The Most Extreme Home Runs of 2014

The regular season is over. While that is sad in many ways, it’s also exciting in a few other ways. One of those ways: We have postseason baseball! That’s the best kind of baseball. Another lame, nerdy way: We have complete data sets! Yes, this is something I actually get excited about. Leading up to the conclusion of a regular season, everything is “projected,” “on pace,” or “so far for the season.” Now, everything is final. While, at the All-Star Break, I could only give you the Most Extreme Home Runs of the First Half, now I can replace “first half” with a definitive “2014.”

Before we begin, I’d like to give a shoutout to both ESPN’s Home Run Tracker and, of course, BaseballSavant, for making this glorious research possible.

Deepest homer – Mike Trout

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Excellent, it took us almost no time at all to get to a Mike Trout thing. You guys love Mike Trout things. We all love Mike Trout things. This year, Trout’s average home run went for 413 feet, the fourth-highest mark in the MLB. Last year, Trout’s average home run went for 420 feet, the very highest mark in the MLB. This homer here went for 489 feet, which is the farthest of Trout’s career by nearly 30 feet. The first half mark to beat here was 484, by Giancarlo Stanton.

Shortest homer – David Ortiz

ortiz1

The location of this homer shouldn’t be too surprising. Right field in Boston is just 302 feet – the shortest outfield distance to either side in the MLB. This one was measured at 318 feet, beating Chris Davis‘ first half number by one foot.

But the best part of this gif isn’t the home run, per se. It’s that little box in the lower right-hand corner of your screen before David Ortiz goes deep. This was the eighth pitch of the at-bat. Brad Peacock had a plan of attack: Pitch David Ortiz outside. Presumably, to keep him from doing something exactly like he ended up doing. Ortiz had fouled off four consecutive pitches on the outer half of the plate, waiting for Peacock to Peacock and serve up the exact pitch that he did. After executing his strategy flawlessly for seven consecutive pitches, Peacock left one over the middle and Ortiz hit the shortest home run of the 2014 season.

Hardest-hit homer – Zach Walters

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So, I almost wrote this post on Saturday evening, figuring the data sets were as good as complete, and that nobody would hit one of the most extreme home runs of the entire season in the last game. I ended up not writing this post on Saturday night because I had to wake up early on Sunday morning to cover the Indians game. And it’s a good thing I waited, because at that Indians game, Zach Walters hit the hardest-hit dinger of the year.

One of these people did their job well, the other did not:

walterscobb

Walters is such an interesting case because, physically, he looks nothing like the player he is. He’s a wiry, 6-foot-1 utility player who had a higher isolated slugging percentage than Nelson Cruz and Jose Bautista, with a higher strikeout rate than any qualified batter in baseball. In the offseason, Walters plays softball with Jose Canseco in Las Vegas. If he can hit baseballs with this kind of speed, I can only imagine what playing softball against him is like. Probably terrifying.

The ball left Walters’ bat at 122mph. The previous highs were by Giancarlo Stanton and Ortiz, at 119.9mph. Walters didn’t just hit the hardest homer of the season, he cleared Giancarlo Stanton and David Ortiz by two miles per hour.

Softest-hit homer – Nick Castellanos

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This pitch was thrown at 92mph and had a recorded exit speed of 90.8mph. That day in Detroit, there were wind gusts of 37mph, which is evidenced by right fielder Dayan Viciedo’s confusion in right field, and the fact that a ball which left the bat slower than it was pitched went for a home run. The previous low of the year was by Trout at 91.8.

Most high-arching homer – Corey Dickerson

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If Corey Dickerson‘s homer here didn’t clear the next-highest one by 11 feet, I may have been inclined to give it an asterisk. This was hit, of course, in Coors Field, where the air is thin and balls travel far. Home Run Tracker estimates Coors being the only ballpark in which this ball would have resulted in a home run. The apex of this homer was 171 feet, knocking off Jose Abreu and his 160-foot high homer from the first half.

Most line drive homer – Nelson Cruz

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That is a crazy home run. That is a crazy home run off Felix Hernandez! I love the juxtaposition of this homer and the one above it, because this one can happen nearly two times before Dickerson’s lands. Anyway, I don’t need to talk too much about this particular dinger, because Jeff Sullivan already did so here. Information relevant to the purposes of this post: Its apex was just 41 feet, the previous low of the season was Josh Donaldson, at 43 feet.

Highest homer pitch – Hunter Pence

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When Hunter Pence isn’t giving weird, profanity-laden speeches about “champion blood,” off the baseball field, he’s likely doing weird (perhaps profanity-laden?) things on the baseball field. Pence is a weird dude. Again, I don’t need to get too in-depth on this one, as Drew Fairservice already did that. But, at 4.5 feet off the ground, this was not only the highest pitch hit for a home run not of this season, but of any season dating back to 2009, when Jason Kubel hit a ball a 5 feet off the ground for a dinger

Lowest homer pitch – Pablo Sandoval

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You thought this was going to be Mike Trout again, didn’t you? We all know about Mike Trout and the low pitch, but we also know about Pablo Sandoval and the “any kind of pitch.” Sandoval swings at everything, so you’re going to see some dingers like this. This pitch was just a little more than a foot off the ground, and he sent it over a wall 383 feet away. Apparently, Giants batters can hit anything.

Most inside homer pitch (RHH) – Nolan Arenado

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Look at that, another one of the season’s most extreme homers in Coors Field! (It’s not the last one.) This pitch was over a foot and a half inside from the heart of the plate, but Nolan Arenado opened his hips and turned on it. This was the eighth start Martin Perez made, and it was the first homer allowed.

Most outside homer pitch (RHH) – Troy Tulowitzki

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So, here’s a similar scene. It might not look like it, because I had to use different broadcasts to capture these gifs, but this is the same game as the Arenado homer, just three innings later. Martin Perez made eight starts to begin the season and didn’t allow a home run. He went to Coors Field and gave up two of the most extreme home runs in baseball. This pitch was 1.2 feet outside from the center of the plate to Troy Tulowitzki, who is good.

Most inside homer pitch (LHH) – Corey Dickerson

dickerson2

The Rockies have taken over the post! The Rockies have taken over the post! Only one of the 14 homers in the first half incarnation of this post came at Coors Field. By the end of the season, that was upped to four. Corey Dickerson turns on this pitch 1.4 feet inside from the center of the plate to make his second appearance on this list. Also, both of those homers were off Dan Haren. Allowing 1.31 home runs per nine innings will do that to ya, I guess.

Most outside homer pitch (LHH) – Anthony Rizzo

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Here’s my favorite homer of the season. This pitch was 1.7 feet outside of the center of the plate, making it the most inside or outside pitch that a better from either side of the plate has hit for a dinger this season. It beat the next most outside pitch by almost half a foot. This shouldn’t be possible:

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Zaniest inside-the-park homer – Lorenzo Cain

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Like last time, I’m gonna end this with a zany inside-the-parker, because who doesn’t love zany inside-the-parkers? Lorenzo Cain is already super fast, so he doesn’t need too much help, but Don Kelly gives it to him anyway by picking up Torii Hunters glove instead of the baseball. You can record an out by throwing a baseball to another player under the right circumstances. You cannot do so with Torii Hunter’s empty glove.

Torii Hunter’s last words: “The ball… the ball…”

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 11.34.52 AM



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August used to cover the Indians for MLB and ohio.com, but now he's here and thinks writing these in the third person is weird. So you can reach me on Twitter @AugustFG_ or e-mail at august.fagerstrom@fangraphs.com.


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isavage30
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isavage30
1 year 7 months ago

This one line drive out that Walters hit into against Detroit still sticks in my mind. No idea what its actual speed off the bat was, but it LOOKED like one of the hardest-hit infield outs I’d ever seen. Crushed a line drive right into Victor Martinez’ glove.

Steve
Guest
Steve
1 year 7 months ago

LOL at Don Kelly. How is he still in the majors…?

george
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george
1 year 7 months ago

well, he’s a legitimate replacement level player at least 5 positions. could possibly fake 2nd or catcher. that’s something, i guess.

Steve
Guest
Steve
1 year 7 months ago

Brendan Ryan doesn’t play baseball anymore for a reason.

Kirk
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Kirk
1 year 7 months ago

Because he was on the DL? He is still under contract with the Yankees for two more years.

kevinthecomic
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kevinthecomic
1 year 7 months ago

that reason being he is BELOW replacement level

Steve
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Steve
1 year 7 months ago

Don Kelly has a 0.1 career WAR through 1,189 PAs. I guess your point stands, he’s not a negative WAR LOL

Steve
Guest
Steve
1 year 7 months ago

If you’re into small sample sizes, his WAR this year was -0.4 so there’s that.

george
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george
1 year 7 months ago

yea, but much of his time was at first this year. more than usual, I’m guessing that’s the reason he’s negative

Steve
Guest
Steve
1 year 7 months ago

Why are you guys trying to defend this piece of crap player? Like you’re actually putting energy into it. Are you related…?

Joshua Northey
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Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

Steve,

You are being an idiot. He is a pretty replaceable guy who can play some valuable positions and is flexible. He is not good, but it is no mystery why he is still seeing playing time.

Bryce
Member
Bryce
1 year 7 months ago

Fun post, but I have to dispute the claim about softly-hit home runs. They don’t indicate that the hitter is strong, but rather the opposite. A hitter’s muscle impacts whether contact will produce a home run almost exclusively through the speed at which the ball leaves the bat. Knowing that a home run was the slowest of the season should cause you to revise downward your estimate of how strongly the player hit it (relative to an average home run). What we can conclude about the softest home run is that it was hit at a great angle and/or helped by environmental conditions.

Jon
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Jon
1 year 7 months ago

I’m with Bryce, at least in a way. I’m not sure the softest hit homer means anything other than that it was hit with the distance optimizing angle/spin and/or had a nice set of conditions that day (especially the wind blowing out and a short porch). All the characteristics of the batter, the pitch, and the swing taken merge together into the speed, direction and spin on the ball when it leaves the bat. Once you have those three factors it doesn’t matter who hit it or how. Though I guess Hunter Pence would have cleared a three foot higher fence than KungFuPanda would have with the same stats!

Darkstone42
Member
Darkstone42
1 year 7 months ago

“I don’t see the ball. It must be in Torii’s glove. There is no other reasonable explanation, no matter what Torii is trying to tell me.”

N8*K
Guest
N8*K
1 year 7 months ago

This reminds me of a hopeful golfer who checks the hole for his ball after a blind shot before looking elsewhere.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

That was the story of my only hole-in-one. I am very much not a golfer, so I hit the ball and saw it go over the hill of the green, walked over, didn’t see it, “well might as well check the hole”, bingo.

Kirk
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Kirk
1 year 7 months ago

That inside the park home run is great. I want to know what Kelly was thinking to go for the glove and not the ball.

Jon
Guest
Jon
1 year 7 months ago

Maybe he knew there was no way to prevent the home run so he was hoping the ball was in the glove and he could claim it was a catch if he got it out of the glove before it touched the ground?

Seriously I think it’s that he couldn’t see the ball in his field of view so assumed it must be hiding in the glove…..

Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman
1 year 7 months ago

I think he legitimately believed the ball was in the glove, that somehow Hunter caught it and then started taking his clothes off in celebration.

Big Daddy V
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Big Daddy V
1 year 7 months ago

Torii actually did catch it, but the ball came out in the collision. Same thing happened here:

AB
Guest
AB
1 year 7 months ago

“The thing about a softly-hit home run is that, while it might seem like a negative thing, it really says a lot about the batter in question. It says that he is really, really strong. Nick Castellanos is very strong. If a baseball leaves a bat at just 90.8mph and still makes it out of the park, like this one here, there’s likely a lot of muscle behind the swing.”

That doesn’t make any sense to me. If a very softly hit ball goes for a home run, isn’t it probably due to the angle of trajectory, backspin, short distance to the fence, and the wind carrying it? If the muscle actually got behind the swing, the ball would have been hit faster.

Helladecimal
Guest
Helladecimal
1 year 7 months ago

It does actually make sense. If a hitter can send the baseball flying without optimal barrel contact, it indicates raw strength. Other factors play into it as well.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

We don’t necessarily know that the barrel contact was suboptimal from the speed of the ball. It could be from hitting the ball off the wrong part of the bat, but it could also be because the batter did not swing very hard. It’s certainly not an indication of strength taken alone. Anyway, this was addressed in an earlier comment.

dlh
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dlh
1 year 7 months ago

This is my favorite post in forever, so much awesome here.

Bob
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Bob
1 year 7 months ago

Surprised Ben Revere’s HRs weren’t the softest.

FuriousToaster
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FuriousToaster
1 year 7 months ago

Coors field should be eliminated from all contention in these sort of things.

FuriousToaster
Guest
FuriousToaster
1 year 7 months ago

Heck, they should just stop playing baseball there altogether. The place is a joke.

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

Just based on the number of Dodger injuries that seem to occur there every year, I completely agree.

KCDaveInLA
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KCDaveInLA
1 year 7 months ago

LOOOVE this. By the way, is there any sabermetric measure for “zany”?

Loose Seal
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Loose Seal
1 year 7 months ago

AOKI+

Big Daddy V
Guest
Big Daddy V
1 year 7 months ago

Let’s be fair, it doesn’t take all that much for Dayan Viciedo to look confused in the outfield.

fishfrenzy
Member
fishfrenzy
1 year 7 months ago

I liked this HR from Pence http://m.mlb.com/video/v33933095/sfari-pence-crushes-a-solo-homer-to-the-upper-deck/?c_id=mlb It ranked pretty high with just about all of the hittrackeronline stats with 441 distance, 113.7 speed of bat and an apex 143

Matt
Guest
Matt
1 year 7 months ago

Good stuff – I really fun article. It would be cool to do this with random sluggers with unique hitting styles – someone like Vlad Guerrero. I wonder that the furthest outside pitch was that he hit over the fence?

Bip
Member
Member
Bip
1 year 7 months ago

If anyone could hit a ridiculously outside pitch like that, it would be Rizzo, who stands more or less on top of the plate.

snack man
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

But does he complain about getting hit by pithches all the time like Utley?

Jesse
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Jesse
1 year 7 months ago

No way was that Walters HR an accurate read at 122.0. No way, obvious equipment error. He hit it hard sure, but not even close to Stanton level hard.

Matt
Guest
Matt
1 year 7 months ago

I suppose one way to validate that would be to exam his average velocity off the bat this season, and determine how likely it was that he is capable of actually hitting a ball that hard?

Captain Tenneal
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

Yeah, I think I’m with you here. The only homer I’ve seen even close to that speed is Stanton’s that smashed the scoreboard, barely edging out Walters at 122.4 MPH. That was the grand slam off Moyer, and when you watch the gif the ball is basically vaporized. You can’t even see it leave the bat.

Click my username for the vid

Joshua Northey
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Joshua Northey
1 year 7 months ago

You really think you can tell the difference between a ball hit at 122 and one hit at say 115? No you cannot.

Captain Tenneal
Guest
Captain Tenneal
1 year 7 months ago

August, do you have a clip of Kubel’s 5 foot high homer? I searched on Baseball Savant and found it was hit on 8/14/09, but the hittracker link is him hitting a pitch at the letters. I can’t even imagine what homering off a higher pitch would even look like.

Compton
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Compton
1 year 7 months ago

The softest-hit homer seemed weak AF until you said Trout had the previous low. In that case, well done Castellanos.

DJ Stanger
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DJ Stanger
1 year 7 months ago

What were the odds a “most extreme home runs” post would include zero Giancarlo Stanton homers?

RHercik
Guest
RHercik
1 year 7 months ago

I nominate Mike Moustakas (Ryan Raburn throw into the ground) for the most little league-ish homer of the season. #NeverForget

max
Guest
1 year 7 months ago

I gotta figure that Kelly just assumed that Hunter is such a good outfielder that the ball would be in his glove, right?

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