Which Home Run Was Worse?

After the way that Game 5 played out, I knew I had to give this some breathing room. There are things you want to talk and read about right after a game is finished, and there are things you want to talk and read about much later on. This is hardly the most important content about the Astros’ tie-breaking victory in their final home game of the season. I just have a question, and I’d love to see how you respond. I’ve been thinking about this since before I fell asleep.

In the bottom of the seventh inning, Sunday night, Carlos Correa faced Brandon Morrow and knocked a two-run homer out to left field. The Astros went ahead 11-8. In the top of the ninth inning, Yasiel Puig faced Chris Devenski and knocked a two-run homer out to left field. The Dodgers tightened the gap to 12-11. By the rules, both home runs were legitimate. There’s no question that the balls left the yard on the fly. Live by the Crawford Boxes, and die by the Crawford Boxes. Correa and Puig both hit two-run home runs. They were significant. But, in your own personal opinion, which home run was worse?

Maybe you don’t think there’s any such thing as a “bad” home run. Maybe you don’t think about baseball like this, in which case, I guess this isn’t for you. For everybody else, I’d like to record the community opinion, because, at least to me, there are better home runs and there are worse home runs. Minute Maid Park just allowed a couple cheapies.

Let me show you something, first. I’ve borrowed from Baseball Savant. Statcast has recorded batted-ball information stretching back to 2015. Here are all the home runs, by exit velocity and launch angle, excepting a few obvious data errors. The Correa and Puig home runs from Game 5 are in yellow. Puig’s is tucked in there, barely visible, but it does exist. It’s easier to find Correa’s moon shot.

Puig is around the lower-left boundary. Correa is more or less at the upper boundary. We can review the Puig dinger first. Here it is!

The argument against Puig’s home run, I think, is an argument about aesthetics. This actually might be a display of fine hitting. In a two-strike count, Puig stayed on a changeup away, and he hit the ball 96 miles per hour. More than that, he hit the ball on a line, and in another ballpark, this could easily be a double. Or maybe even a home run, in some places. Puig’s batted-ball result was just fine. Devenski didn’t even throw that bad a pitch.

But:

Puig’s form was terrible. It’s kind of similar to that Todd Frazier home run from the other week, except that Frazier’s home run went the other way. Puig pulled the ball, and it was all upper body. He didn’t even appear to swing with that much force. Obviously, he did swing with that much force — he must have — but, to put things simply, there are swings we expect to hit homers, and there are swings we don’t. This doesn’t look like a home-run swing, for whatever that’s worth. This doesn’t look like a home-run follow-through. This looks like a desperation swat, and still Puig got his four bases. Plus the other three, for the guy already on first. That swing, that swing, gave the Dodgers new life.

I don’t want to be too critical of a swing that led to this result. But this is precisely the sort of home run that makes people think the baseball is juiced. Puig hit the ball 96 miles per hour. *Should* he have hit the ball 96 miles per hour? Did the ball come off the bat with too much life? This has all the feel of a very 2017 home run. Not everyone is a fan of the era baseball’s entered.

Okay. That’s Puig’s silly-looking homer. Here’s Correa’s silly-looking homer.

You can’t deny the actual batted-ball quality, here. The ball left Correa’s bat at 106 miles per hour, which means the contact was terrific. But the ball also left Correa’s bat at roughly 48 degrees above the horizontal. We can even ignore how bizarre it is that Correa made that contact at that angle in the first place. This season, when batters hit the ball between 47-49 degrees, they slugged a collective .050. They batted .033. The Correa home run has the highest launch angle for any home run in 2017. It’s the fifth-highest launch angle for any home run on record. The highest is higher by just two degrees. Bryce Harper hit a higher home run in 2015. Here’s how he responded after making initial contact.

Correa’s home run isn’t unprecedented. Very, very rarely, one of these towering flies escapes down the line, or gets caught in the wind. Correa’s home run, specifically, got out because of the stands, which are unique to the stadium. Elsewhere, that’s probably a routine fly ball. Brandon Morrow didn’t seem too concerned off the bat. Then he turned around and remembered where he was. Carlos Correa hit a very Houston home run. Thankfully for him, that’s where the game was being played.

Once again, to make sure it’s clear: both Puig and Correa made strong contact. They delivered into the baseball a whole hell of a lot of energy. But their home runs were nothing like, say, George Springer’s. Their home runs were comparatively underwhelming. The argument that Puig’s home run was worse is an argument that maybe the baseball’s too lively. It’s an argument that some swings should keep the baseball in the yard. The argument that Correa’s home run was worse is an argument that stadium-specific home runs are a bug, and not a feature. It’s an argument that architecture is in part responsible for the devaluation of the longball. Every home run counts just the same. Not every home run is hit just the same.

It’s out of my hands, now. Now it’s all up to you. Thank you for your participation.





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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Wu-Bacca
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Wu-Bacca

Minute Maid Park was the best pitcher’s park for 2017 (more than Petco, AT&T, anywhere) and has been a pitcher’s park for several years now. I know it has a gigantic centerfield that turns a lot of homers into outs, and it also appears to have poor visibility (or at least something is responsible for much higher than average K’s). That said, watching the above clips still makes me wonder how that’s possible.

White Jar
Member
White Jar

I’m not saying you’re wrong, but what is your claim for “best pitcher’s park” based on?

ExK
Member
ExK
forestation
Member
forestation

That chart says 2015?

The latest analysis from Tony Blengino through 1H 2017 shows Houston as a solidly pro-hitter park, and greatly above average for fly balls.

https://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/mid-season-park-factor-update/

John Autin
Member
John Autin

I don’t know about “best” pitcher’s park, but it undoubtedly WAS a pitcher’s park this year. The marks for HOU batters and pitchers combined:
— Home: .252 BA, .430 SLG
— Away: .270 BA, .456 SLG

Both their batters and pitchers had higher BA and SLG on the road.

chazzycat
Member
Member
chazzycat

It’s not because it suppresses home runs. It just suppresses everything else: http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/parkfactor

nenright
Member
Member
nenright

ESPN park factors are really not good