What Were the Most Damaging Home Runs in 2011?

By Chris St. John


INTRODUCTION
You know what’s awesome? Home runs. There is something incredibly satisfying about a player lining up a pitch perfectly and knocking it out of the park as hard as possible. Now, we could all sit back and enjoy this majestic marriage of coordination and power, refusing to dig any deeper than the absolutely beautiful surface, but…that’s not me. I don’t get the same feeling watching a pop-fly that has “just enough” as I do when a slugger almost certainly creates irreparable damage to a spherical object. I could mount up the subjective evidence and describe how one looks like a fly ball to right field while the other is a no-doubter off the bat, but I need to know exactly how much better. So I made up a way to do just that. Enter Home Run Damage:

MATH
If you’re not interested in the math behind this, feel free to skip ahead.

The ESPN Home Run Tracker (nee Hit Tracker Online) is a beautiful thing. If you’re not familiar with the site, it uses physics to figure out exactly how far a home run should have gone “if the home run flew uninterrupted all the way back to field level.” I found the average and standard deviation of the true distance and speed off the bat for all home runs in 2011, excluding inside-the-parkers. Then, I found the z-score for each home run’s true distance and speed. I added the two together to find the total amount of “Damage” caused by each home run. (Sorry, Jose Canseco, I didn’t factor in the winning or losing team into this analysis.)


LEAST DAMAGING
 

5. Eric Sogard vs. Bartolo Colon,8/23/11, New Yankee Stadium (-5.29 Damage)
4. Curtis Granderson vs. Doug Fister, 7/26/11, New Yankee Stadium (-5.34 Damage)
3. Mike Cameron vs. Jason Vargas, 4/29/11, Fenway Park (-5.35 Damage)
2. Adam Lind vs. Ivan Nova, 5/1/11, New Yankee Stadium (-5.55 Damage)
1. Xavier Nady vs. Cory Luebke, 7/27/11, PETCO Park (-5.79 Damage)
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MOST DAMAGING
5. Wily Mo Pena vs. James Shields, 8/21/11, Tropicana Field (6.02 Damge)
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4. Prince Fielder vs. Aneury Rodriguez, 7/30/11, Miller Park (6.03 Damage)
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3. Justin Upton vs. Chris Carpenter, 4/12/11, Chase Field (6.24 Damage)
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2. Prince Fielder vs. Brett Myers, 4/29/11, Minute Maid Park (6.43 Damage)
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1. Juan Francisco vs. Rodrigo Lopez, 9/12/11, Great American Ball Park (6.63 Damage)
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CUMULATIVE DAMAGE
Here are the top ten hitters in cumulative Home Run Damage in 2011:

Hitter Damage
Justin Upton 60.6
Giancarlo Stanton 57.4
Jose Bautista 47.5
Michael Morse 41.5
Prince Fielder 38.2
Nelson Cruz 36.4
Mark Trumbo 36.0
Josh Hamilton 35.0
Carlos Gonzalez 34.8
Dan Uggla 34.2

 

Upton and Stanton are both fairly comfortable at the top. Bautista, while having nine more home runs than Stanton, actually did less damage overall. Fielder appeared twice in the top-5 most damaging home runs, but only ranks fifth in total damage. Wily Mo Pena ranks 20th overall in Damage, even though he only hit seven home runs. He is the only hitter in the top 40 with fewer than ten home runs. 
As always, you can follow me on Twitter @stealofhome.

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