Who are baseball’s most majestic home run hitters?

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Tim Heitman (USA Today)

There are few visceral thrills quite like watching a man crush a nine-inch circumference baseball with a 2.5-inch diameter baseball bat out of the ballpark. The crack off the bat, the trajectory of the ball and its final landing spot, more than a football field away from home plate, are one of the most satisfying things to watch in sports. Fortunately, baseball is in the midst of a golden age of home runs, with an average of 1.27 home runs hit per game this season, easily a record high. While doctored baseballs certainly seem to have a hand in that figure, the MLB’s current surplus of young, power hitters like Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo are a primary driving factor.

While players like Judge and Stanton get all the fanfare for their tap measure bombs, I thought it would be interesting to explore which players actually hit the furthest, most majestic home runs. Sure enough, Judge and Stanton are towards the top of the list, however there are some surprising names, both young and old, that also make an appearance.

How to quantify home run quality?

The fabulous ESPN Home Run Tracker website catalogs every home run, showing it’s exit velocity, estimated distance, apex and any atmospheric conditions that may have affected its flight. “True Distance” measures how far the ball traveled, or how far the ball would have traveled if it wasn’t stopped mid-flight by stands, fans or walls. The website also tracks “Standard Distance”, which adjusts the True Distance by atmospheric factors like wind, temperature and altitude. Clearly, a wind blowing out to center will aid balls in traveling further, while the cold, frigid temperatures or early April tend to suppress the bounce of the ball off the bat. The altitude adjustment is negligible in most ballparks, but very significant in Coors, revising the True Distance down anywhere from 15 to 25 feet because of Denver’s thin, Rocky Mountain air.

So we’ll be ranking players by their average Standard Distance (SD). We’ll also exclude any players with less than 20 home runs for sample size reasons. As a result, guys like Avisail Garcia, Chad Pinder and Mitch Moreland are excluded from the following discussion. As you’ll notice, hitting majestic blasts is largely a young man’s game, but a couple grizzled vets make an appearance in the top half of the list.

10. Ryon Healy  – 409.0 SD

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Healy_Ryon_2017_scatterOakland third baseman Ryon Healy has carved out a nice niche for himself as a power hitter at the MLB level, swatting 34 home runs in 188 games since a mid-season 2016 call-up. The 6’5″ righty, like so many of his teammates, strikes out a lot and rarely walks, but manages to hit majestic dongs when he does connect. Healy is more of a straight-away home run hitter, golfing most his 21 jacks to left-center / center. His 409.0 Standard Distance is 10th in baseball, while his 104.8 exit velocity ranks last of the players on this list.

09. Kyle Schwarber – 410.0 SD

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Kyle Schwarber and his .204 batting average have had a down season. Things got so bad by late June that Schwarber was demoted to the Cubs’ AAA squad in Iowa. Since his early-July recall, Schwarber has been much improved, smashing eight of his 20 home runs. And many of them have been absolute bombs, with his 410 SD ranking ninth. Schwarber is definitely more  of a pull hitter, with 55% of his home runs going out to right field. He’s hit 13 of his 20 coming in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

08. Miguel Sano – 411.4 SD

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Sano, one of the trailblazers of the three true outcomes approach to hitting, ranks eighth on our list with a Standard Distance of 411.4 feet. His presence on this list should surprise few, as Sano has been one of the premier power hitters in baseball since his 2015 debut. Sano particularly loves hitting in Minnesota’s Target Field and other AL Central ballparks, as 21 of 28 home runs have come from a ballpark within the division.

07. Gary Sanchez – 411.9 SD

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Gary Sanchez has had a pretty good start to his career, huh?. In his first 143 games, which is essentially a full season for a catcher, Sanchez has blasted 43 home runs and accrued a .576 slugging percentage. While his home run rate was due to regress a bit in 2017 from his blistering pace as a rookie, he’s still slugged 23 home runs on the campaign, and most of them have been no-doubters. His 411.9 SD is 7th and his 107.3 exit velocity is tied for third. Sanchez is primarily a pull hitter, so it’s not surprising that 57% of his home runs have gone to left field.

06. Marcell Ozuna – 412.4 SD

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Ozuna has teased his talents over the last three seasons, but 2017 is serving as his real breakout, with 27 home runs and 91 RBIs through 119 games. Ozuna has always been known as someone who hits the ball hard, a trait plainly evident in his 2017 home runs. At 412.4 SD and 106.7 exit velocity, the ball leaves Ozuna’s bat in a violent fashion. Impressively, 20 of Ozuna’s 27 home runs would have been gone in at least 28 of the 30 MLB ballparks, further displaying that he doesn’t get any cheapies.

05. Nelson Cruz – 413.1 SD

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Finally a wily old veteran on the list! Cruz is 11 years the elder of the the next oldest player presented thus far, however the 37-year old is still swatting home runs with the best of them. Cruz uses primarily left and center field to inflict damage, with only two home runs going opposite field thus far. His 413.1 Standard Distance ranks 5th, while his 31 home runs is 10th in the majors and 7th in the AL.

04. Aaron Judge – 414.1 SD

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Judge’s inclusion on this list certainly isn’t a surprise, but I bet most people would haveJudge_Aaron_2017_scatter expected him to rank higher than 4th. What is truly special about Judge’s home run hitting ability is his ability to go to all fields with pull, center and opposite field jacks occupying a relatively equal percentage of his AL-leading 37 home runs. His 414.1 standard distance ranks 4th and his 107.3 exit velocity is tied for third alongside his battery-mate Gary Sanchez. Judge’s pure strength allows him to flick balls out of the park all over the field. Judge also owns the longest home run in the MLB this year, with his 496-foot shot off Logan Verrett of the Baltimore Orioles on June 11th.

03. Giancarlo Stanton – 414.7 SD

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Here’s probably the least surprising thing you’ve heard all day: Giancarlo Stanton is top three in the majors when it comes to hitting long home runs. Stanton’s chiseled physique and violent swing propel baseballs far distances, with most of his damage coming to left and center field. Stanton is also getting better as the season goes along, with all of his last 19 home runs being considered homers in 22 ballparks and 17 and those 19 being home runs in at least 27 ballparks.

02. Joey Gallo – 415.2 SD

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Gallo_Joey_2017_scatterGallo, at 23, is the youngest player to grace the list. The typification of a three true outcome player, Gallo strikes out a whopping 37% of the time, but when he does make contact with the baseball it goes really, really far. He does most of his swatting to center / right-center, where Gallo has hit a myriad of tape-measure blasts, including four over 450 feet in the month of August. Impressively, 22 of Gallo’s 35 home runs (63%) would have been out in any ballpark in baseball, the highest percentage of anyone on this list.

01. Kendrys Morales – 421.7 SD

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Kudos to anyone who saw this one coming. Morales, the only player along with Cruz over the age of 27 on this list, has paced baseball this year in home run authority. His 421.7 SD is over six feet longer than second place, while his exit velocity of 107.9 MPH is easily number one. Only three of Morales’ 21 home runs have traveled less than 400 feet, and all but one would be homers in at least 23 ballparks. Kendrys is also definitely enjoying his time in the AL East, with 16 of his home runs coming in intra-division ballparks.

2 comments

  1. Charlie Gerli · · Reply

    I like Gary Sanchez a lot. Going to be a great one!

    Like

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