Max Muncy hit a lot of home runs this year. Including his opposite-field effort on Monday against Colorado, he hit 35 of them overall. Not only will that total rank him 14th forever among major leaguers from the 2018 campaign, it will also represent the greatest improvement for a batter between last season and this one. This year, Muncy hit 35 home runs. Last year, he hit zero of them. Arithmetic suggests that he produced a net total of +35 by this very specific measure. A perusal of the leaderboards reveals that no batter rivals him in this regard. Among the many ways in which Muncy’s 2018 season was exceptional, that’s one of them.
The purpose of this post, however, is not to catalog all the unlikely exploits of Muncy’s 2018 campaign, but rather to examine one specific way in which Muncy’s home run on Monday was different than all the others he’s ever hit. To understand the significance of that homer, though, it’s necessary first to contemplate another, different homer.
That’s footage of Muncy, tying the score against the Mariners’ Edwin Diaz in the ninth inning of an August 18th game this season. Edwin Diaz was one of the best relievers in baseball this year. Part of what makes Diaz so effective is his arm speed. Diaz threw this fastball to Muncy at 98 mph, as the hastily edited screencap below indicates.
The raw Statcast data actually reports the velocity of that pitch at 98.4 mph. The precise measure isn’t important. What’s important is this: of the 51 pitches Muncy had ever faced before today thrown at a velocity of 98 mph or higher, this particular pitch from Edwin Diaz is the only one on which he had ever homered — or, the only one on which he had ever homered as a major leaguer.
As one might have already anticipated, however, the phrase “before today” is intensely relevant to the present document. Before I address why that is, consider this video footage of Muncy’s fifth-inning home run this afternoon against the Rockies’ German Marquez:
German Marquez was one of the best starters in baseball this year. Part of what makes Marquez so effective is his arm speed. Marquez threw this fastball to Muncy at 99 mph, as the hastily edited screencap below indicates.
The raw Statcast data really does report the velocity of that pitch at exactly 99.0 mph — which means that, according to the information available to one sad man sitting at one kitchen table in New England, what one finds here is the fastest pitch on which Muncy has ever homered. What one finds, moreover, is that it occurred in a game that had no business existing on a day fashioned by chaos.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.