The Man Who’s as Strong as Giancarlo Stanton

I remember writing an article a few years ago about Michael Bourn. The article was built around something I’d seen on the ESPN Home Run Tracker. I didn’t think of Bourn as being a strong hitter. You don’t think of Bourn as being a strong hitter. I imagine Bourn doesn’t even think of himself as being a strong hitter. But he hit this one home run, off Jeff Suppan in April 2009. According to the website, the homer went 457 feet, which is 31 feet longer than any other Bourn homer in his big-league career. The way I interpreted that, it hinted at Bourn’s absolute power ceiling. He doesn’t spend a lot of time around his ceiling, of course, but you can’t really fake such a big dinger. It was interesting to me, at least — interesting enough that I haven’t forgotten about it.

I was reminded of that research and article by something Peter O’Brien just did.

We’re not used to caring about spring training, but now we have spring training with occasional glimpses from Statcast. And Statcast says O’Brien drilled that home run at 119.5 miles per hour. If you don’t spend a lot of time playing around with Statcast data, that might not mean much to you, but it probably should. Mike Petriello was all over this, and I’ll clip from him:

[…]Yet that’s exactly what happened on Tuesday night in what would eventually become a 7-7 tie between the Giants and Diamondbacks in Scottsdale, as Arizona’s Peter O’Brien’s fourth spring homer wasn’t just a no-doubter, it was the hardest-hit home run of the Statcast™ era.

The Statcast era is very short! If the Statcast era were a human, it wouldn’t be old enough to string together a worthwhile sentence. On the other hand, the era covers the bulk of a full major-league season, and during a season, there’s a lot that happens. Baseball is all about daily repetition. Last year’s hardest-hit home run left Giancarlo Stanton‘s bat at 119.2 miles per hour, assuming the measurements are accurate. That’s what O’Brien just did. O’Brien didn’t just do it in a game that makes any difference, so it might not officially “count,” but it was still a demonstration of skill. The fact that it was an exhibition doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it.

The sample of all home runs is far smaller than the sample of all batted balls. From the same linked leaderboard, last year’s hardest-hit batted ball was 120.3 miles per hour, also coming from Stanton. You could say that gives him an edge over O’Brien, and it wouldn’t be untrue, but if you were to round to the nearest integer, you’ve got both Stanton and O’Brien topping out at 120. It’s a tie, so we’re seeing proof of O’Brien’s raw-power ceiling. If you trust in the Statcast numbers, we know now that O’Brien is as strong as the guy who seems like the strongest hitter in the major leagues.

As I see it, there’s only one flaw with this: By using this information, we can talk only about observed ceilings. We don’t have an infinite sample of batted balls, so it’s possible that Stanton could hit the ball 130 miles per hour with perfect contact. It’s possible O’Brien could do the same. It stands to reason observed ceiling isn’t always the same as actual ceiling, but this is the best we can do for the moment. The full sample we have is pretty big. A whole year of baseball, and O’Brien just hit a ball harder than (almost) anyone.

I’m not worried about small sample sizes. I don’t care that O’Brien has done this only once. Because, as with Bourn, I don’t think of this as luck. It was all a function of bat speed, bat weight, and ball contact. Luck doesn’t play a role, here, any more than it plays a role when a pitcher throws 98. If a pitcher throws a 98 mile-per-hour fastball, we know, then, that the pitcher is capable of throwing a 98 mile-per-hour fastball. We know something about O’Brien, now, and it gives us objective data to pair with more subjective scouting reports.

O’Brien has always been thought of as a strong hitter. Throughout the minors, he was known for his raw strength, and the concerns were contact frequency and defensive position. On the 20 – 80 scale, O’Brien’s raw power has frequently come in around 65 or 70. I’d suggest, after yesterday, that maybe it warrants an 80-grade. You have to be careful with those 80-grade labels, but why shouldn’t O’Brien be deserving? This is raw power, not game power. Raw power is supposed to tell you about a power ceiling. Why should we believe O’Brien doesn’t have as high a power ceiling as anybody?

Statcast can supplement the scouting, and in certain cases, it seems like Statcast can directly give you a scouting evaluation. Right here, we can see Statcast’s utility in determining a raw-power grade. It could also conceivably give you an arm-strength grade, and a speed grade, and so on. It won’t tell you anything about a player’s maturity. It might be difficult to convert Statcast data into an evaluation of a hitter’s ability to come up with a plan and adapt. But, one data point. For some things, one data point might be all you really need.

For O’Brien’s future career, the issue is going to be the frequency with which he taps into his power. Even if you give him that raw-power 80, that doesn’t automatically make a guy millions. O’Brien’s now way up there on the exit-velocity leaderboard, but last year Avisail Garcia topped out at 116.1 miles per hour. Will Venable topped out at 115.2. Carlos Peguero topped out at 116.0. Peguero has forever been recognized for his strength, but because he has issues consistently applying that strength, he hasn’t established himself. Peguero’s problems could be O’Brien’s problems, and at this point, no one expects Peguero to figure it out. Stanton is in part amazing for his strength, but he’s more amazing for how often he can use it. His consistency was absurd.

If O’Brien can achieve a similar level of consistency, he can be as dangerous a power hitter as anyone. Stanton, Bryce Harper, Miguel Sano, Joey Gallo — anyone. O’Brien just proved that in a spring-training game. You might not be wowed by Peter O’Brien’s overall skillset, but if you’re not wowed by his power potential, you’re basically impossible to wow.



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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.


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John Elway
Member
2 months 6 days ago

You’re right Jeff. There is no way to fake a big dinger.

Just neighing.

rbemont
Member
rbemont
2 months 6 days ago

Was just reading about the dispute over Mantle’s 565-ft home run … where physicists have “done the math” and concluded that it was more like 510-515 ft.

Depending on your source, some have Canseco’s SkyDome blast at 540 and McGwire’s kingdome blast at 538-ft.

Given that Canseco and McGwire are both known to have been “aided”, that might be the “human limit” for distance.

—————————————-

Just read an article exploring what the furthest distance a player could hit a baseball.

They basically maxed every aspect. The pitch would need to be 111 mph, batter would need by around 6’8 260 to generate a bat speed of 120 mph, exit speed would be 194 mph at 35-degrees … home run of 748 feet.

Aroldis Chapman vs. Giancarlo Stanton is probably our best chance to test the realistic limits, perhaps even Randy Johnson vs. Adam Dunn a decade ago.

NashvilleSounds
Member
NashvilleSounds
2 months 6 days ago

Lol to the thought of Adam Dunn squaring up a Randy Johnson pitch.

MLB_Nate
Member
MLB_Nate
2 months 6 days ago

Alas, all we have is imagination.
Big Unit vs. Batters

LHPSU
Member
LHPSU
2 months 6 days ago

Adam Dunn vs Randy Johnson:
17 PA, 1 H, 1 BB, 8 SO, 1 HBP (ouch), .067/.176/.067

bcpkid
Member
bcpkid
2 months 5 days ago

McQwire off RJ. Roid powered, but still.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stUolWxG3wo

tz
Member
tz
2 months 5 days ago

So Dunn had fewer homers off RJ than Marcus Thames had after one major-league plate appearance.

Captain Tenneal
Member
Captain Tenneal
2 months 6 days ago

194 MPH off the bat? I think Giancarlo making absolutely perfect contact on his absolute hardest swing at Chapman’s absolute hardest pitch could max out at 150. Maybe. 3/4 the MPH given, so maybe around 3/4 the distance too (seems reasonable that a 97 MPH blast would go about 374 feet) would give 578 feet as the realistic human limit. Obviously my physics estimate is incredibly wrong if anyone wants to chime in with how far a well-angled 150 MPH shot would go.

tz
Member
tz
2 months 6 days ago

At 150 MPH and a 20 degree angle, the ball would go about 654 feet. To go 565 feet, you’d need roughly a 132 MPH exit velocity and a 25 degree angle. Or, if the wind was blowing out at 20 MPH, 120 MPH at a 25 degree angle would also go about 565 feet.

(These all courtesy of Alan Nathan’s trajectory calculator, using default settings for other items like batted-ball spin, etc. Actual results may vary.)

Alan Nathan
Member
Alan Nathan
2 months 5 days ago

A few years ago, I reanalyzed the Mantle Griffith Stadium HR (1953) at the request of Jane Leavy, who was writing here Mantle biography (The Last Boy). She devotes all of Chapter 6 to that HR. My own writeup of the analysis can be found here: http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/mantle565.htm. Unlike other physicists who have looked into this (including Adair in his book), I find 535-540 ft is the likely distance. I had the ball leaving the bat at 113 mph with a 32 degree launch angle, aided by a 20 mph tailwind.

phoenix2042
Member
Member
phoenix2042
2 months 6 days ago

Not that it matters, but I thought this was going to be about how 51 year old Marlins hitting coach Barry Bonds had an impromptu home run derby with Stanton and Yellich, and Bonds smoked them. If not for all that… stuff… in Bonds’s past, I bet he would be an improvement at DH for maybe 5 teams right now?

scotman144
Member
Member
scotman144
2 months 6 days ago

I had the same thought! I looked up Bond’s final season line (age 42) the other day when I was on a tangent. Sweet Sassy Molassy.

Mark Davidson
Member
Member
2 months 6 days ago

If the Statcast era were a human, it wouldn’t be old enough to string together a worthwhile sentence.

haha unless you’re the parents of statcast.

George Resor
Member
2 months 6 days ago

O’brien has actually been doing this for a couple of years. He hit a home run to straight away center in 2014 that I calculated went AT LEAST 440FT. you can see the old blog post on it (http://www.fangraphs.com/community/peter-obriens-raw-power-estimating-batted-ball-velocities-in-the-minor-leagues/).

bsblair
Member
bsblair
2 months 5 days ago

He hit a longer home run last year in a regular season game off of Dallas Keuchel. 471 feet (113.7 mph) on October 2 at Chase Field. According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, only 9 other players hit a longer home run in a regular season game last year. It also happened to be his first major league home run.

Darkstone42
Member
Darkstone42
2 months 5 days ago

I’m going to state the obvious.

#pitchergifs

ProfarMVP
Member
ProfarMVP
2 months 5 days ago

It’s certainly not luck. And no doubt Peter has crazy power.

But if speed guns can be off by 1, 2, 3 mph…what is the margin of error on Statcast? Is that margin of error the same during spring training? Same technology? Same equipment?

I would also remind readers that the humidity in Phoenix was 08% today. Doesn’t a lack of air vapor mean less resistance…enough to make a quarter-percent difference or tenth of a percent, perhaps?

Alan Nathan
Member
Alan Nathan
2 months 5 days ago

Statcast uses the Trackman radar system, which is much more accurate than the hand-held radar guns. Interestingly (maybe), dry air is *more dense* than humid air (a water molecule is less massive than a nitrogen or oxygen molecule). Therefore, all other things equal (temperature, elevation, …), the ball will not carry quite as far in low humidity than at high humidity (but the effect is not large).

bookbook
Member
bookbook
2 months 4 days ago

If the home run were to be hit on the moon…

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