On Ruben Tejada and the Nature of Inside-the-Park Homers

A home run is generally the result of a one-on-one battle between pitcher and hitter. A pitcher throws the ball, the batter hits it, and all the other players are more or less observers as the ball sails out of the park. Weather and park factors play a role in whether the ball leaves the yard. An outfielder might give chase. Then teammates show elation or disgust depending on the side of the battle where they are aligned. An inside-the-park home run is not like those other home runs. An inside-the-park home run needs this:

Or this

Or this

A player does not even have to be supremely fast. Catchers Blake Swihart and James McCann have two of the home runs above, with Ryan Rua the other. Allen Craig had one in Spring Training. Speed can help, but even Dee Gordon needed this.

And Jarrod Dyson needed this.

All of which is to say that an inside-the-park home run takes considerably more luck than your clear-the-fences bomb, but you probably already knew that. The above GIFs included every inside-the-park home run before Wednesday except for Logan Forsythe’s which has been omitted as Alex Gordon was injured on the play.

On Wednesday, Ruben Tejada hit an inside-the-park home run. As is typically the case, the home run was not the result of Tejada’s singular efforts. Ruben Tejada’s benefit came courtesy of Domonic Brown.

This particular location on the diamond was abused multiple times by Mets players against Phillies starter Aaron Nola. Of the Mets’ five hits that landed in play in the outfield, three landed in almost the exact location of Tejada’s shot, per Baseball Savant.

Aaron Nola

Looking at batted-ball data, Tejada’s home run is likely the weakest-hit home run of the season. After sifting through home-run data for potential errors, it seems highly likely that no ball left the park with a lower velocity than Tejada’s 74 mph. Even the inside-the-park home runs were hit with more authority. The closest comparaison is Jarrod Dyson’s home run — and that ball had an exit velocity of 81 mph. Even relative to Tejada’s average contact, the ball was weakly hit. Of the 94 balls in play Tejada has produced this year (above a distance greater than 2 ft, that is, to eliminate bad data), his inside-the-park homer ranks 85th in terms of batted-ball velocity. Only nine of Tejada’s balls in play for which we have data were struck softer than this shot.

The play might not always turn into an out given its proximity to the line, but generally speaking, the ball does not typically make its may to the wall. The fielder in this case, Domonic Brown, is not known for his glove — and statistical analysis backs up that reputation. Since 2012, there are 77 outfielders who’ve recorded at least 2,500 innings. Only Matt Kemp and Shin-Soo Choo has a worse range score during that period. Fortunately, Brown was not injured on the play. (Update: Brown did stay in the game, but unfortunately, tests now show Brown suffered a concussion on the play). His effort on this particular play might not be representative of his overall abilities as a fielder, nor of his athleticism, but the footage below might still be considered a proper representation of his statistical record as a fielder over his major-league career.

Aaron Nola, Ruben Tejada, and Domonic Brown are the principal actors in this play, but they are not the only players expending effort. Indeed, in terms of unexpected exertions, it’s Phillies second baseman Cesar Hernandez who most distinguishes himself. Yes, Tejada ran roughly 360 feet to score a run and Brown tumbled into the stands, but one finds those things occurring with at least some regularity in baseball. Hernandez, for his part, went beyond the call of duty normally associated with second base.

The play started simply enough for Hernandez. We find him standing in his normal spot at second base when the play begins, and then proceeding toward the general direction of the ball after contact.

The next time we see Hernandez, however, he is conspicuously out of his normal position.

While the Statcast video highlight ignored Hernandez’s role in the play, some crude calculations and line-drawing on the Baseball Savant hit chart reveals the following:

Ruben Tejada

If Hernandez had run in the opposite direction, he might have found himself next to his locker in the visitor’s clubhouse. While perhaps not heroic, per se, his effort shouldn’t go unnoticed. There is almost always enough time to gather a batted-ball hit inside the confines of a stadium and send it home prior to a runner touching all the bases. Ruben Tejada’s hit is one of a few rare exceptions. In this case, we saw a right fielder end up among the fans, a second baseman run to the right field wall, and a 240-foot hit going 74 mph off the bat lead to a home run. Such is the nature of an inside-the-park home run.

Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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7 years ago

As Gary Cohen put it on the broadcast a bit later, usually the first question about an inside-the-parker is “How many people fell down?” In this case, only one needed to, but he certainly did so spectacularly.

It’s probably worth observing too that Tejada is a pretty slow runner — and that he was actually jogging out of the box. I’d be interested to see Statcast data on foot speed on inside-the-parkers.