When you’ve got something that lends itself to a series, you might as well just complete the whole series. In recycling an old idea, I just wrote about the most inside pitches hit for home runs during the 2013 season. The natural follow-up, then, is to write about the most outside pitches hit for home runs during the 2013 season, so that’s what’s going to be below, because that’s the way these things work. Later on, we’ll find the lowest pitches and the highest pitches hit for dingers, and then we’ll move on. Or we’ll take the series deeper somehow. I don’t know, but we’ll find out.
I mentioned in the earlier post that the overwhelming majority of inside pitches hit for dingers were hit by righties. Correspondingly, the overwhelming majority of outside pitches hit for dingers were hit by lefties. Of the 100 most outside pitches hit out this past season, 69 were hit by lefties and 31 were hit by righties. The numbers are closer to being even than they were a year ago, but they clearly are still not even, and my presumption is that lefties get pitched outside more often, and also stand closer to the plate, perhaps because they get pitched outside more often. We know that the left-handed strike zone is shifted more away, so everything else follows. If we had data about pitch distance from batter bodies, that could tell us a bit more, but we don’t have that and maybe never will. What we’ve got is pitch location relative to the plate. So. That’s how this is all sorted.
It’s going to be a top-five list, and unlike the last top-five list, this one doesn’t include Miguel Cabrera and it certainly doesn’t include him three times in a row. Cabrera can hit pitches thrown anywhere, but inside pitches are his particular specialty, at least when it comes to hitting home runs. Below are five different batters, four of them left-handed. Three of the featured home runs are jokes! Even the worst out-of-the-park home run is a ball that was hit pretty hard, but I have standards for dingers and some of the dingers you see in Houston and New York are completely underwhelming. But they all count the same, so they all count here the same.
And I’ll note before we proceed that home runs on outside pitches are impressive just because of the physics of them. Probably every hitter in baseball is capable of pulling a ball 350 feet to 400 feet. I don’t know about doing that on a pitch away because that requires tremendous strength and/or bat speed. So even a weak home run on a pitch away is still a good batted-ball result, so I shouldn’t be so critical. At the end of the day the players are all incredible specimens and I couldn’t hit a grapefruit with a sofa cushion.
Just missing the top five: a pitch from Jeremy Hellickson to Chris Davis on April 3, a pitch from Lucas Harrell to Jed Lowrie on April 7, and a pitch from Brett Marshall to Raul Ibanez on May 15. Now for the winners, all incidentally from July or August. These five homers were all hit within a span of six weeks; that’s six weeks that included the All-Star break. Maybe there’s something to be said about summer temperatures. Or maybe there’s nothing to be said about anything.
1.20 feet from the middle of the plate
On MLB.com, this highlight is tagged as a Michelin Longest Drive. Wallace dropped the ball into the boxes down the left-field line. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, it went 344 feet. It was the shortest home run in baseball that day. Wallace even hit another home run, four innings later. According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, it went 350 feet.
1.26 feet from the middle of the plate
Like Wallace, Seager dropped this homer into the boxes down the left-field line. It was given a calculated distance of 342 feet, and it was the shortest home run in baseball that day. I’m not saying this series of posts has a lot of integrity, but home runs such as this one kind of spoil what integrity there is. Well there I go being critical again. Maybe this is just my natural state. Or maybe it just isn’t right to be okay with stupid terrible home runs.
1.29 feet from the middle of the plate
Wells hit this ball to the American League East equivalent of Houston’s boxes down the left-field line. It was given a calculated distance of 344 feet. It was the third-shortest home run in baseball that day. The two shorter ones had distances of 342 and 339 feet, and those also were hit in the same game to right field in Yankee Stadium. This was the only home run Wells hit after May 15, in more than 300 plate appearances.
1.32 feet from the middle of the plate
After a trio of pretty mediocre home runs, this one from Francisco works as an effective palate-cleanser. Francisco didn’t even make it look like a struggle; he just extended his arms and blasted the crap out of the ball to the left side of center. It was a smooth, long, deliberate swing that allowed Francisco to best the nearly-unbestable AT&T Park. Also that same swing is basically Juan Francisco’s whole problem. But it’s not a problem literally 100% of the time, and, sometimes, holy cow.
1.51 feet from the middle of the plate
This pitch actually left the hand around 68 miles per hour, which helps to explain how Rasmus was able to do what he did and power the ball 424 feet to straightaway center. The ball, when hit, might’ve been within the right-handed batter’s box, but Colby Rasmus isn’t Colby Rasmus by accident. Hitters who swing at these pitches do so because every so often they’re able to punish these pitches. Almost always not often enough, but if Rasmus were more disciplined, we wouldn’t have this home run. And then we wouldn’t have this screenshot!
That is a very upset Pat Neshek, whose team was now winning only 14-6.
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