We’ve reached that nice round number of two months after Opening Day, and as such, we can now recall fondly some of the highlights of those first two frames of the season. What sort of highlights, you may ask? Usually, they’re seen as the most popular type: dingers, big flies, what-have-yous. Today, just as we did after the first two weeks of the season, and just as August did a few times last season, we’re going to look at the hardest-hit, longest, shortest, and most extreme home runs of the year so far.
All data comes from our friends at HitTrackerOnline and Baseball Savant. Following a canvass of commenters on the previous article, there are now a few more categories for us to look at, especially related to pitch location; may we all rejoice in the communal desire to see a gross number of home runs. Onto the results!
Hardest-Hit Home Run — Josh Donaldson, 4/23
In theory, there are a great number of possible answers to the question “what happens when you hang a belt-high change up to Josh Donaldson?”, but in practice, there is often only one. This particular change up was adjudged by our computer overlords to leave the hand of the pitcher at a speed of 84.6 mph, while leaving the bat moments later at a speed of 120.6 mph. Fortunately for the safety of the fans, Donaldson decided to choose the second deck of the facade at the Rogers Centre to bear the brunt of the ensuing impact.
Softest-Hit and Shortest Home Run — Caleb Joseph, 4/17
This one might stand for the entire season. Unchanged from our previous check-in six weeks ago, this category is daring some enterprising major-league hitter to best Mr. Joseph and his callous use of the bewildering dimensions of Fenway Park. Coming off the bat at a speed of 88.7 mph and traveling just 317 feet, I wondered, is it possible to hit a ball shorter and softer than this for a home run? A cursory survey of the past five years of home-run data shows that yes, it is possible, but only in the same place. This clip, from the moments after that home run two years ago, is the distilled essence of every pitcher’s thought of “I just gave up a Fenway home run”:
Longest Home Run — Joc Pederson, 6/2
Just recently used as the centerpiece of an article by Jeff, this home run travelled a goodly 480 feet — in Coors Field. Whether or not you believe that this should have an asterisk or not because of that fact, we can all agree that Pederson will be toward the top of this category for some time. We can also all agree that the Los Angeles broadcast team’s exclamation of “this has got a chance!” after this ball was hit may perhaps also stand as the biggest announcing understatement of the season.
Lowest Apex — Pablo Sandoval, 4/27
Representing the lone home run Sandoval has hit at the friendly confines, this home run reached an apex of only 45 feet on its way to the right center-field bullpens. To give us an idea of just how hard he hit this ball, this would have been a home run in 21 other parks; compare that to the other lowest apex home run this year (Brian McCann, 45 feet), which would have only been a home run in one (Yankee Stadium).
Highest Apex — J.D. Martinez, 5/15
Amazingly, this would be a home run in 10 other major-league stadiums, according to HitTrackerOnline. It also got an extra 10 feet of distance due to wind, which is usually the case with fly balls hit this extraordinarily high. Reaching a height of 154 feet, it tied Nelson Cruz’s previous record in this category. I started to look up a famous structure to use as an example, but then realized I could just say this: Martinez could have hit this ball onto the top of a 15-story building.
Slowest Pitch — Josh Hamilton, 5/29
back! injured again, but he got this in before hitting the DL. Something went really wrong with this Steven Wright knuckleball or curveball — there’s a bit of a disagreement on what it was — but Hamilton perfectly executed the “if it’s high, let it fly, if it’s low, let it go” mantra concerning success against knuckleball pitchers. He had plenty of success against Wright that day, as this, against a 66 mph pitch, was his second home run of the game off of the stop-gap Red Sox starter. This home run, in my mind’s eye, is what I would expect it to look like if Josh Hamilton were on your softball team — with Big Mike from the electrician’s union in place of Steven Wright.
Fastest Pitch — Ian Desmond, 5/19
This is technically cheating a little bit, because this pitch is the same speed as the home run highlighted in our first recap of the season. However, just to have a different look, here’s Desmond impressively homering off of a 98.4 mph Nathan Eovaldi fastball. I was hopeful that Maikel Franco’s 9th-inning shot off of Aroldis Chapman on Wednesday night might usurp both the Desmond and Pujols homers, but alas, that pitch only came in at a lowly 97.7 mph. We must continue to wait for one of a select group of flamethrowers to serve up a long ball on a pitch at least 98.5 mph.
Highest Pitch, RHH — Giancarlo Stanton, 6/2
You may be asking why there is a separate category for right-handers and left-handers for high pitches. I’m not going to lie: it’s so that we can highlight this home run. Notice the location of the glove before the pitch, on a 1-2 count, as Miguel Montero wanted the ball near the letters. Zac Rosscup hit his spot, maybe even airing on the side of caution by running the pitch a little higher (it crossed the plate 3.9 feet above the ground). It didn’t matter. This was also the 35th-most outside pitch hit by a right-hander for a home run so far this year (out of 886 total), so that adds to the craziness. Sometimes pitchers make great pitches that get hit for home runs; Rosscup made an intentionally terrible pitch, and Stanton still hit it out.
Highest Pitch, LHH — Brian McCann, 5/27
This is another two-strike pitch, again with the pitcher trying to climb the ladder for a swinging strikeout. We all know Chris Young doesn’t have the greatest fastball, and so it was that McCann was either ready for it, or simply didn’t have much trouble with the 86 mph offering. At 4.28 feet off the ground, this represents both the highest pitch overall hit for a home run in the majors this season, and was also McCann’s fourth home run in four consecutive games.
Lowest Pitch, RHH — Adrian Beltre, 4/9
This falls into the realm of least surprising name in a category, with the home run coming on a pitch that was just 1.1 feet above the ground. Is it Adrian Beltre? Check. Does he go down on one knee? Check. Does someone try to touch his head in the dugout afterward and almost get punched? Check.
Lowest Pitch, LHH — Bryce Harper, 5/19
Poor Nathan Eovaldi, showing up twice as the opposing pitcher in this article. This one is from the same game as the Desmond homer above, and this time it’s not a well-placed fastball, but a pretty well-placed slider. The pitch is basically in the dirt (just 0.98 feet above it, in fact), but Bryce Harper doesn’t really care whether pitches are in or out of the strike zone this year, as he will hit them out.
Most Inside Pitch, RHH — Ryan Zimmerman, 4/8
For Ryan Zimmerman, who stands almost a full imperial yard from the plate, the concept of “inside” is a little bit different than for most hitters. This pitch was 1.75 feet from the center of the plate (12.5 inches from the inside edge), and he hit a home run. When you go inside on Zimmerman, you actually have to go inside inside. Jacob DeGrom learned that the hard way — much like a foreign traveller who, upon entering the lush greenhouse foyer of some exotic hotel, wonders, “am I actually inside?”
Most Inside Pitch, LHH — David Peralta, 5/8
Peralta is another hitter who stands far away from the plate — couple that with James Shields‘ propensity for giving up home runs, and you have the makings of something special. This cutter was just over four inches off the inside edge of the plate, and Peralta made it look like a fairly routine home run on a down-and-in pitch.
Most Outside Pitch, RHH — Jose Abreu, 5/24
At four inches off the outside edge of the plate, Kyle Gibson probably thought this changeup was in spot in which Abreu couldn’t do much damage. Unfortunately, it hung just a little bit, and became the most outside pitch hit for a home run in Abreu’s career. Something tells me he might best that someday.
Most Outside Pitch, LHH — Luis Valbuena, 4/15
At the confluence of an all-home run approach and bizarre stadium dimensions, we see strange and wondrous things happen. Mark Canha thought he had a play on this ball, and he would be correct in all but two stadiums. Instead, Valbuena took Evan Scribner deep on a pitch that was just under six inches off the outside edge of the plate. For Scribner, like Eovaldi, it is his second appearance in this most ignominious and meaningless of articles.
Biggest Speed Difference, Pitch vs. Hit — Brad Miller, 5/17
Hey, it’s Steven Wright pitching again! It is strange to have three separate pitchers on this list twice apiece, but that’s where we find ourselves. This is another Wright 67.5 mph curveball that didn’t quite do what it was supposed to, and it ended up leaving Miller’s bat at 106 mph, a speed difference of 38.5 mph. This is the ultimate hanging curveball that got crushed.
Smallest Speed Difference, Pitch vs. Hit — Mark Teixeira, 5/22
And, by popular demand, here is the smallest difference in pitch velocity vs. batted ball velocity: 0.1 mph. The pitch, thrown by Ross Ohlendorf (who has an amazing windup, I must say), was released at 95.9 mph. According to the data we have, it left Teixeira’s bat at 96 mph. I’ll leave it to finer scientific minds than mine to explain the physics behind that, but I will speak for most of us in saying that’s pretty interesting.
Thank you again, dear readers, for joining me in this journey through the many home runs of the season so far. May we see each other again soon in these gilded halls of commemoration.
Owen Watson writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @ohwatson.