Lately, Yasiel Puig has been in one of his slumps. For really the first time in his professional career, he’s been the target of a lot of criticism, some of it warranted and some of it over the top. Most significantly, he’s had some struggles at the plate, with his aggressive approach backfiring. Thursday afternoon, the Marlins pitched to him accordingly. The first four times Puig stepped up to the plate, he saw a first-pitch slider. The fifth time he did get a sinker, but by that point it was 6-0 in the ninth so for all I know the plan was ignored.
The first time Puig got a first-pitch slider, he popped it up. The third time he got a first-pitch slider, he fouled it off. The fourth time he got a first-pitch slider, he swung right through it. But the second time he got a first-pitch slider, he beat the living crap out of it. All four times, Puig swung at the slider. One of those times, he gave the ball a ride, or a punishment, depending on how you feel about balls and what they enjoy. There was something remarkable about that ball in play. Something potentially remarkable, at least.
Here’s how it reads in the Gameday window. Leading off the top of the fourth:
Yasiel Puig doubles (17) on a sharp fly ball to center fielder Justin Ruggiano. None out.
That description is accurate, but it also manages to undersell the quality of the contact. Buster Olney and I were both watching, and Buster Olney and I both had the same thought:
Yasiel Puig may have just hit the longest non-home run in MLB this year. Off the very, very top of the center field fence in Miami. Double.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 22, 2013
I just made the mistake of glancing at some of Olney’s mentions. Never glance at a famous person’s mentions. It seems a lot of people didn’t much care for Olney’s remark and idea, but I knew I was interested, not that I can take this to any great lengths. Let’s take a visual look at what took place:
Now let’s take a much clearer visual look at what took place:
That is a double, off the very very top of the wall, in very very center field. Already, this is a deep center field, and it comes with a bonus high fence, so you could forgive Puig for assuming he hit a dinger when the ball came off the bat:
In an ideal world, maybe, hitters would sprint every time until it was clear the ball was gone. But, walk out the door with an open jar. Close the jar, real tight, and send it to a lab to test for the air quality. We don’t live in an ideal world, and hitters jog when they think they hit home runs, and Puig had almost every reason to figure he’d gone deep. He’s not the first batter to be tricked by the tricksy Marlins Park.
One does wonder: is this the longest non-homer of the season? One’s investigation is then immediately limited by not having enough information, but Olney came through with another interesting fact to follow up:
ESPN Stats/Info: Puig double was estimated at 436 feet (if it hadn’t hit fence). Would’ve been HR in 27/30 ballparks (Miami,Houston,ARI).
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) August 22, 2013
What we can’t really speak to is whether there have been longer non-homers. While people might possess that information, it isn’t publicly available, and the Gameday data shows only where a ball was fielded, not where it landed. What we can reasonably conclude is that this is at least among the longest non-homers, and quite possibly the very longest for 2013. Let’s say that 436-foot estimate is accurate enough. Through Wednesday, this season there had been 3,676 home runs. Of those — according to the ESPN Home Run Tracker — 3,492 measured less than or equal to 435 feet. That’s 95%, in other words. Yasiel Puig hit a double longer than 19 of every 20 home runs.
We can mess around with numbers and hypotheticals. Where might it be possible to hit the longest non-homer in baseball? Below, some candidate ballparks, at which I arrived after spending too much time doing research:
- Minute Maid Park. It’s 436 feet to the deepest point, and the wall is ten feet high. It’s not ten feet above Tal’s Hill in center — the hill simply climbs the wall at an angle.
- Fenway Park. It’s 420 feet to the deepest point, and the wall is 17 feet high.
- AT&T Park. It’s 421 feet to the deepest point, and the wall is 24 or 25 feet high.
- Comerica Park. It’s unofficially 430 feet to the deepest point, and the wall is unofficially 12 feet high.
- Marlins Park. It’s 422 feet to the deepest point, and the wall is 16 feet high.
- Chase Field. It’s 413 feet to the deepest point, and the wall is 20 feet high. Or, the wall is higher, but there exists a yellow line, serving as a border.
Nobody so far this season has sent a ball off the wall in straightaway center in Houston. A few batters have come close, but those balls in play would’ve fallen short of a 436-foot estimate. This isn’t something I can really pursue any further, but it’s at least entertaining to think about. Because of Houston, there exists the possibility of a non-homer that would have a calculated distance over 440 feet. Actually, because of Houston’s flagpole, there exists the possibility of a non-homer much much longer than that. If a ball hits the flagpole and bounces back, it’s considered in play. From a 2003 Brewers/Astros recap:
Richie Sexson hit a ball high off the flagpole in center field with leading off the fourth inning to drive in Geoff Jenkins and tie it at 1-1. The ball was headed out of the park, but the flagpole is in play some 420 feet from home plate.
Milwaukee stranded Sexson at third as Vander Wal and Osik struck out around a walk to Helms and Royce Clayton grounded out.
“That’s a tough rule,” Sexson said of being robbed of a home run. “I was thinking the whole game that I wasn’t going to be mad unless we lose by one run. It’s hard enough to hit it out there and then for it not to be a home run … they ought to put a yellow line on the flagpole.”
It was the first time in the four-year history of Minute Maid Park that a ball hit the pole on a fly.
So that’s the answer. The longest potential non-homer in baseball would be off the flagpole in Houston’s center field. Nobody’s done that in 2013, and in 2013, the longest non-homer in baseball might now be Puig’s double to center in Miami. I can’t confirm it, but I have a good feeling.
So what? Yeah, I guess. A long double is a long double, and a short homer is a short homer. Puig, ultimately, had to stop at second base. But if people are going to go through the Home Run Tracker and note the hitters who’ve had “lucky” home runs, it stands to reason one would want to consider unlucky non-home runs. Not that we have that information, but batted balls can be different in different ballparks, and in most other stadiums, Puig would’ve added to his dinger total. That’s interesting. Puig, absolutely, deserved a homer based on the quality of contact, but he had to settle for half the bases. Baseball is a quirky sport.
And while the longest non-homer just isn’t a homer, and while it’ll always be less impressive than the longest non-non-homer, there’s something appropriate about the league’s longest non-homer maybe belonging to Yasiel Puig. It’s just another example of him finding an extraordinary way to do something hardly extraordinary at all.
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