Juan Soto Does the Impossible

In Game 1 of the World Series, Juan Soto hit an opposite-field home run off a high 96-mph fastball from Gerrit Cole all the way to the tracks of Minute Maid Park. Those conditions together shouldn’t even be possible. Fortunately, unlike aurora borealis at noon in May in the middle of the country localized entirely in Principal Skinner’s kitchen, you can actually see it.

Here’s the pitch and the swing.

Here’s where the ball went:

Here’s where it landed:

There have been about 30,000 homers hit between the regular season and postseason over the last five years, and we don’t need to stretch things too much to say that there hasn’t been a homer like this one during that time, even without accounting for the fact that this happened on the game’s biggest stage.

Here are a few factors that made the pitch so tough and the homer so impressive:

  • Pitch Location: Cole’s fastball was just a touch over three feet off the ground at the top of the strike zone. Out of the close to 30,000 homers over the last five seasons, around 4,000 were hit off of elevated pitches.
  • Pitch Velocity: Cole’s fastball was just over 96 mph. Of those 4,000 or so homers on elevated pitches, only 328 were hit off fastballs going at least 96 mph.
  • Home Run Distance: Soto’s homer traveled 417 feet, and of those 328 homers on elevated, high-speed fastballs, only 88 traveled more than 415 feet.
  • Exit Velocity: Soto’s shot came off the bat at over 106 mph, and only 45 of the 88 long-distance homers off elevated, high-velocity fastballs had an exit velocity of at least 106 mph.
  • Opposite Field: Forty-five homers out of close to 30,000 is a rarity, but Soto hit his shot to the opposite field, and he became only the third player to do so since Statcast began tracking batted balls in 2015.
  • Left-handedness: Only Soto.
  • Under 6-foot-4: Only Soto.
  • Playoffs: Only Soto.
  • Tying up Game 1 of the World Series against the heavily favored Astros with that homer: Only Soto.
  • Having that homer be only his second-most important hit of the game due to a two-run double that gave the team a three-run lead: Only Soto.

Here’s a rough look at how the conditions for the homer play out assuming a pitch at least three feet off the ground.

Juan Soto World Series Home Run Conditions
3 ft. Above Plate 415 feet 96 mph Pitch 106 mph EV Opposite Field Home Runs
x 4027
x x 973
x x 990
x x 677
x x x 567
x x 328
x x x 98
x x x 80
x x x 88
x x x 59
x x x x 45
x x x 28
x x x x 16
x x x x 10
x x x x 7
x x x x x 3
All homers tracked by Statcast since 2015, including playoffs

As for those two other opposite-field homers, you might be able to guess one of the players.

Here’s Aaron Judge in 2017 off of Mike Wright.

Judge has incredible opposite-field power, and he put it on display there, but there is one significant difference with the Soto homer. Judge is more than half a foot taller Soto. This pitch was not at the top of the strike zone, but was instead in the heart of the plate. The only other similar hit was also by a taller player, though at 6-foot-4, Trey Mancini is no Aaron Judge.

That ball was actually higher than the pitches to Judge and Soto, but because Mancini is pretty tall and stands upright, it was at roughly the same part of the strike zone as Soto’s shot. As mentioned above, both Mancini and Judge are right-handers, and right-handers do pull the ball slightly less against right-handers than left-handers like Soto.

Even if this weren’t the World Series, Soto’s blast would be a rarity. Crushing a tough-to-hit ball is difficult, but crushing it the other way is near-impossible. Doing it in the World Series is highly improbable. Juan Soto is a special player and he made a special play, and those moments don’t always converge in the World Series. Juan Soto didn’t get lucky, but we did.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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Baron Samedi
2 years ago

Obviously it wasn’t impossible.