The First Two Weeks in Home Runs

Hey there sports fans! Congratulations on making it through the first two weeks of the regular season. I’m sure some of you are ecstatic, like you fans of select AL Central teams or the Mets that have won most of your games; the rest of you (with a few exceptions) are listless in a hovering mediocrity around .500. At least we’re all in this together. It will get better, I promise, unless it gets worse.

Today we’re going to look back at some of the batted ball highlights of the first two weeks of the season, utilizing our friends HitTrackerOnline and Baseball Savant. There’s going to be a little bit of everything in here — hardest-hit ball, lowest-apex home run, weakest-hit ball, etc. — in the hope that this might become a semi-regular post, provided there are enough interesting results. August did a few of these last year, and they’re fun for everyone involved, so let’s keep it rolling.

Hardest-hit home run — Yoenis Cespedes, 4/19

Cespedes_Hardest_Hit

A-Rod was poised to claim this spot with his 477-foot dinger highlighted below, but Cespedes went a little wild in the first inning of yesterday’s game against the White Sox, hitting a grand slam off of Jose Quintana with a batted ball speed of 116 MPH. That bested A-Rod’s blast by .7 MPH, though it will likely fall as the season goes on: last year saw a hardest-hit home run of 122 MPH.

Softest-hit and shortest home run — Caleb Joseph, 4/17

Joseph_Shortest

Two for one! Only in Fenway (and perhaps Yankee stadium) could a routine fly ball into the right field corner meander its way to causing an automatic trip around the bases. Not only was this the shortest home run of the first two weeks, traveling a distance of 317 feet, but it was also the softest-hit, with an exit velocity from the bat of 88.7 MPH. At first, it looked as if Shane Victorino was able to make the grab over the fence, but his efforts proved futile in the face of such power. HitTracker claims that this home run would occur in zero parks, proving once again that any minor successes in our baseball lives are simply a mirage for impermanence and futility.

Joseph’s home run trot (walk) said it all, as Ryan Hanigan stared in solemn disbelief:

Joseph_Trot

Longest home run — Alex Rodriguez, 4/17

Rodriguez_Longest

Is A-Rod back? In the power sense, resoundingly yes. He’s already hit some mammoth home runs this year, and this would’ve been the 4th-longest home run hit in 2014, a 477-foot shot that is most likely going to stay near the top of the 2015 leaderboard for some time. The Tampa Bay announcers were in the middle of a sentence, remarking on how pitchers can challenge Rodriguez inside, when they were struck silent by this lightning bolt off of Nate Karns.

Slowest pitch hit for a home run — Jason Castro, 4/17

Castro_Slowest

Jered Weaver has continued his trend of decreased velocity, and his breaking ball can now be found in the upper 60’s at times. This was one of the slowest ones he’s thrown, a 66 MPH curve he happened to hang, and bad can things can occur when you throw a batting practice pitch during a major league game. Unfortunately for him, Jason Castro was able to stay back on it, and the friendly confines of Minute Maid Park did the rest.

Fastest pitch hit for a home run — Albert Pujols, 4/15

Pujols_Fastest

Yordano Ventura throws the ball hard. He had the highest average fastball velocity of any starter last year, at 97.0 MPH. Last year, he gave up only three hits with his fastball on an 0-1 count. He’s given up two this year, and this is one of them, on a 98.4 MPH pitch that ended up middle-middle. It should be noted, however, that there are far more embarrassing things in life than giving up a home run to Albert Pujols, and many (myself included), would consider it an honor to do so under the right circumstances (rec league softball/wiffle ball game).

Highest apex home run — Nelson Cruz, 4/14

Cruz_Highest

Nelson Cruz was a popular pick for power regression this year, and so far, that hasn’t held up in the counting stats. Two of the three highest-apex home runs this year belong to him, with this one being substantially aided by the wind that was blowing through Dodger Stadium (HitTracker puts a +16 foot value due to wind for this particular homer). The apex of this particular one was 154 feet, over seven feet higher than the next home run on the list. Baseball Heat Maps puts Cruz’ expected home run total (xHR) at five home runs, already three under his mark for the year. Enjoy the ride!

Lowest apex home run — Brian McCann, 4/12

McCann_Lowest

This, much like the Caleb Joseph home run, goes out in only one stadium. Fortunately for Brian McCann, that is the stadium his home team plays in. The home run had an apex of 45 feet, three under the next-lowest, and it is also the fourth-shortest home run of the year, at 344 feet. This was just the icing on the brutally decadent run-scoring cake the Yankees served to their division rivals two Sundays ago.

Biggest-breaking curveball hit for a home run – Scott Van Slyke, 4/19

Van_Slyke_Hanger

Measured by most vertical drop in inches compared to a theoretical pitch with no spin, this Scott Oberg hanger from yesterday came in at a mark of -12.9 inches. If he had buried it in the dirt, it had the makings of a very good curveball on a 1-2 count. Alas, it stayed belt high, and put the Dodgers up 5-0. This top spot was originally held by a huge Bryce Harper shot on a 70 MPH Sean O’Sullivan curveball that dropped -11.7 inches, but one good turn always deserves another.

Further iterations of this compilation will most likely feature pitches in different parts of the strike zone and extreme versions of pitch types (much like the curveball example above). Recommendations and requests put in the comments will be heartily and seriously considered.





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

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honeyhammember
8 years ago

My favorite homer of 2014 was Rizzo’s that was like a mile off the plate. Basically pitches furthest from the strikezone that were still hit for homers are really cool to me

royalguy
8 years ago
Reply to  honeyham

Coaches always say you can’t hit a bad pitch well…… tell that to Anthony Rizzo!

ivdown
8 years ago
Reply to  honeyham

How do you feel about bounced balls for home runs? I know Vlad had a sweet double off of the outfield wall like that, but I feel like he also hit one out.

SabathiaWouldBeGoodAtTheEighthToo
8 years ago
Reply to  ivdown

I seem to recall Manny (as a Dodger) hitting one out that nearly hit his foot. Self-defense HR?