In this day and age, baseball fans, I think, are blessed with some outstanding and unparalleled Internet resources. I spend half of every day on Baseball Reference, and I spend a third of every day writing about what I found on Baseball Reference. There's Retrosheet, there's FanGraphs, there's the entire blogosphere, there's PITCHfx ... it would be pretty easy to drown in a riptide of information. (ed. note: literally it would not) But sometimes I think my favorite resource is the Home Run Tracker. Once known as Hit Tracker Online, it provides dinger data you can't get anywhere else. Or at least, you couldn't get it anywhere else before, and then places started carrying Home Run Tracker data. But you can't get it anywhere else in one place.
A lot of people use the Home Run Tracker to find out who's hit the longest home runs. Long home runs are impressive and memorable, and a guy capable of hitting long home runs is a guy with plenty of power potential. I was messing around with long home runs, too, but then I remembered the columns are sortable, and I grew curious about the weakest home run. Who's hit the weakest home run so far in 2012?
You could say the answer is Norichika Aoki, who lined an inside-the-parker. But for one thing, I'm not interested in looking at inside-the-parkers, and for another, the ball came off of Aoki's bat at about 99 miles per hour. I wanted to find the home run with the lowest batted-ball velocity. Not distance - you could have a strong home run that was practically hit on a line. I wanted the most weakly-hit ball that left a yard.
According to the data, that ball was hit by Chris Iannetta in Yankee Stadium on April 14. I present to you that home run:
Here are the vitals:
324 feet (second-lowest)
Speed Off Bat
90.1 miles per hour (lowest)
Phil Hughes didn't throw a bad pitch. He didn't throw a great pitch, as he went with a first-pitch fastball that caught a lot of the plate, but Iannetta was behind it. No matter - Iannetta hit it well enough to get out. Just well enough to get out, literally by inches.
Everybody knows that right field is a forgiving field in Yankee Stadium, but I also think most everybody was surprised that Iannetta wound up with a dinger. Nick Swisher captured the spirit of the occasion when the ball bounced from the stands back into the field of play:
Swisher: /watches ball
Swisher: /snares ball
Swisher: So this is how this feels.
Swisher: Sure feels kinda shitty.
The Angels acquired Chris Iannetta in large part because of his power. Over the course of his career he's hit a handful of home runs more than 440 feet, which is an arbitrary line, but also an impressive one. The Angels figured Iannetta could provide some thump while also working behind the plate. Iannetta is most certainly powerful, but this was his first Angels home run, and it maybe wasn't what Jerry Dipoto had in mind. Or maybe it was exactly what Jerry Dipoto had in mind. I'm not Jerry Dipoto, nor do I know people familiar with his inner-most secrets.
Watching this over and over makes me think about three things:
Yep, that is one weak home run. I went in search of the season's weakest home run, and I found it. That home run really and truly could not have been hit any weaker. Neat.
The instinctive response to a home run like this is negative. You watch it and you think, wow, that is one sorry home run. That's certainly what Nick Swisher was thinking. The instinctive response to something like the below is not nearly so negative:
That's a pitcher-friendly ballpark trapping a deep fly ball to the right side of center field. In a lot of parks, that's a homer. Monday, it was an out. People seem to have much less of a problem with pitcher-friendly parks than with hitter-friendly parks. Why is this? They are equally unfair. One is unfair to the guys on the mound, and one is unfair to the guys at the plate. Why do we feel like hitters should have to "earn" their home runs? Why do we feel like home runs like Iannetta's aren't earned? What is the weakest-possible home run with which nobody would have a problem? Basically, what's the lower bound of acceptability? People refer to Yankee Stadium's right field as a joke, but I'd like to know why, and how much bigger it would have to be to not be a joke anymore.
Iannetta's homer cleared the fence where it says 314. In right-center, the fence measures 385. In dead center, 408. This is more or less standard - in every park, the foul pole is closer than the wall in center field, by an awful lot. As a friend mentioned to me recently: why? Why is this the norm? Why isn't it the same distance to the fence everywhere in the outfield? I'm not asking why it wasn't that way at the very beginning; I'm asking why it isn't that way now. Why should it be harder to go deep to center than it is to go deep down the lines? I had never thought about this before until I talked to my friend, and it was mind-blowing. The present arrangement doesn't make sense! The dimensions are all crazy!
Chris Iannetta hit a 324-foot homer that was more like a 319-foot homer that got lucky. It's a homer that makes you learn. It's a homer that makes you think.