Something you don’t see every day…

Today, Aug. 30, 2006, at Jacobs Field, Cleveland’s Travis Hafner hit the two shortest home runs of the 27 hit in the major leagues:

The interesting thing is, these two homers were also the two hardest hit of the day, at 116.7 and 117.7 mph, respectively.  Each was a screaming line drive into the right field bullpen, with the first getting a bit more air than the second (21.4 degrees elevation to 18.8 degrees). 

Here are the flight paths of each homer, with the 3rd inning one first.  Note how far apart the time markers are; these are the red circles, which show the ball location at 1 second intervals.  This is what a line drive looks like, whereas a high fly ball would have the circles closely spaced, especially at the end of the path where the ball is steeply descending.  The blue circles shows the landing point of the balls.
                                                                  
                           

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Travis Hafner, Aug. 30, 2006  3rd inning

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Travis Hafner, Aug. 30, 2006  8th inning


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Could I get a little help here, MLB?

As someone who is fairly obsessive about watching home runs (and baseball in general), nothing frustrates me more than when I can’t get the information I need to analyze a home run, particularly a long one.  This can come about for a number of reasons: the flight of the ball may not be visible; it may not be possible to make a good read on the wind at the time of the hit; the location of the impact point may be difficult to accurately determine.  Most of these issues can be improved greatly with a minor change, many of which can be brought about by MLB and the media outlets that cover the game.  So, here goes, a wish list from Hit Tracker:

1.  Atmopsheric conditions.  To figure out how far a home run travels and how hard it was hit, it is very important to know the atmospherics at the time of the hit: temperature, wind direction and wind speed.  Currently these things are recorded in the box score, but only at the beginning of the game (actually, some time before the first pitch, judging by when that info appears in MLB Gameday.  It would be very helpful if this data could be captured every inning, or even every half inning.  No need to put that all in the main box score, just capture it and put it somewhere I can read it. 

  Failing that, I would settle for more flags in the parks; some are great in this respect (Wrigley with the scoreboard flags, Yankee Stadium’s flags on the stadium rim and in left field), others are fair (Fenway and Jacobs Field in center field), others I still don’t know where the flag is (Great American Ball Park).  This could also be a great marketing opportunity: MLB could sell a flag that flew over a major league game, just like they sell flags that flew over the White House…

2.  Visual backgrounds.  Some parks are just difficult to pick the ball up in: Shea Stadium in right field, the flag court in right field at Camden Yards, and my personal nemesis, the left field wall in Minute Maid Park.  I think this one is probably unrealistic, but it would be great if those teams could make the background contrast a bit more with the white baseball.  The first-base camera at Minute Maid helps, but that angle isn’t always available.  It justs hurts to have to leave a home run un-analyzed…

3.  Foul poles.  In most cases it’s easy to figure out how far above field level the ball impacts, but when it hits the pole, it can be tricky.  This request is easy: paint some tick marks on the poles, every 10 feet above field level, so I can tell how far up the ball hits…

4.  Camera work.  Here I have to ask the media for the assistance.  Nothing frustrates me more than watching a zoomed-in image of the center fielder run back on a ball and then pull up short of the wall, while the ball (off camera) disappears somewhere far above.  Usually I get lucky and there is another angle on the video (Soriano’s May 9 homer at Great American Ball Park is an example), but I’m nervous: the Adam Dunn homer from Aug. 10, 2004 (also at GABP) that reportedly went 535 feet is completely out of the frame on the video, meaning there’s no way to verify it, and there never will be.  So, my request is, have a camera mounted high on the stadium and keep it wide for the entire play (but following the ball).  Think of it as a blimp shot, only not so high…

So there are a few requests, some reasonable, some not, that would make the task of accurately estimating home run distances a lot easier.  Now, if my MLB All Access account could get me not only every game, but every camera feed, that might take care of a few of these issues… something to think about.

Branyan Blasts!

On Aug. 28, Russell Branyan hit two homers for the Padres, including a 427 footer to left-center field and a huge 471 foot blast to right field.  Branyan’s second homer left the bat at 119.4 mph, and picked up 14 feet from the warm, thin air inside Chase Field.  Below are the overhead flight path and the side profile of Branyan’s impressive 471 foot shot…

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What makes a good home run? Some of my favorites of 2006 so far…

I’ve been planning to summarize each day’s homers here, but on a day when among 33 homers, only one went further than 430 feet, it just doesn’t seem like the best use of my time and this space – after all, you can go to the main Hit Tracker page and get all that info.  So today, I’m going to share my thoughts on what makes a good home run.

  Obviously the first kind of home run that makes the highlight reel are the ones that go really far.  Here I’m going to call out Ryan Howard’s April 23 homer at Citizens Bank Park.  Going deep is great, and going really deep is really great, but when you hit a ball 491 feet and clear the batter’s eye to dead center, you’ve got a great visual.  Not to mention the fact that the opposing center fielder, Reggie Abercrombie, over whose head this magnificent homer soared, was the guy who to that point in the season owned the longest home run, a massive 481 foot upper deck shot at Great American Ball Park just four days earlier on April 19.

  The next kind of homer is one that doesn’t necessarily go as far, but which gets there really, really fast.  Here I’ve got a couple, coincidentally both from Fenway Park within a four day span around the trading deadline.

  First, Wily Mo Pena’s 404 foot rocket to left field at Fenway on August 2: Pena’s homer left the bat at 115.8 mph, and slammed into the back of the front row of the Monster seats an amazing 2.81 seconds later.  This is the shortest time of flight of any home run this season.  What made this homer look even better was the way it richocheted off the seats and rebounded a good portion of the way back to the infield, and the way the fans near the impact point scattered: rather than trying to grab a souvenir, these folks were scrambling to get out of the way and live another day.  Beautiful!

  The other rapid departure I want to share was Vladimir Guerrero’s 476 foot bomb at Fenway Park on July 30.  Curt Schilling threw Vlad a splitter on the inner half of the plate and down, and Vlad wound up and hammered it.  The ball screamed high over the Monster seats, and passed through the left hand bank of lights above the wall after a brief but exhilirating 2.96 second flight; 2 or 3 seconds later the ball presumably did come down somewhere beyond the wall (the analysis for this one was run to the point where it passed through the lights.)  You have to watch this one to appreciate it – if it doesn’t get you out of your seat then your couch cushions are too soft…

  Finally, I want to talk about the true majesty of the cheap shot.  These are the homers that come off the bat with an understated, lower-case "crack" (or maybe even more of a "splat"), and float their way to a resting spot a foot or two above an all-too-near outfield fence, to the delight of the hitter’s team and the disgust of the pitcher, who just surrendered a four-bagger on a ball he himself would have been ashamed of in BP…  A good example of this is John Buck’s 334 foot opposite field homer at Minute Maid Park on June 18 (suprisingly not a Crawford Box job).  95 mph off the bat, opposite field, lands on top of the wall… Andy Pettitte was not pleased…

  Your inputs on the "best" homers of 2006 are welcomed…

Aug. 26 Homers: Late Inning Thunder in Chicago

On August 26, 2006 there were 27 home runs in 15games, bringing the total for 2006 to 4,307.

Top 5 Homers by True Distance for Aug. 26,
2006:
(complete list here)

  1. Paul Konerko, White Sox, 445 feet
        
  2. Jermaine Dye, White Sox, 438 feet
        
  3. Ryan Shealy, Royals, 430 feet
        
  4. Mike Jacobs, Marlins, 429 feet
        
  5. Johnny Damon, Yankees, 424 feet
        

Notable Homers:

Aug. 24 Homers: The Winds of Wrigley

On August 24, 2006 there were 26 home runs in 11 games, bringing the total for 2006 to 4,262.

Top 5 Homers by True Distance for Aug. 24, 2006: (complete list here)

  1. Phil Nevin, Cubs, 438 feet
  2. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs, 433 feet
  3. David Ortiz, Red Sox, 431 feet
  4. Angel Pagan, Cubs, 427 feet
  5. Prince Fielder, Brewers, 424 feet

Notable Homers:

  • Boston’s David Ortiz hammered home run #46, a 431 foot blast to right field off the Angels standout rookie hurler Jered Weaver that came off the bat at 116.1 mph.  Weaver had only surrendered 4 home runs before Ortiz’s long ball, none of which had left the bat faster than 110.7 mph.
  • The Chicago Cubs belted four home runs off Philadelphia pitchers Cole Hamels and Brian Sanches in the first 4 innings of an 11-2 beat-down of the Phillies at Wrigley Field.  Each of the four (the 3 listed in the top 5 table above, plus a 380 footer by Michael Barrett) picked up at least 44 feet of distance from a strong wind blowing out to CF, as well as the usual 4-5 feet from the 595 foot altitude of Wrigley…

Interesting facts around the longest home runs in each ballpark

Some interesting facts around the longest home runs in each of the 30 MLB stadiums (complete list here):Citizensbankpark_2006_636jpg

  • Ryan Howard hit the year’s longest homer (491 feet at Citizens Bank Park on April 23, see diagram at right). He also "owns" AT&T Park with his 469 foot shot on July 15.
  • The only other multiple ballpark "owners" are Prince Fielder (473 feet at Miller Park on May 12 and 462 feet at Minute Maid Park on April 18) and Vladimir Guerrero (476 feet at Fenway Park on July 30 and 469 feet at Angels Stadium on June 15)
  • Travis Hafner owns the longest homer of 2006 at Jacobs Field (437 feet on June 19), but he has hit three longer homers elsewhere, including round-trippers of 449 and 450 feet on consecutive nights at Tropicana Field Aug. 19-20
  • Besides Jacobs Field, the only other ballparks not to have seen a 450 foot homer so far this year are two of the three coldest stadiums in the league, McAfee Coliseum (429 feet by Juan Rivera on July 6) and Safeco Field (437 feet by Corey Patterson on May 23).
  • Only 8 of the 30 ballparks are "owned" by a member of the home team.  Four of these parks are listed above; the others are Yankee Stadium (488 feet by Alex Rodriguez on June 15), Shea Stadium (452 feet by David Wright on April 7), Busch Stadium (455 feet by Albert Pujols) and Turner Field (463 feet by Jeff Francoeur).Greatamericanballpark_2006_521jpg
  • Florida rookie Reggie Abercrombie hammered the longest homer of 2006 at Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park (481 feet on April 19, see diagram at right).  Abercrombie’s monstrous 127.3 mph blast was his 1st career ML homer.
  • Tampa Bay outfielder Jonny Gomes hit the 1st home run of 2006 at Camden Yards in the 2nd inning of opening day on April 3.  Gomes’ 451 foot shot has stood up since as the longest of the year at that park.
  • Three of the 30 "ownership" homers were hit on June 15: A-Rod’s and Vlad’s listed above, plus Jim Thome’s 459 foot homer at Ameriquest Field.