-average regular when combined with good framing and slightly below-average footwork and receiving skills. If you’re going to use one offensive number to sum up a player’s season, it clearly should not be OBP.

        But yeah, the word is definitely out that he crushes fastballs, so the real question is whether he can do what he did last year again this year against pitchers who will refuse to challenge him.

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  3. SprayingMantis says:

    I remember Mark Reynolds hitting one in the first series of the year in Toronto that looked like it was at eye level. He must be about 4’8″ tall.

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  4. Max says:

    Hey, President of Michelin — your video (which should never have been added) is advertising for your competition (Hankook). Nicely done.

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  5. bc2208 says:

    McAllister is 6’6” which also contributes to the perspective.

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  6. Ryan says:

    “Seems like Miami‚Äôs a pretty chill city.”

    Sure looks like Chicago to me.

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  7. Fister? says:

    It would be interesting to see the highest pitch hit for a homer in relation to the particular hitter’s body. It might be the Gattis shot, but maybe Altuve hit one out at his neck or something.

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  8. Nick O says:

    Where was the damn Hawk Harrelson warning on #1?

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  9. Baltic Fox Has Cold Paws says:

    Hey, Michelin still makes good tires. The French have to be good at something besides making cheese, wine and razors. Not to mention beautiful actresses.

    But I digress, as usual. What I love about this series is that when you see major leaguers chase low balls, high balls, etc., and still knock one out of the park, it makes me feel better about my youth.

    How many times when I played in a rec league did I receive the comment from a team mate: “How could you swing at a pitch like that?”

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