Yogi Berra, it is claimed, once said “You can observe a lot just by watching.” You can learn a lot too, and some of those things you learn can take you in unusual directions.
The thought behind this post, began to bounce around in my head when I was looking at Hit Tracker Online. It is a website that estimates the ‘true distance’ and plots the path of every home run hit in the majors. The site takes video and wind speed with other weather info and puts it together to estimate how high, how hard, and how far every home run ball is struck.
I was playing around with the sortable tables, and started looking at the softest home runs hit all year. Much as I expected, the softest fly ball to leave the park was hit to here:
Yankee Stadium has the most talked about short porch in baseball. For the softest tater of the year, Marlon Byrd muscled up on Adam Warren and pushed one over the fence at 90.8 MPH. The Pitch f/x data from the at-bat tells us that Warren threw the pitch at 94.MPH, so I’m being pretty generous with ‘muscled up’ here. So, there it is, the softest homer in 2013 was exactly what I thought it would be a ‘Yankees Stadium Special’. Game over. Post done.
Of course it isn’t. The rest of the table is still sitting there, and there aren’t a lot of Yankee Stadium Specials on the list.
These are all the home runs that left the bat at under 95mph, up to June 3, 2013. There are thirty of them in total. Four of them were hit in the Bronx. Thirteen of them were hit at Minute Maid Park. There are 30 places to hit home runs in the league, yet more than a third of the softest ones came in the same ballpark. So I learned something else here. I learned that the short porch in Houston isn’t like Yankee Stadium’s. In fact, it isn’t in right field at all. It looks like this.
The scoreboard wall in left is nineteen feet high. Which would be a lot, if the corner wasn’t 315ft at the foul pole and 362 in the ‘power alley’. For comparison, the ultra-symmetrical Rogers Centre is 328 at the pole and 375 in the power alley. Here’s and overlay of both fences, Minute Maid in black, Rogers in red.
Pretty apparent that there are a whole lot of home runs (the blue landing spots) that would come up short in the RC. And Rogers Centre is the the second most homer-happy park in all of baseball.
So, I learned that the short porch, which actually appears to taper in towards the foul line, is turning outs into home runs. I started thinking about Houston’s new ownership, and how they might already be looking for ways to leverage the easiest seats to hit in all of baseball. I was envsioning a pull happy, right handed hitting free agent. Somebody who needed to boost his value, signing a one year deal and lofting pitches up into the ‘Crawford Boxes’ as they are officially called.
Then I looked at video of the actual home runs on the list.
Most of them look like this one. Which you will have to click on, because WordPress does not allow MLB.com embed code. That’s Victor Martinez, hitting it off of the end of the bat, and letting it drift over the wall. I included Victor’s homers because I learned somethign very specific when I was viewing the clip. I learned that during his home run trot (and this was his first trot of 2013, so maybe it was special), VMart made this face.
I also learned that baseball announcers don’t like to call a cheap joke of a home run for what it is. The Oakland announcers were quoted with ‘We might have found our jetstream.’ on a Coco Crisp opposite field shot that went 340 feet. Any other field, and the jet would have crashed into an outfielder’s glove.
The Houston announcers, commenting on Fernando Martinez hitting a 338 foot fly ball, were even more generous. Alan Ashby summed up the dinger with, ‘When you do get that pitch, don’t miss it.’ He didn’t miss it in the strictest sense of the word, but in 28 other ballparks, that’s a flyball out, so he kind of missed it…. just an an opportune moment.
Hard to find a pull-happy righty on that list. I assume it has something to do with the pull-happy righties hitting baseballs harder, rather than softer when they pull them. So now I’m wondering, does Houston think about scouting left-handed hitters who like to inside out the ball? Or ones who hit a lot of pitches off the end of the bat? Probably not.
Ultimately, I learned that when you go wandering into the wrong end of a sortable table, you never quite know where you’ll end up.