PITTSBURGH – Last night, just a few hundred yards away from the Diamond Kinetics’ offices, Pittsburgh Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez hit a 450-foot home run that landed in a boat docked up against the North Shore riverwalk on the Allegheny River.
Technically, the blast by Alvarez was not a ‘splash down’ since it did not land in the Allegheny River, and instead landed directly in the boat.
Nevertheless, a home run of that size and magnitude need not be dissected to the point of splitting hairs.
Let’s look at the numbers that matter.
According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Alvarez’s home run measured 450 feet with an exit velocity of 114.1 and an elevation angle of 31.8 feet.
Those numbers put it as the 14th-longest blast this season, with the 18th-quickest ball exit speed.
It was easily Alvarez’s longest home run of the season, topping his previous best of 423 feet on May 3 at Busch Stadium versus St. Louis. That home run, which came against Cardinals’ pitcher Samuel Tuivailala, had a ball exit speed of 107.8, the second-highest number Alvarez has recorded this year, relative to exit speed on home runs.
The key takeaway from that last sentence is the phrase, “relative to exit speed on home runs”. A perusal of Alvarez’s numbers on Baseball Savant show at-bats with higher exit velocity, that resulted in a much shorter distance traveled.
For instance, in a May 12th game versus the Phillies, Alvarez had a hit measured at an exit velocity of 110 miles per hour that resulted in a 249-foot line drive single.
In that same May 3 game versus St. Louis, Alvarez had an at-bat that resulted in a ball with the same exit velocity as his Allegheny River boat home run, but instead resulted in a 205-foot line drive out.
What does this mean?
Much like in golf, if your putts are consistently missing around the hole (i.e. – lip outs, missing by a few inches to the left or right), they will eventually start falling in. It’s only when you aren’t coming close should you be worried.
In Alvarez’s case, it’s clear he is making very solid contact at least once a game. His .253 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) suggests he’s getting a little unlucky for someone who hits the ball so hard. Over time, a few of those hard-hit balls will turn into hits.
And since the difference between having a Hall of Fame-level batting average (.300) and being cast out of the league for not hitting for average (.200), is just one hit (3-for-10 compared to 2-for-10), those hits that eventually start falling are very, very important.