The Anomalous Offensive Outcomes of the 2015 Season

A couple months ago, we featured an annual article that detailed the most extreme home runs of 2015. It’s always a fun post to write, and this year, I had the honor of putting it together. We always include hardest-hit, longest, shortest, highest, lowest, you name it — it’s a veritable smorgasbord of dingers, and everybody likes dingers. Now that we’re a couple months removed from it, though, I realized it’s missing something: a thorough consideration of the players who hit those home runs.

Of course we expect and know that Giancarlo Stanton is probably going to hit the longest home run of the season. He tied himself in the category this year, even though he didn’t play in any games past June 26th — such is his domination of hitting baseballs long distances. But what if Erick Aybar – he of the .069 isolated-power mark — hit a massive home run to right field at AT&T Park, 2015’s hardest park to homer in for a left-hander? (Spoiler: he did not do this.) What if David Ortiz – he of the lowest speed score in baseball during 2015 – hit a triple in Anaheim, a very difficult park in which to triple for lefties? (Again, no, but you get the idea.)

With that in mind, today we’re going to look at a few anomalous hits and home runs hit by anomalous hitters, using Baseball Savant and park factors scrubbed from our Guts! pages (as well as our friends over at Baseball Prospectus). These might not be the most scientifically-sound findings, and we know that park factors aren’t perfect — but I can guarantee the results will be enjoyable and anomalous. Before we begin, let me state that I have screened each triple candidate for gross misconduct on the part of the opposing fielders. Then again, gross misconduct on a fielder’s part is a contributing factor to a lot of triples (the second category), so we can only do so much. Now onto the findings.

Lowest ISO/Furthest Home Run: Michael Taylor, 8/21/15

Michael Taylor had an ISO of .129 in 2015. On our grading system in our glossary pages, that’s right in between “Below Average” and “Average.” That actually might be slightly outdated, as league average across all of baseball this year was .150. Other players with an ISO within a couple points of Taylor, for reference: Denard Span, Ian Kinsler, A.J. Pierzynski, and Wilson Ramos. Definitely players who can hit home runs, but probably not the type to be hitting balls 500 feet. Yet that’s almost what Taylor did here, in Coors Field. Some, like Baseball Savant, have this at 493 feet, which would make it the second-longest home run of the season. Others, like Hit Tracker, have it at 479 feet (we can assume that’s adjusted for elevation), which is still top five. Regardless of the exact distance, a guy with technically below average game power — and great raw power — really ran into one.

Lowest LHH opposite-field power (ISO) to homer to left field: Kole Calhoun, 5/19/15

Kole Calhoun likes to pull the ball, and like most hitters, that’s the field he has most power to. Case in point: he had just four doubles and one home run all season to left field — good for just a .067 ISO when going the opposite way. This is that one home run, and it’s a strange one: among left-handed opposite-field homers, it came off the ninth-highest pitch, and it was also Calhoun’s shortest homer this year by a full 25 feet. Hit off a first-pitch tailing fastball from Aaron Sanchez and, traveling 356 feet, this might be the last opposite-field home run we see for a long time out of Calhoun, as it was the very first of his career.

Lowest RHH opposite-field power (ISO) to homer to right field: Mark Canha, 8/17/15

Mark Canha is many things — great Rule 5 pick, intriguing right-handed power option, food connoisseur — but he is not really an opposite-field threat. His 2015 oppo ISO of just .063 included only two doubles and a home run, the latter of which you see above. Unsurprisingly, both of these opposite-field home runs came on outside fastballs, with Canha obviously expecting something offspeed in an 0-2 count. If there is such a thing as an “oops” home run, these two fit the bill. Chris Tillman’s cutter didn’t quite cut enough, and Canha hit it just 349 feet to barely escape the confines of Camden Yards. This homer may now also be remembered for the almost comically lackadaisical nature of any attempted catch by fans standing just off Eutaw street:

Why-Catch

“Slowest” LHH to triple in unfriendly triples park: Justin Morneau, Dodgers Stadium, 9/15/15

Dodgers Stadium is one of the hardest parks to triple in regardless of handedness: it has ranked as the hardest three years running in our five-year regressed park factors. Baseball Prospectus had Anaheim taking away the most triples compared to the Angels’ away production in 2015, but surprise: no lefties tripled at Angel Stadium in 2015. Next up for BP was Cincinnati, but only two lefties tripled there, and they were Joe Panik and Nori Aoki, not the type of player we are necessarily looking for. So it sort of works out that we ended up on a good candidate in Los Angeles. Morneau got a hanging slider from Juan Nicasio in mid-September, and through a brutal combination of wet conditions and Chris Heisey only playing 10 games in center field for the Dodgers, he got a fairly easy triple. With a career speed score of 2.3 — which would put him in the bottom 25 of qualified hitters in 2015 — the broadcast team hit the nail on the head, saying “The least likely Rocky, perhaps, to produce a triple.” Indeed.

Honorable mention: A.J. Pierzynski, Turner Field, 6/20/15

Pierzynski might also have a case for most improbable lefty triple of 2015, as his speed score of 1.7 would be in the bottom 15 of players had he qualified for the batting title. Per BP, Turner Field has a fourth-worst lefty triple park factor of 82, but a combination of wet grass, friendly bounces, and Curtis Granderson’s arm in right field helped the much-maligned catcher claim a three-bagger. And against Noah Syndergaard!

“Slowest” RHH to triple at unfriendly triples park: Yunel Escobar, 5/24/15, Nationals Park

Only five right-handed hitters tripled at Nationals Park in 2015, which BP and ESPN have as one of the hardest parks for a right-hander to triple in. Coming into 2015, Escobar had only tripled twice since the start of 2012, and his speed score of 2.5 puts him around the bottom 30 of qualified hitters (his 2014 score of 1.1 was actually fourth-worst). But this is baseball, and baseball is really weird, and Escobar had his day — getting two strange, friendly bounces off of the fence and warning track in right center.

Honorable mention: Alex Rodriguez, Yankee Stadium, 5/8/15

Alex Rodriguez has now hit two triples since the start of the 2011 season, and this was one of them. For lack of a better term, this is a hot mess. A fly ball that would have probably been an out most places except Yankee Stadium; a failed leaping grab that results in a temporary injury; and finally, a relay throw that simply cannot — indeed, will not — be located:

Where-ball





Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.

17 Comments
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Peter
6 years ago

I thought for sure that Francisco Liriano’s opposite field home run off Mat Latos would appear on this list. That might be an interesting article idea. For his entire career up until roughly this July, Liriano was an abysmal hitter. After homering off Latos Liriano looked like a completely different hitter the rest of the season. Is there a way on this site to look at pitcher’s hitting statistics broken down by month? When I click “splits” it automatically reverts to his pitching stats.

Hydemember
6 years ago
Reply to  Peter

I had to use Baseball-Reference to do it, but it looks like he hit a startling .075/.075/.075 prior to that fated night, and a whopping .320/.320/.520 after. He recorded two doubles in addition to that home run, having not hit any prior to that. So, there.

Peter
6 years ago
Reply to  Hyde

Thanks! So he went from being one of the worst hitting pitchers in the league to hitting like an above-average corner outfielder (SSS of course)

DKH
6 years ago
Reply to  Peter

You can view batting splits for pitchers by modifying the URL to “&position=PB” after clicking on the Splits link.