Baseballs to the Moon!

I won’t claim to know as much about Bitcoin as some of my peers, but I know enough to determine that winning $100K of it would be great. For the more crypto-skeptical baseball fans out there, MLB and their new contest sponsor, FTX, are offering cold, hard cash as an alternative reward for their new promo contest. The challenge? Guess who will hit the longest home run of the rest of the season, the distance in feet of that home run, and the type of home run (solo, 2-run, etc.,). Let’s take a look at the details of the Moon Blast contest and see if our more enlightened way of thinking can help make a prediction.

For starters, let’s look at all the home runs that have been hit so far this season (as of 7/26/21 when I downloaded the data from BaseballSavant) and the distribution of distances: 

Here are the top 10 longest hit home runs:

Top 10 Dingers by Hit Distance
Player Exit Velocity (MPH) Launch Angle Home Park Hit Distance (Feet)
Yermín Mercedes 113 24 CWS 485
Ronald Acuña Jr. 112 27 ATL 481
Marcell Ozuna 114 25 ATL 479
Ryan McMahon 109 28 COL 478
Fernando Tatis Jr. 113 26 COL 477
Franchy Cordero 119 29 PHI 474
Mike Zunino 111 23 TB 472
Seth Brown 112 24 TEX 472
Giancarlo Stanton 115 25 NYY 471
George Springer 116 32 TOR 470
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
As of 7/26/21

 

Let’s just watch one or two, you know, for fun!

In this year’s home run derby, Trevor Story recorded the longest home run, a 518-foot blast! While Story’s derby bomb is unique, it and this list give us an expectation of what is possible and a list of players who can be potential pick candidates.

What about park factors? Both Colorado and Atlanta have hosted two top 10 home runs each. If we open up the data to analyze the top 100 longest home runs of the season thus far, we see patterns in where these longs balls of long balls were hit:

Parks with the Most Top 100 Dingers by Hit Distance
Park Average Exit Velo (MPH) Average Launch Angle Average Hit Distance (Feet) Number of HRs in Top 100
COL 108 29 460 20
KC 112 29 458 9
ATL 111 28 465 8
ARI 109 28 459 6
LAA 112 28 458 6
TB 112 27 460 5
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
As of 7/26/21

You’re already thinking it, aren’t you? Why not just pick a player who will play most often in Colorado? 20 of the top 100, or one in five, of the longest hit home runs, have been hit in Colorado. While that’s certainly not a bad idea, there could be more to it. Let’s look at (bear with me here) players with more than two top 100 home runs, their average metrics on those home runs and where they hit their longest:

Players with More Than Two Top 100 Longest Hit HRs
Player Average Exit Velocity

(MPH)

Average Launch Angle Average Hit Distance (Feet) Number of HRs in the Top 100 Longest Hit HR (Feet) Stadium of Longest Hit HR
Ronald Acuña Jr. 114 28 466 3 481 ATL
C.J. Cron 111 27 460 5 465 COL
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. 115 24 458 4 465 TOR
Tyler Naquin 112 29 456 3 459 CIN
Shohei Ohtani 114 28 459 5 470 LAA
Salvador Perez 111 30 456 5 460 KC
Austin Slater 108 31 462 4 467 ARI
Fernando Tatis Jr. 111 26 465 3 477 COL
SOURCE: Baseball Savant
As of 7/26/21

Out of these eight players who have hit more than two top 100 home runs, 6 have hit their longest shot in their home stadium. All five of C.J. Cron’s have been in Colorado. All five of Salvador Perez’s have been hit in Kansas City. Whether there’s anything to that might be beyond the scope of this article, but it’s still an interesting observation.

The last thing to do is to look at what a mathematical model would tell us is important. I built a simple linear regression model from all home runs hit in 2021 and targeted hit distance with a list of statcast metrics as features. Here are the rankings of these features based on the linear coefficients in the model:

  1. Exit Velocity, 2. Park Factor, 3. Launch Angle, 4. Right Handed Batter, 5. Pitch Speed

This list might not set off any light bulbs in your head, but hopefully, it does help you notice what is important when making your pick.

  1. Hitting the ball hard will make it go far. Check. Average exit velocity of Top 100 longest hit HRs: 111 MPH.
  2. Certain parks make for longer home runs. Weknowdis. More on this below.
  3. The right launch angle makes the ball go over the wall. Right-oonnn! Average launch angle of Top 100 longest hit HRs: 28.
  4. Right-handed batters? This is most likely just the result of a larger population of righties with home runs in the data. However, certain parks are more suitable to righties and others are more suitable to lefties. That’s useful.
  5. Pitch Speed. The average pitch speed of the top 100 longest hit home runs was under 90 mph, signifying that breaking balls have been hit farther.

While you don’t have to choose which stadium the longest hit home run (rest of season) will occur in, it’s important to look at who is playing where the rest of the year. For example, Colorado’s home games in August and September look like this:

Cubs 3 games
Marlins 3 games
Padres 3 games
Dbacks 3 games
Braves 4 games
Giants 9 games
Dodgers 6 games
Nationals 3 games

The same can be done for other parks, but if you were simply looking to maximize your chances, the Giants playing nine games at Coors with Austin Slater showing up in the top 100 list four separate times is interesting. Though, Slater’s .218 batting average on the year could directly contradict the whole ‘maximize your chances’ idea.

Games are fun to play and at this point in the season, this new little game offering up Bitcoin rewards and an excuse to analyze massive home runs is refreshing. The take-aways seem to be that you should be mindful of which players are playing in advantageous parks the most often, which players have demonstrated a high max exit velocity this year, which players consistently have an optimal launch angle and finally, whether you want crypto or cash. Good luck!





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DaSauce
2 years ago

Or you could just go with Giancarlo Stanton…