I don't know that there's any singular event that baseball fans like more than a really long home run. Clutch strikeouts are great, and so are diving stops and doubles to the gap, but a mammoth home run is such a showstopper. As soon as the bat meets the ball, everybody watches its majestic flight, and the hitter takes a slow, triumphant jog around the bases, having emasculated the guy on the mound. A long home run is baseball's greatest feat of brute strength.
But they say that behind every great man there's a great woman, and it's the same way with homers. Behind every enormous home run is a pitch that allowed it to be. Just as we must pause to appreciate the efforts of all the world's great women, so we must pause to appreciate the world's most destroyable pitches. Were it not for these pitches, "moonshot" might never have entered the baseball lexicon.
So as a tip of the cap to power's greatest assistants, here are the five pitches hit for the longest home runs so far in the 2011 regular season, with data coming courtesy of Hit Tracker Online.
(5), , 464 feet
Buster Posey wants a first-pitch changeup down and away. Madison Bumgarner throws a first-pitch changeup to the center of the zone. He'll never expect the first-pitch changeup in the center of the zone!
(4) Mike Stanton,, 465 feet
With Pelfrey ahead 1-2, Ronny Paulino requested a slider at the knees. Pelfrey threw a slider at the thighs. Realistically, I don't know if the knees would've worked out any better, but at least this way Paulino can absolve himself of blame for the horror that followed.
(3), , 470 feet
Beachy was behind in the count and working with runners on base, so Brian McCann asked him to throw an inside fastball that might saw Howard off and induce a double-play grounder. Brandon Beachy, however, is secretly terrified of broken bats, and decided to try something else.
(2) Justin Upton, Chris Carpenter, 478 feet
By this point you might be noticing a trend. In all of these examples, the catchers have wanted one thing, and the pitchers have thrown something entirely different. This leads you to one of two conclusions: either all these pitchers are really mad at their catchers, or throwing the baseball to a spot such that it doesn't end up square in the middle of the strike zone is hard. In the event that it's the former, I bet Yadier Molina was really passive-aggressive around Carpenter after this game was over. "Hey. Hey you wanna talk about that one pitch? I think we should talk about that one pitch."
(1), , 486 feet
The perfect metaphorical meatball to a hitter who doesn't eat actual meatballs. On the one hand, you might think that the longest home run would be hit off a really fast fastball, what with physics and everything. But this makes sense when you see it. Myers badly misses his spot and just lobs the pitch right in there, belt-high, in the center of the strike zone. There is no other possible outcome for this pitch. As soon as it left Myers' fingers, its fate was sealed. If hittable pitches are to home runs what great women are to great men, this pitch was Eleanor Roosevelt.