The 2013 Season In Inside Home Runs

The hardest thing about writing is the writing. The other hardest thing about writing is finding ideas. Without an idea, you’ve got nowhere to put your words, and sometimes baseball doesn’t cooperate by providing an abundance of discussable topics. As I write this, nothing’s going on. Maybe Ervin Santana got a phone call, or maybe his agent did, but maybe not, and we’ll definitely never know. Even the executives have probably been thinking about the Super Bowl.

So here’s an official tip of the cap to content recycling. Who needs a new idea when you can just use an old idea over again? At the end of the 2012 regular season, inspired by Erick Aybar, I wrote a post about the year’s most inside pitches slammed for home runs. As it turned out, the pitch to Aybar that got me thinking didn’t make the list, and it didn’t even come real close to making the list, but a list was still made and it was fun and informative. And now we’ve had a whole other regular season since! So what’s the harm in exploring 2013’s most inside pitches slammed for home runs? That’s what follows, in the familiar form of a top-five.

All the information is taken from PITCHf/x, of course. Well I’ll also probably end up taking some information from the ESPN Home Run Tracker. The ideal, as you can imagine, would be having a measure of the distance between the pitched ball and the batter himself. Different batters, after all, stand in different places, at different distances from home plate. But we don’t have that data, so we’ll make do how we can, and if you find this to be an outrage, I would like to read about you but not interact with you. You’re interesting! On paper.

All five of the following home runs were hit by right-handed batters. Just like a year ago. Of the 100 most inside pitches hit for dingers, 78 were hit by righties, and a year ago that number was 88. It could be that righties stand further from the plate than lefties do. It could be that righties are pitched differently than lefties are. It could be that righties are selected for their abilities to hit inside, while lefties are selected for their abilities to hit outside. It could be all this and/or more. What I can tell you is that righties dominate this category. You can elect to try to make sense of that. You’re a free person, and this is America.

Onward. Three homers just missing: a pitch from Corey Kluber to Miguel Cabrera, a pitch from Kyle Kendrick to Ryan Zimmerman, and a pitch from Tanner Scheppers to Miguel Cabrera. Get used to seeing the name Miguel Cabrera.

(5) Yadier Molina, June 19, vs. Edwin Jackson

video highlight

molina5

1.45 feet from the middle of the plate

It wasn’t a bad two-strike pitch from Edwin Jackson, and Molina just did a good job of dropping the barrel down and keeping his hands in. But who knows how this at-bat would have gone were it not for an earlier pitch in the sequence?

molina5jackson

Give Jackson that pitch and maybe everything afterward changes. And then we’d have a completely different No. 5 home run on this list! And we would very literally not know what we were missing. Ultimately, Jackson’s a wealthy young multimillionaire, so it’s like, he probably deserves to get screwed at his job from time to time, am I right?

(4) Michael Morse, April 4, vs. A.J. Griffin

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morse4

1.50 feet from the middle of the plate

This was the Mariners’ fourth game of the season, and this was Morse’s fourth home run of the season. He hit No. 6 in game No. 9. The rest of the way he hit seven dingers while slugging .332. I’d say that’s so Mariners, but everything depressing seems so Mariners so it doesn’t really pack much of a punch.

(3) Miguel Cabrera, July 21, vs. James Shields

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cabrera3

1.54 feet from the middle of the plate

Do you like pictures that have something to do with Miguel Cabrera? I hope you like pictures that have something to do with Miguel Cabrera, because there aren’t going to be any more of not-those. The three most inside pitches hit for home runs in 2013 were all slugged by Miguel Cabrera, and while you might think that means pitchers can try to pitch him away instead, no, don’t bother, he destroys those pitches too, he destroys everything. He’s a destroyer. Here comes more destruction after I hit enter.

(2) Miguel Cabrera, May 4, vs. Lucas Harrell

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cabrera2

1.75 feet from the middle of the plate

Following the home run, the Tigers’ color guy talked about how he figured Cabrera would be looking for that pitch, since in spring training Harrell threw it to him a few times with great success. The idea was that Cabrera would be looking for it, and therefore Cabrera would hit it for a home run. I think what’s more likely is that Miguel Cabrera was facing Lucas Harrell, and then the predictable outcome happened, but it is tempting to believe that Cabrera can just hit dingers whenever he’s prepared, because it sure does feel that way sometimes.

(1) Miguel Cabrera, August 10, vs. Phil Hughes

video highlight

cabrera1

1.88 feet from the middle of the plate

There’s nothing I could write that could beat this:

cabrera1hughes

Hughes was ahead in the count. He threw exactly the pitch he wanted to. Most hitters hit that pitch maybe a max of 90 feet. Cabrera hit it 376. This was a homer that had people buzzing for days, because as easy as Cabrera made it look, it was nothing short of extraordinary. Glance at the video and it’s just a home run that left the park on a line. Pay a little closer attention and, in some time, it’ll dawn on you that this just doesn’t happen to this pitch. This pitch hits Carlos Quentin. Cabrera got to jog around the bases.

Fun fact: Cabrera topped the 2012 list, slamming a pitch 1.73 feet from the middle of the plate. Cabrera bested that in 2013, twice. In theory, one wouldn’t like that Cabrera posts higher-than-average rates of swings at pitches out of the strike zone, but those swings are different for Cabrera than they are for most other players. For most players, the strike zone more or less captures the area in which they can hit pitches hard. For Cabrera, it’s simply an arbitrary rectangle.

In sum: Miguel Cabrera is amazing. The most inside pitch hit for a home run by a lefty was 1.17 feet from the middle of the plate, and it was hit by Domonic Brown off Kris Medlen on July 7. You’ve also got Justin Morneau going deep off Matt Harvey on April 13. That’s a home run that really happened, in a regular-season baseball game, and still some people ignore the traps of a small sample size.





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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Benjammer
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Benjammer

I love you Jeff.

Off topic, fellow Fangraphers: I follow English premier league soccer, and get most of my news from The Guardian website, who ran this piece today, a blog post bashing statistical analysis in soccer, and in general, even getting a dig in at Moneyball even. I know statistical analysis has proven less effective in sports like soccer that can’t really be broken down into minimal statistical noise plate appearances, but still, I don’t like this article’s attitude. Does anyone think statistics has a future similar to baseball in more team oriented sports like soccer or basketball?

http://www.theguardian.com/football/when-saturday-comes-blog/2014/feb/03/statistics-football-analysis-miss-point-game

tz
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tz

Benjammer – how do you think Mr. Cabrera would fare at cricket?

I mean look at that bat angle on the pitch from poor Phil Hughes.

iron
Guest
iron

He would bat for a millennia.*

* I know almost nothing about cricket.

Za
Guest
Za

Cabrera would do very well. He generates tremendous bat speed and can square up balls outside the strike zone, boding well for his cricket abilities. He could play Twenty20 quite well and might even be a solid Test player if he set his mind to it. In general, most MLB players could play a fairly high level of cricket and it’s likely that many AAAA players would still be competitive on a team competing against the best cricketers in the world.

paskins11
Member
paskins11

Are you sure you know enough about cricket to make that statement? Yea, maybe a freak like Miggy could make it in cricket but it would take a lot of practice. To say that pretty much any pro baseball player would be competitive in international cricket it just flat out ignorant.

Wicomico Pinstripes
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Wicomico Pinstripes

Interesting article/comment section.

IMO it’s inevitable that just about every sport in the world will have a large amount of statistical analysis some time in the near future. Soccer, I believe is just getting started, but basketball seems to be well under way.

My echo and bunnymen
Guest

I often feel that Basketball is the second most advanced statistically behind baseball, but obviously that is just based on personal experience.

Aaron (UK)
Member
Aaron (UK)

The issue with soccer stats is that they generally tend to correlate with success rather than cause success.

e.g. Barcelona have a very high possession %, and tend to win lots of games. There is a general statistical correlation between these two variables across the game.

However a team that set about trying to have possession for its own sake would likely not do any better than before (they’d mostly be passing the ball about aimlessly).

Likewise shots taken (and even better, shots on target) correlate very well with goals scored – however it’s easy to have more shots taken – simply shoot from 40 yards more often.

Soccer has plenty of statistics to reflect what’s going on on the pitch, but because so much of soccer is about specific positioning and movement, these don’t lend themselves that well to stats. Ultimately we can hope that better value-added stats may evolve. The cutting-edge of in-game analysis tends to actually be more descriptive e.g. http://www.zonalmarking.net/

The best statistical analysis of soccer tends to be on a macro level, looking at subjects like the importance of player budgets and with-or-without-you analysis showing the true value of specific players.

Benjammer
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Benjammer

Thanks for introducing me to Zonalmarking, I really didn’t want to get any work done today.

DNA+
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DNA+

The problem with most sports is that nothing any player does is independent of the actions of the rest of the team. What can you measure in soccer that is statistically independent? Possession, passing, shots, etc., are all dependent on what the rest of the team does. This makes individual level analysis quite challenging. There are statistical methods available for dealing with non-independence. For example, in evolutionary biology, the fact that all organisms are phylogenetically related means that they are not independent when individual taxa are the unit of analysis. To deal with this problem, independent contrasts are used to “subtract” the hierarchical dependence between endpoints as estimated with the phylogeny. I suppose if we can begin to understand the nature of the dependence between players on teams, methods can be developed to take it into account.

tz
Guest
tz

Excellent point. For example, hockey has long used a +/- stat as a rough way to track the net scoring that takes place when a player is on the ice vs. not. It does not take into account the impact of the other players’ contributions to that player’s being on ice when a goal happens either way, so it misses a lot on independence.

Here’s a great summary of the factors involved with applying a modified +/- system to basketball:

http://kenpom.com/blog/index.php/weblog/entry/a_treatise_on_plus_minus/

tz
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tz

*dependence

A commenter
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A commenter

The very excellent Micheal Lewis wrote an article in the New York times about this very thing with regard to Basketball in 2009. The article concerned a Mr. Shane Battier, a then-Houston Rocket who MASSIVELY MASSIVELY outperformed his observable tools.

TK
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TK

Hockey has really started to buy into advanced statistics, the current craze being Corsi. A possesion based statistic, where it compares a player’s team’s possesion stat with them on the ice versus off the ice. Perhaps this trend in hockey will lay the groundwork for soccer, a similar sport in its difficulty to “minimize the noise” for stats.

Mo
Guest
Mo

Benjammer,

As a huge soccer fan I sort of agree with you, the only position that could really use any sort of statistical analysis is the goalkeepers (positioning, hands, dive times to the left or right, etc). Because soccer is free flowing sport much like hockey and to lesser extent basketball there is little time to analyze a specific play and as a result changes are made after watching the ebbs and flows of the game, where as in baseball if you’ve seen a pitcher twice before it becomes easier to pick up timing, movement and tendencies of said pitcher and vice versa for the hitter or in football if a cornerback or linebacker is making an adjustment to a specific route or play you audible. Baseball is the most statistically analytical sport and as a result relies on much of this information.