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November 5, 2010 12:46 PM   Subscribe

The Longest Home Run Ever
posted by zarq (41 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
Related: In 1986, Stephen Jay Gould wrote an essay for Discover Magazine which I can't find online, but a similar version seems to be available now through this Google books link: Why No One Hits .400 Anymore.

Analyses:
* Where have the .400 hitters gone?
* How to Hit .400
posted by zarq at 12:50 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Baseball: best beanplating topic ever.

Also, zarq, this post really hits this subject out of the park. I'd say . . . 748 feet.
posted by bearwife at 1:02 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah wow that is some analysis...cool post.
posted by vito90 at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2010


love this thank you for sharing it!
posted by lapolla at 1:05 PM on November 5, 2010


As a filthy socialist furriner I find the American obsession with baseball statistics fascinating. Even more so considering I've enjoyed the game since childhood - thanks zarq!
posted by pyrex at 1:10 PM on November 5, 2010


The website Hit Tracker keeps track of long home runs.
posted by zzazazz at 1:19 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know why I'm bothering to point out that a magazine website comment is dumb, but this is pretty astonishing:

The science just goes to show that what they do is all luck. And so why are we paying them millions of dollars just because they're lucky? We should be paying our teachers and educators a lot more than our athletes.

Wow, no, that is actually the exact opposite of what that article just demonstrated. I hope the other commenters shame him for his stupidity.

Randumguy, you are a truly ignorent retard. Athletes work twice as hard as todays teachers. I am a highschool student and a baseball player so I think I can give an acurate judgment on who works harder.

Never mind.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 1:21 PM on November 5, 2010 [12 favorites]


not really related: i just checked out hit tracker (cool site), and watched the Josh Hamilton homer from 6.27. i really dislike ballplayers wearing their pants long and baggy. it seems way too fashiony.

the article was awesome.
posted by rainperimeter at 1:32 PM on November 5, 2010


I was so hoping baseball was over last week
posted by OHenryPacey at 1:37 PM on November 5, 2010


Goddamn, that's a long home run. If there was a destination that far from my house, I'd still prefer to drive it.

Okay, maybe not, but still.
posted by Edison Carter at 1:44 PM on November 5, 2010


i really dislike ballplayers wearing their pants long and baggy. it seems way too fashiony.

My wife hates watching baseball with me because of how often I yell "PULL UP YOUR PANTS" at the TV.
posted by Edison Carter at 1:45 PM on November 5, 2010


so why are we paying them millions of dollars just because they're lucky? We should be paying our teachers and educators a lot more than our athletes

I broke this argument down from my wife last weekend and now she completely understands why millions of dollars is justified to some degree.

It's not a simple issue.
posted by Edison Carter at 1:46 PM on November 5, 2010


I was so hoping baseball was over last week

Well, the essay was published last week. Does that count? :D
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on November 5, 2010


Also, zarq, this post really hits this subject out of the park. I'd say . . . 748 feet.

Ha! Thanks! :)
posted by zarq at 2:00 PM on November 5, 2010


He didn't even take into account the altitude in other locations - only current major league cities. Why Denver and why not Mexico City, La Paz, Bolivia or Nepal? Or, since he is talking several hundred years from now - Mars?
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:04 PM on November 5, 2010


The analysis of what it would take to hit this mythical homer is pretty interesting (and thorough!), but some of the framing is... fluffy.

If the batter is only seven milliseconds early or late in connecting with the ball, he’s going to send it foul. And even if his timing is perfect, he still has to put the “sweet spot” of the bat within an eighth of an inch of the correct spot on the ball. Etc...

I have no reason to doubt that this is true, but if you described any relatively singular event in sports by the precision, speed, whatever it entails it'd sound similarly impossible. A basketball shot from half court. Any hockey goal (or save). Half the shots made in professional billiards. Curling. Acutally, most events in high level sports that I can think of.

No athlete uses more of his muscles at one time than a batter

On this one I call total bullshit. Any fighter. Shit, golf. A soccer goalkeeper. Taking a stiff shit.

This religious style delusion-building is one of my major problems with professional sports, and especially with baseball and its apparent inferiority complex. It's okay, baseball you're a real sport. Fine. Sure, your players can wear jewelry, be fat, or not even run their own bases, but you've got to hit within a 1/4 inch place on the ball for a home run. Good. Go play.
posted by cmoj at 2:05 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


I sense a little playing with the numbers here. When they say a ball takes "400 milliseconds" to reach the plate, and that it only takes 395 milliseconds to blink your eye "completely," it sounds like they're trying too hard to make something sound super-awesome.

400 milliseconds is four-tenths of a second, which is certainly a comprehensible period of time and anyone can blink their eyes "completely" faster than that. To couch it deliberately in more complex terms just to make people go "oooh," that's bad writing. Hitting baseballs is tricky enough without going overboard in describing it.
posted by JHarris at 2:11 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh hell, I was all set for some heart-warming story of a severely disabled kid who'd finally come to the batter's box in the realization of a lifelong dream with a bat creatively fused to the arm of his chair, courtesy of this year's Nobel Prize winner for welding and a pitcher who'd actually managed to hit the bat with his pitch, causing the ball to riccochet forward into safe territory in front of the plate and then read how the kid had painstakingly set his chair into motion along the base path and with the growing roar ringing in his ears from the small but loudly supportive crowd in the stands of his smalltown stadium, its bleacher seats recently re-painted by the local Kiwanis Club, had struggled slowly but ever more certainly around the circuit, several in the crowd weeping openly as the tenacious youngster waved off several offers of help from players on his hometown team, even from the visiting team when it seemed he would fall far short of his goal, the visiting infielders all the while producing an ever more creative show of pretending to recover, then bobble the ball rather than actually grasp it and tag the plucky rolling "runner" out and then to finally read with a soaring spirit how the nearly-exhausted child wheeled the last few inches across the plate -- it having earlier been swept to a pristine cleanliness by the home plate umpire and with only the greatest hesitancy finally depart the link with a warmly renewed sense of wonder and hope that ultimately the spirit of human kindness and the unbowed ferocity of an utter unwillingness ever to give up will always combine to send us forward into the bright light of a promising new future for humanity.

And what do I get instead? Science. Thanks for nothing, Metafilter.
posted by Mike D at 2:12 PM on November 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or, since he is talking several hundred years from now - Mars?

Now that you mention it...

While constructing this post, I tried to find a full version of one of my favorite short stories: "Arthur Sternbach Brings the Curveball to Mars" by Kim Stanley Robinson online. Couldn't. Two versions exist in Google Books, but I think the essay is still incomplete.

If you're determined enough, you can skip between the two versions and perhaps read all of it:

From New Skies
and
From A Short Sharp Stock..
posted by zarq at 2:14 PM on November 5, 2010


Oh hell, I was all set for some heart-warming [baseball related] story of...

I've done that already.
posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on November 5, 2010


The article postulates the theoretical limits for the moving parts involved as 111mph fastball + 124mph swing. Shouldn't you also take into account the maximum amount of force a 42in. piece of hickory can tolerate without splintering into a million bits? And, also, as was brought up in the comments, the hardness of the ball?
posted by word_virus at 2:18 PM on November 5, 2010


Clearly, it is unbelievable that the Giants won the World Series.

A-and my favorite baseball short story, for the record, is WP Kinsella's "The Thrill of the Grass."
posted by chavenet at 2:49 PM on November 5, 2010


Serious beanplating here. What you need to hit a longer home run is a faster pitch and a faster swing. It's that simple (I realize he covers that.)

One thing I'm curious about is the science of measuring these home runs. I guess it's easier with video, but I really doubt Mickey Mantle's home run really went 565 feet. I'm gonna guess it was a bit shorter.

(That Hit Tracker site is awesome. Thanks.)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:56 PM on November 5, 2010


Nonetheless, if you study what pitchers are throwing these days and the sick movement they get off the ball, it's no wonder hitting major league pitching is still the hardest thing to do in professional sports.

A few years ago there was a video of Johan Santana throwing with a camera just over Joe Mauer's shoulder. A friend of mine showed it to some of her high school students. They lined up and tried to match their swings to it. The fastball was bad enough but the changeup really did them in. As it did to the majority of American League hitters when Johan was hot.
posted by Ber at 3:33 PM on November 5, 2010


I was so hoping baseball was over last week
Why'd you click the link? You didn't think you'd find baseball in this thread?
posted by vito90 at 3:46 PM on November 5, 2010


400 milliseconds is four-tenths of a second, which is certainly a comprehensible period of time and anyone can blink their eyes "completely" faster than that.

My first thought was that the writer has to blink his eyes with the aid of a prosthetic, like the way they use those sticks to make a muppet's arms flail around.

Although now all these places on the Internet are quoting that same figure of 400 milliseconds or so. I think "completely" blinking does not count the normal blinking that you do automatically? I don't know. In any case, yeah, it does come off as misleading in the article.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 3:47 PM on November 5, 2010


Shouldn't you also take into account the maximum amount of force a 42in. piece of hickory can tolerate without splintering into a million bits? And, also, as was brought up in the comments, the hardness of the ball?

You can calculated the elasticity of the bat-ball collision by measuring many collisions at normal batting speeds, in order to avoid having to model the compressibility of balls and bats.
posted by miyabo at 3:56 PM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the 395ms is a bit misleading because the pitcher can't go from a standing position to having the ball pop out of his hand at 99mph. In other words the batter can prepare himself and anticipate the release of the ball during the windup of the pitch. Now if the pitcher had to hit 99mph balls from a machine that shoots out balls in random curves and random intervals, I think the author would be right and it would, in fact, be nearly impossible.
posted by reformedjerk at 4:22 PM on November 5, 2010 [3 favorites]


Now if the pitcher had to hit 99mph balls from a machine that shoots out balls in random curves and random intervals, I think the author would be right and it would, in fact, be nearly impossible.
Given the pitcher is on the mound with one hand in a glove, the likelihood of the pitcher hitting such a ball may not actually exist.
posted by mistersquid at 5:24 PM on November 5, 2010 [5 favorites]


Great post, thanks. Baseball's on my list of things I like to read about but not watch or do, along with chess and mountain climbing.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:58 PM on November 5, 2010


One day during the 1930s the Pittsburgh Crawfords were playing at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, where their young catcher, Josh Gibson, hit the ball so high and so far that no one saw it come down. After scanning the sky carefully for a few minutes, the umpire deliberated and ruled it a home run. The next day the Crawfords were playing in Philadelphia, when suddenly a ball dropped out of the heavens and was caught by the startled center fielder on the opposing club. The umpire made the only possible ruling. Pointing to Gibson he shouted, "Yer out -- yesterday in Pittsburgh!"
posted by kirkaracha at 9:15 PM on November 5, 2010


On this one I call total bullshit. Any fighter. Shit, golf. A soccer goalkeeper. Taking a stiff shit.

The perfect double taper is a complicated baseball maneuver involving all SORTS of crazy muscles.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:14 PM on November 5, 2010


Ber writes "Nonetheless, if you study what pitchers are throwing these days and the sick movement they get off the ball, it's no wonder hitting major league pitching is still the hardest thing to do in professional sports. "

What percentage of of balls thrown are hit by the batter? Say MLB league average? Average NHL save percentage last year was .911 and that only includes shots good enough to require play by the goalie.
posted by Mitheral at 3:07 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


For that question you're only looking at pitches that are even attempted to be hit, right?

I forget the exact numbers, but I want to say that Tim Lincecum got 30 or so pitches that were swung at and missed in a game against Atlanta in the first round of this year's playoffs. And that it was a significant difference between that number and what he (or maybe your average pitcher but I'm pretty sure he) usually gets.

Anyway, the point of all that is that I was really surprised at the low number of times MLB hitters will swing and miss at a pitch.
posted by theichibun at 5:16 AM on November 6, 2010


Baseball's on my list of things I like to read about but not watch or do, along with chess and mountain climbing.

I encourage you to watch one game next season when Lincecum pitches. It's like watching a bullwhip uncoil. (Or you can just poke around for videos online. But really, it's amazing.)
posted by rtha at 5:26 AM on November 6, 2010


hitting major league pitching is still the hardest thing to do in professional sports.

This is what I'm talking about (not you specifically, Ber). Even if "most difficult thing in sports" were in any way measurable, hitting a baseball is not one of them in any way I can think of. Statistically, as Mitheral points out, it's not. A quick googling says the current average number of pitches per game is 52, and the average number of hits is 9. That's 17% of all pitches being hit without taking into account balls or no-swings. A hockey game averages 25-30 shots per game, but only 4.34 goals per game, making 14-17%. So, cheating in favor of baseball, a hockey shot is comparable. Another example that springs immediately to mind is a hole-in-one in golf.

Or, think of it this way: How many pro baseball players have ever managed to hit a baseball? I'd guess all of them. How many NBA basketball players have achieved a quadruple double? Four. How many high jumpers have cleared 2.45 meters? One. That's a lot harder than hitting a baseball. Or nearly anything that someone like Shaun White or Tony Hawk does. A lot fewer people can land a 1080 on a halfpipe than can hit a baseball.

Baseball has some good things about it. Being especially difficult is not one of them.
posted by cmoj at 11:05 AM on November 6, 2010


Baseball fans: fascinated by a very simple physics problem (and a slightly more complicated anatomy/physiology problem)
posted by tehloki at 12:18 PM on November 6, 2010


A quick googling says the current average number of pitches per game is 52

I watch a lot of baseball, and boy did this sound wrong.

I don't know how your quick googling turned that figure up, but Baseball Reference says the average number of pitches thrown by a team in a game is 146. Given that a reliever won't come in for a starter who's doing well until the starter has thrown ~95 pitches, 146/team/game sounds much more in line.

So, more like 6% of pitches being hit.

Also, hits and goals are not the same. A hit may or may not score a run; a goal, by definition, does score.
posted by rtha at 2:38 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, that might be the average number of pitches thrown per pitcher in a game. But a closer will come into a game and pitch 1 inning. Roughly 10-20 pitches which pulls down the average a lot if they're taking over for the starter who just pitched around 100.

And what about someone who comes in and throws one pitch and gets a triple play. 1 pitch will bring down any average like that.

It's not that the stat is wrong. I totally believe the number. But it's being misused so disgustingly that it's beyond worthless.
posted by theichibun at 2:41 PM on November 6, 2010


Also, hits and goals are not the same. A hit may or may not score a run; a goal, by definition, does score

Which is my actual point, which I could have put far more concisely. "Thing" and "difficult" can be interpreted in so many different ways that "the most difficult thing in sports" is totally meaningless.
posted by cmoj at 10:21 AM on November 7, 2010


No, the most difficult thing in sports is getting to the highest level of competition. By definition anyone good enough to play professional sports in the United States is a freak of nature.

Let's just look at the NBA. 30 teams at 12 players each means 360 jobs at any given time. By comparison, there are 347 D-I teams. That's almost one D-I team for every spot on an NBA roster.

Switching sports, let's consider Brooks Conrad. Yeah, the guy with all the errors for Atlanta in the playoffs. He's a utility guy/pinch hitter at the MLB level at the best. But out of all the people attempting to play in MLB he is one of 750 people on a major league roster. Not saying he's one of the 750 best because baseball positions are so different in what you do, ie. your organization's 25 best players could be pitchers but there's no way you'd have a roster made up of all pitchers.

But I think my point stands, even the worst player at that high a level is really good.
posted by theichibun at 10:37 AM on November 7, 2010


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