A Home Run That Must Be Discussed

A week and a half ago, there was a remarkable home run, which I like. I’m drawn to those kinds of things, and I almost can’t help myself but write about them. I was floored by the home run itself; it was one of the most obvious subjects ever provided to me. The only problem was then I didn’t write for a week. The moment passed. Usually, these things have to be written right away, or people cease to be interested. It’s been a while since the home run, now. People are thinking about other things. The Mets. The Mets are neat.

I feel like I have to do it, though. I can’t let it fade away — FanGraphs needs to have a post dedicated to this home run. It was sufficiently incredible that we’d be doing you a disservice by not putting something together. While I know the moment is gone, this is a home run with a longer life, a home run for which you needn’t worry about context. Come with me back to Saturday, August 15. We’re going to watch the Indians and the Twins in Minnesota. We’re going to watch them because, in the fifth inning, there was Eddie Rosario.

Rosario’s a 23-year-old outfielder in his first exposure to the major leagues. Before the year, as a prospect, Kiley placed him 16th in the Twins’ organization, and blah blah blah it doesn’t matter because:

rosario-2

All that matters is this pitch and this swing. And, I suppose, the result of it all. You’re looking at a screenshot of a developing, out-of-the-park home run. The pitch was thrown in an 0-and-2 count. As such, you’d figure Rosario would’ve been on the defensive. The pitch was thrown a few inches inside. As well, the pitch was thrown at shoulder level, and that’s not an exaggeration. The pitch was in, and at Rosario’s shoulders, and that pitch generated a swing, and that swing generated four bases and a run scored. The area where Rosario hit the ball was right around the area where Rosario initially held his hands, pre-pitch.

rosario-1

Pre-pitch. You see Roberto Perez calling for the high fastball. Sometimes, pitchers aren’t trying to throw to the glove, but in this case it was absolutely the intent. Perez wanted a fastball up, to blow Rosario away. Josh Tomlin threw a fastball up. As a matter of fact, Tomlin threw a fastball even more up than this. Let’s look at the same picture, only with the eventual pitch location included:

rosario-1-alt

Perhaps that’ll drive the point home. If Rosario had stood completely still, he might’ve reached base, after being hit by a pitch. That would be a good outcome in an 0-and-2 count. He generated a better outcome still. Tomlin basically threw the pitch he wanted, and then a bad thing happened.

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At this point I’m just giving you more images showing the same thing. Crazy home run. Slightly different perspective on a crazy home run. I’m not finished, either.

rosario-4

You deserve to see the play in motion. It would be a shame to go without.

The word that comes to mind is “swat”. It’s a word people use somewhat frequently when describing various hacks, but to me, this is especially like a swat, like Rosario was trying to bat away an irritating mosquito. It’s like there was a mosquito, and it was bothering Rosario for hours, and it eventually drove him mad and Rosario retrieved a baseball bat so he could try to end the mosquito’s life in the most punishing fashion. At some point in your life, presumably for fun, you’ve waved a baseball bat around all willy-nilly, like you’re clearing brush in the jungle. That’s how Eddie Rosario went deep.

Of course, Rosario caught the ball in front of the plate. It’s the only way to strike this ball with authority. Think about how quick the hands have to be. Some years ago, I remember reading about perceived velocity by location, and the theory was that pitches up and in look a great deal faster than otherwise identical pitches down and away. So this pitch had about maximum perceived velocity, in that respect, and Rosario homered above his own hands. In slow motion, the swing looks almost ordinary. Consider how amazing that is.

From Baseball Savant, here’s a plot of all left-handed home runs going back to 2008, playoffs included.

all-lefty-homers-1

You see Rosario pretty clearly. There’s a crazy point above it, assigned to a Jason Kubel home run from 2009. However, I tracked that homer down:

kubel-dinger

That’s normal, not crazy. In other words, that weird-ass data point is just an old PITCHf/x glitch. So, taking that out of the sample:

all-lefty-homers-2

Rosario’s homer isn’t the only homer that’s out by itself, but it’s the only such homer in that area. You could say that, over the PITCHf/x era, Eddie Rosario has the lefty home run against the pitch most up and in. That’s fairly notable, and while not every left-handed hitter stands in the same place, Rosario’s positioning wasn’t unusual. He was toward the front of the box, and he slammed a pitch more than four feet off the ground, and inside of the plate edge. It shouldn’t shock you that we hadn’t seen that happen before, at least for a while.

You have to feel a little for Josh Tomlin, who’s been rather homer-prone over his career. Since Tomlin debuted, he’s posted one of baseball’s very highest home-run rates, and sometimes it just isn’t fair. Tomlin didn’t do anything to deserve to give up a home run to Eddie Rosario. He did everything he wanted, and Rosario just punished him with a freak event. Could’ve happened to anybody. It’s not like Tomlin was overdue to yield a dinger, and you know he had to be frustrated. Maybe that’s part of the reason he gave up a homer to the next batter, too. That homer was easier to understand.

herrmann-dinger

Interestingly, Rosario has seven major-league home runs, and this was another one of them:

rosario-dinger-2

For lefties this year, that’s one of the very most inside pitches hit out, so out of Rosario’s small dinger sample, he’s got two that are varying degrees of extreme. That allows you, I think, to reach some conclusions about just what kind of hitter Rosario is. Just based on those homers themselves, you can figure that Rosario likes to swing, and that he has decent power, especially to the pull side. You look at these swings and you figure Rosario probably isn’t all that disciplined. He nearly has baseball’s highest rate of swings out of the zone, and to go with 83 strikeouts, he has 10 unintentional walks. He has an OBP under .300, and a slugging percentage that’s close to .450.

You know this type. It’s the type that’s over-aggressive because, every now and again, a bad swing does good damage. Rosario swings at a lot of pitches, and through his experience, he’s learned to hit some of those balls really hard. He might be more capable than the average hitter of producing against pitches out of the zone. That doesn’t mean it’s a good thing; that just means, sometimes, Rosario makes a pitcher throw up his hands out of frustration. But that reinforcement from swinging at bad pitches makes it more difficult for Rosario to focus on just swinging at good pitches. When you think you can hit everything, you’re tempted to try to hit everything, and then that makes you problematic. In some ways, I wonder if the Twins would’ve rather Rosario not hit these pitches for home runs. That’s a weird statement, I know, but you have to think bigger picture. Bigger picture, I’m sure the Twins would love for Rosario to take a step forward in terms of his discipline.

But he’s a rookie, and here we are. Rosario has hit a very inside pitch for a home run. And Rosario has hit a very high-and-tight pitch for a home run. The most high-and-tight pitch, as a matter of fact. One of the things you can’t help but wonder about: where’s the limit? At what point does it become realistically impossible for a pitch in a spot to get hit out of the yard? I don’t know the answer to that, but thanks to Eddie Rosario, I’m getting a better idea.





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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Jeremy Lassen
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Jeremy Lassen

Pablo Sandoval.

ElJimador
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ElJimador

Exactly what I was going to say. That pitch was a few inches higher and further in than Panda’s first HR vs. Verlander in the WS but I know I’ve seen him hit basically this same location for a HR in the regular season before, I think against the DBacks? Let me search around and see if I can find it.

BTW, wish the clip here ran a little longer so I could see Tomlin’s full reaction. If it was me I think I would have eaten my glove.

Kluber Lang
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Kluber Lang

I was at this game, and he was rather composed. It was his first start of the season, and he was just glad to be back out there pitching again. Tito said after the game that it’s a good thing that Rosario swung, because it (the pitch) might have hit him in the neck.