Earlier today, I published an article about the season’s worst home run. The criteria was very simple: I just selected the home run with the lowest recorded exit velocity, courtesy of Statcast. I think that position is fairly defensible, even if there might be other ways to identify other bad home runs. It’s subjective. Sorry!
Having that post go up all but demands the posting of the opposite. At the very least, I figure the community is curious. The opposite of the home run hit with the lowest exit velocity is the home run hit with the highest exit velocity. And the opposite of the worst home run is the best home run. I don’t know if this position is so defensible, but, I had to use this headline, just for consistency.
This home run is less interesting than the weak one, because this is just a really good home run. Hence this being an InstaGraphs post, instead of a FanGraphs post. The home run was hit by Carlos Gonzalez, against Zack Greinke, in Arizona, on April 4. It was the season opener for both the Rockies and the Diamondbacks. Gonzalez hit his home run at 117.4 miles per hour. You may watch it now.
The healthy version of Giancarlo Stanton is a Statcast darling. Over Statcast’s brief history, Stanton leads the majors, by far, in the number of batted balls hit at least 115mph. Gonzalez, though, comes up a distant second, which still counts as second. So Gonzalez is no stranger to absolutely stinging the baseball, and this home run was better than any Stanton hit in 2016. Stanton owns the next-hardest homer, at 116.8mph. Then there’s a tie at 115.9mph, between George Springer and Avisail Garcia. It’s interesting to see Gonzalez going deep here in a full count — you might think, with two strikes, he’d somewhat cut down on his swing. He did nothing of the sort, and Greinke made a horrible location mistake.
Greinke knew pretty quickly what Gonzalez had done to him.
Now here’s where it gets extra fun: If you watch the highlight clip, the Rockies announcers joke about the ball’s exit velocity and launch angle. They didn’t know those numbers at the time. They were right that the ball had a high exit velocity — it had the highest exit velocity, among dingers. And they were right that the ball had a low launch angle — it had the lowest launch angle, among dingers. It’s a two-fer! Gonzalez hit the ball 14.2 degrees above the horizontal. The next-lowest homer was hit 15.2 degrees above the horizontal (Kevin Pillar). A shot from the side:
It wound up standing as a very extraordinary home run. It was the sort of batted ball you’d think would be a well-stung double, but it just never came down, registering a Statcast distance estimate of 420 feet. One more time, the ball was hit 117.4mph, with an angle of 14.2 degrees. The average baseball this year hit 420 feet had an exit velocity of 105.4mph, with an angle of 26.9 degrees. Gonzalez just beat the living crap out of a terrible full-count pitch, and this is one of the reasons why he’s not simply a product of Coors Field. You can’t fake his contact quality. He makes some of the very best contact around. Congratulations, Carlos Gonzalez, on your very good dinger.