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Full Count: The 5 most unlikely Diamondbacks home runs of 2022

Jesse Friedman Avatar
January 29, 2023

I know I write about baseball for a living, but I am convinced that the Major League Baseball home run is the most awe-inspiring event that happens routinely in any sport.

To hit a home run, a human being must (1) correctly identify the trajectory of a 2.9-inch-diameter spherical object traveling at nearly 100 MPH, (2) ensure that the bat enters the strike zone at the perfect time — we’re talking milliseconds — and (3) have a near-flawless pass at the baseball such that the thickest part of the bat (2.6 inches wide) is squarely aligned with the center of the 2.9-inch baseball. The culmination of these events results in a projectile traveling farther than any physical object in any of the major American sports. And this happens basically every game.

For years, home runs have been a hallmark of baseball, but we had only vague ways of analyzing the quality of contact. When Statcast data launched into the public sphere in 2015, the baseball world gained access to a new way of quantifying home runs. We don’t just have to talk about the so-called sound off the bat anymore. For every batted ball in every MLB game since 2015, we now know the exact angle the ball made with the bat when it was hit (launch angle), the exact velocity of the ball when it left the bat (exit velocity) and, based on those numbers, the probability of that batted ball dropping in for a hit (expected batting average).

With that information comes a lot of fun random facts. For example: Which D-backs home run in the StatCast era (2015 to present) was hit the hardest? The answer is only a quick search away. It was this Andrew Young dinger from 2021, which left the bat at a whopping 115.9 MPH.

Andrew Young homers at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati. (Courtesy of Bally Sports Ohio)

What about the highest home run (i.e. greatest launch angle) of any D-backs homer in the Statcast era? That belongs to none other than noted moonshot-hitter Pavin Smith. (When Smith homers, he often hits it very high.)

Pavin Smith homers at PNC Park. (Courtesy of AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh)

As alluded to earlier, the other thing StatCast allows us to do is to determine how likely a given batted ball is to go for a hit. The idea behind expected batting average (xBA) is to identify the percentage of similar batted balls that have gone for hits. That information allows us to tap to an entirely different sector of analysis: luck.

Baseball fans have long understood the difference between no-doubters and wall-scrapers, but xBA allows us to take that to a whole new level. So, without further ado, here are the five unlikeliest D-backs homers of 2022.

5. Sergio Alcántara, Aug. 28

  • Location: Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago)
  • Pitch: Four-Seam Fastball (98.5 MPH)
  • Launch Angle: 39 degrees
  • Exit Velocity: 96.6 MPH
  • Distance: 386 feet
  • xBA: .080
Sergio Alcántara homers at Guaranteed Rate Field. (Courtesy of NBC Sports Chicago)

They don’t call it the Windy City for nothing. Here, Sergio Alcántara turns on an inside fastball, but doesn’t quite get it on the sweet spot. Nonetheless, a Chicago gust carried it 386 feet, well over the right-field fence. The result was a very frustrated Dylan Cease, who pitched eight innings and allowed just two hits that day, both of them home runs. The D-backs went on to win, 3-2.

Based on xBA, batted balls with similar exit velocity and launch angle have gone for hits just eight percent of the time. The other 92 percent were flyouts. That 92 percent would have included this flyout from Josh Rojas, which had the exact same launch angle and exit velocity as Alcántara’s homer but fell 10 feet short of the warning track…at Coors Field!

Josh Rojas flies out at Coors Field on July 3, 2022. (Courtesy of AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain)

4. Jordan Luplow, May 11

  • Location: Chase Field (Phoenix)
  • Pitch: Slider (80.5 MPH)
  • Launch Angle: 33 degrees
  • Exit Velocity: 92.1 MPH
  • Distance: 399 feet
  • xBA: .071
Jordan Luplow homers at Chase Field. (Courtesy of Bally Sports Miami)

Jordan Luplow was ultimately non-tendered after the 2022 season, but he had a promising first two months as a masher of left-handed pitchers. This homer was truly an anomaly. At 92.1 MPH off the bat, this batted ball had the lowest exit velocity of any D-backs homer in 2022. It is also the team’s seventh-softest home run in the Statcast era. Baseball statisticians generally regard batted balls with exit velocities north of 95 MPH as being hard-hit. By that standard, Luplow did not even hit this one hard.

What’s even more bonkers is that this homer was not at all a wall-scraper. It went 399 feet, and it landed about five rows deep in one of the deepest parts of Chase Field. In the Statcast era, no D-backs homer with an exit velocity of 95 MPH or less has ever traveled that far. Suffice it to say that Chase Field was a nice place to hit on this warm May afternoon.

3. Carson Kelly, July 23

  • Location: Chase Field (Phoenix)
  • Pitch: Changeup (80.6 MPH)
  • Launch Angle: 40 degrees
  • Exit Velocity: 96.3 MPH
  • Distance: 407 feet
  • xBA: .049
Carson Kelly homers against Anibal Sanchez at Chase Field. (Courtesy of Mid-Atlantic Sports Network)

It is easy to look at Carson Kelly’s unsightly .211/.282/.334 batting line and claim that his 2022 season was all bad (from an offense standpoint), but that is not the case. In July, Kelly hit .344/.403/.639.

From a batted ball perspective, this Kelly homer was more about hitting it in the perfect part of the ballpark than any extreme wind or weather factors (the Chase Field roof was closed on this one). Statcast gave this one a distance of 407 feet, but the left-field corner at Chase Field is only 330 feet, and appeared to barely clear the fence. None of us are perfect. Maybe Statcast isn’t either?

2. Geraldo Perdomo, Aug. 3

  • Location: Progressive Field (Cleveland)
  • Pitch: Changeup (73.4 MPH)
  • Launch Angle: 40 degrees
  • Exit Velocity: 95.6 MPH
  • Distance: 367 feet
  • xBA: .049
Geraldo Perdomo homers at Progressive Field. (Courtesy of Bally Sports Ohio)

Geraldo Perdomo didn’t hit many homers in 2022 — this was one of five in 500 plate appearances — but the 22-year-old did occasionally manage to get into one. Here, Perdomo was sitting curveball and he got exactly that. Perdomo often took an overly passive approach at the plate in 2022, but in this 3-2 count, that was not the case.

Nonetheless, as indicated by a 40-degree launch angle, Perdomo lofted this one awfully high in the air, and about 95 percent of similar batted balls have found the gloves of outfielders. That was not the case here.

1. Emmanuel Rivera, Sep. 15

  • Location: Chase Field (Phoenix)
  • Pitch: Sinker (92.9 MPH)
  • Launch Angle: 43 degrees
  • Exit Velocity: 98.3 MPH
  • Distance: 352 feet
  • xBA: .034
Emmanuel Rivera homers at Chase Field. (Courtesy of Bally Sports San Diego)

And here we have it: the luckiest Diamondbacks home run of 2022. It belonged to Emmanuel Rivera. While Rivera did hit this Sean Manaea sinker hard — a 98.3 MPH exit velo is respectable — he got well underneath it with a launch angle of 43 degrees. Similar batted balls have found outfielders’ gloves 97 percent of the time. But, as we’ve seen, sometimes it’s not as much about how hard you hit it as where you hit it.

At 352 feet, Rivera’s tater was the third-shortest home run of the season for the D-backs. The second-shortest was a 351-foot shot by Christian Walker to the same part of Chase Field. The shortest Diamondbacks homer of 2022 went 279 feet, and yes, you guessed it: It was an inside-the-park home run.

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Top photo: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

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