The hardest thing about writing is the writing. The other hardest thing about writing is finding ideas. Without an idea, you’ve got nowhere to put your words, and sometimes baseball doesn’t cooperate by providing an abundance of discussable topics. As I write this, nothing’s going on. Maybe Ervin Santana got a phone call, or maybe his agent did, but maybe not, and we’ll definitely never know. Even the executives have probably been thinking about the Super Bowl.
So here’s an official tip of the cap to content recycling. Who needs a new idea when you can just use an old idea over again? At the end of the 2012 regular season, inspired by Erick Aybar, I wrote a post about the year’s most inside pitches slammed for home runs. As it turned out, the pitch to Aybar that got me thinking didn’t make the list, and it didn’t even come real close to making the list, but a list was still made and it was fun and informative. And now we’ve had a whole other regular season since! So what’s the harm in exploring 2013’s most inside pitches slammed for home runs? That’s what follows, in the familiar form of a top-five.
All the information is taken from PITCHf/x, of course. Well I’ll also probably end up taking some information from the ESPN Home Run Tracker. The ideal, as you can imagine, would be having a measure of the distance between the pitched ball and the batter himself. Different batters, after all, stand in different places, at different distances from home plate. But we don’t have that data, so we’ll make do how we can, and if you find this to be an outrage, I would like to read about you but not interact with you. You’re interesting! On paper.
All five of the following home runs were hit by right-handed batters. Just like a year ago. Of the 100 most inside pitches hit for dingers, 78 were hit by righties, and a year ago that number was 88. It could be that righties stand further from the plate than lefties do. It could be that righties are pitched differently than lefties are. It could be that righties are selected for their abilities to hit inside, while lefties are selected for their abilities to hit outside. It could be all this and/or more. What I can tell you is that righties dominate this category. You can elect to try to make sense of that. You’re a free person, and this is America.
Onward. Three homers just missing: a pitch from Corey Kluber to Miguel Cabrera, a pitch from Kyle Kendrick to Ryan Zimmerman, and a pitch from Tanner Scheppers to Miguel Cabrera. Get used to seeing the name Miguel Cabrera.
1.45 feet from the middle of the plate
It wasn’t a bad two-strike pitch from Edwin Jackson, and Molina just did a good job of dropping the barrel down and keeping his hands in. But who knows how this at-bat would have gone were it not for an earlier pitch in the sequence?
Give Jackson that pitch and maybe everything afterward changes. And then we’d have a completely different No. 5 home run on this list! And we would very literally not know what we were missing. Ultimately, Jackson’s a wealthy young multimillionaire, so it’s like, he probably deserves to get screwed at his job from time to time, am I right?
1.50 feet from the middle of the plate
This was the Mariners’ fourth game of the season, and this was Morse’s fourth home run of the season. He hit No. 6 in game No. 9. The rest of the way he hit seven dingers while slugging .332. I’d say that’s so Mariners, but everything depressing seems so Mariners so it doesn’t really pack much of a punch.
(3) Miguel Cabrera, July 21, vs. James Shields
1.54 feet from the middle of the plate
Do you like pictures that have something to do with Miguel Cabrera? I hope you like pictures that have something to do with Miguel Cabrera, because there aren’t going to be any more of not-those. The three most inside pitches hit for home runs in 2013 were all slugged by Miguel Cabrera, and while you might think that means pitchers can try to pitch him away instead, no, don’t bother, he destroys those pitches too, he destroys everything. He’s a destroyer. Here comes more destruction after I hit enter.
(2) Miguel Cabrera, May 4, vs. Lucas Harrell
1.75 feet from the middle of the plate
Following the home run, the Tigers’ color guy talked about how he figured Cabrera would be looking for that pitch, since in spring training Harrell threw it to him a few times with great success. The idea was that Cabrera would be looking for it, and therefore Cabrera would hit it for a home run. I think what’s more likely is that Miguel Cabrera was facing Lucas Harrell, and then the predictable outcome happened, but it is tempting to believe that Cabrera can just hit dingers whenever he’s prepared, because it sure does feel that way sometimes.
(1) Miguel Cabrera, August 10, vs. Phil Hughes
1.88 feet from the middle of the plate
There’s nothing I could write that could beat this:
Hughes was ahead in the count. He threw exactly the pitch he wanted to. Most hitters hit that pitch maybe a max of 90 feet. Cabrera hit it 376. This was a homer that had people buzzing for days, because as easy as Cabrera made it look, it was nothing short of extraordinary. Glance at the video and it’s just a home run that left the park on a line. Pay a little closer attention and, in some time, it’ll dawn on you that this just doesn’t happen to this pitch. This pitch hits Carlos Quentin. Cabrera got to jog around the bases.
Fun fact: Cabrera topped the 2012 list, slamming a pitch 1.73 feet from the middle of the plate. Cabrera bested that in 2013, twice. In theory, one wouldn’t like that Cabrera posts higher-than-average rates of swings at pitches out of the strike zone, but those swings are different for Cabrera than they are for most other players. For most players, the strike zone more or less captures the area in which they can hit pitches hard. For Cabrera, it’s simply an arbitrary rectangle.
In sum: Miguel Cabrera is amazing. The most inside pitch hit for a home run by a lefty was 1.17 feet from the middle of the plate, and it was hit by Domonic Brown off Kris Medlen on July 7. You’ve also got Justin Morneau going deep off Matt Harvey on April 13. That’s a home run that really happened, in a regular-season baseball game, and still some people ignore the traps of a small sample size.
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