In the 6th inning of last night’s Mets-Orioles game, Baltimore reliever Brad Brach threw a 92-mph two-seam fastball that came boring in on Dilson Herrera’s hands. Herrera pulled his arms in, stayed short to the ball, and hit a two-run homer that gave the Mets a comfortable four-run lead. He showed off an impressive combination of quickness and power that culminated in a rare feat: hitting a HR on a pitch 1.457 feet from the plate’s center.
Here’s a histogram of all HR hit by right-handed batters, based on PITCHf/x horizontal location. As Herrera turned on a fastball, let’s limit the sample to HR coming on pitches 89 mph or higher. Let’s also leave out 2008 and 2009 data, which came in a league environment more conducive to HR.
We get a normal distribution with a clear concentration on pitches inside to righties; this makes obvious sense, as pitches middle-in will be easiest to pull and drive. Home plate is within the range of -0.83 feet to 0.83 feet, and naturally nearly all home runs pass over the plate with far fewer on the corners. But then there’s Herrera’s homer, noted by the dotted orange line, coming on that pitch well off the plate. This puts Herrera into exclusive company.
The table below shows the 15 homers that came on pitches furthest inside to RHB. For comparison, I’ll provide the pitch’s velocity and its horizontal location, and then three measurements from ESPN’s Home Run Tracker: standard distance (how far the ball would have traveled in neutral conditions), hit velocity, and the total number of parks the ball would have exited, given neutral conditions.
|Date||Player||Pitch Velo||Horiz Location||Distance||Exit Velo||No. of Parks|
*Not a typo. According to Home Run Tracker, strong wind carried this ball an additional 62 feet.
Skim the list and you’ll see a lot of good hitters, most prominently of which is Miguel Cabrera, who owns 7/15 spots. And certainly you can argue that Herrera’s shot was more impressive than some of these others, as 6 came on slower fastballs and several wouldn’t have left most yards.
There are no controls for each hitter’s standing distance from the plate, so I can’t definitively measure the closeness of each pitch to the batters’ hands. But with the exception of Ryan Zimmerman and his #2-ranked HR, I’d think that far more hitters are centered in the batter’s box or on top of the plate. And yet just a select few have been able to turn on a ball the way Herrera did last night.