There's been some talk — seemingly among disgruntled Yankee fans rightly annoyed by the media carping about the unexpected home run proclivities of their own ballpark — about how "cheap" Nick Green's home run to win yesterday's game against the Braves was.
And, no doubt, it was cheap. Our eyes tell us this because it snaked around the Fenway Park right-field foul pole. Greg Rybarczyk's excellent HitTracker site also tells us this because it traveled just 317 feet, the second-shortest homer in baseball this season (for which there is data; about 10 homers do not).
This raises a fun question: What is the cheapest home run hit so far this year, and how do we define "cheap"?
One obvious measure is simply look at the shortest homers hit this season:
- 312 feet, David Ortiz @ Fenway, June 6
- 317 feet, Nick Green @ Fenway, June 21
- 326 feet, Ramon Castro @ Fenway, May 24
- 330 feet, B.J. Upton @ Tropicana, May 16
- 331 feet, Kevin Youkilis @ Fenway, April 22
Ok, so that's a tad embarrassing. Four of the five shortest home runs this season were hit at Fenway — the shortest two hooked around Pesky's Pole, the other two barely clearing the Monster down the left-field line.
A problem with simply measuring the distance the home runs were hit is that it ignores whether the shots themselves were well-struck. Perhaps the home runs should have gone out anyway, and the quirks of the ballpark helped counteract negative effects from the wind, air temperature, humidity, etc. Maybe we should look at the adjusted distances: the shortest home runs when we take out favorable (or unfavorable) effects caused by the wind, temperature and altitude. Those would be absolutely the worst fly balls to land in the stands:
- 251 feet, Travis Ishikawa @ AT&T, June 19
- 274 feet, Fred Lewis @ AT&T, June 19
- 302 feet, Chase Utley @ Citizens Bank, April 18
- 307 feet, Adam Kennedy @ Comerica, May 17
- 307 feet, Adam LaRoche @ PNC, June 13
The wind was blowing out on June 19 in San Francisco: Ishikawa's ball was blown 144 extra feet by the wind onto the concourse outside the ballpark. Lewis received an 83-foot boost to his otherwise-routine fly ball to right field. If those aren't truly cheap, I'm not sure what is.
Ortiz's 312-foot shot actually benefitted slightly from the wind, pushing his standardized distance down to 311 feet, seventh-shortest of the year so far. Green's on the other hand, was hampered significantly by the wind, which had been knocking balls down all afternoon. In a neutral setting, Green's shot actually would have traveled 330 feet. No Ruthian blast, but, given the same trajectory, a home run in six other ballparks.
Which brings us to the question of which park gives up the most cheap homers.
Clearly, Fenway — with its four cheapies in the top five — is in the mix. AT&T with its San Francisco winds has to be in there. Is Yankee Stadium? Thankfully, Greg also provides a count of in how many other ballparks a standardized home run would have cleared the fences. The answer can be zero if a ball was so aided by the wind or other factors that it wouldn't have even been a home run in that park under neutral circumstances.
Of the 42 home runs that would have gone out in zero or one park, these parks allowed the most:
- AT&T, 6
- Citizens Bank, 5
- Four parks with 4 (Wrigley, Minute Maid, Fenway and YS 2.5)
Fenway's home runs were:
- A Nelson Cruz blast into the last row of the Monster seats in straightaway left field that was blown 37 feet by the wind.
- A David Ortiz fly ball to straightaway center field that was indeed crushed, but was pushed 16 feet by the wind into the camera well. It simply wouldn't have gone far enough to get out of any ballpark in dead center field.
- A Jason Bay drive to right field that was aided 14 feet by atmospheric conditions to get into the bullpen. It would still have been a home run at Fenway without the wind's help — but nowhere else.
- Ortiz's cheapie around the foul pole was only a home run at Fenway.
Yankee Stadium's four nowhere-else homers were:
- An Asdrubal Cabrera fly ball to straightaway right field that went 357 feet, but should have only gone 338, thanks to the wind. It would have been a fly out in every ballpark.
- A 337-foot Mark Teixeira flyout that the wind turned into a 352-foot homer to essentially the same spot as Cabrera's.
- A 340-foot Melky Cabrera drive that the wind pushed into the right-field bleachers — again almost the exact same spot. Cabrera's ball still would have cleared the Yankee Stadium fences without the wind, but not in any other ballpark.
- The Johnny Damon homer against the Nationals' John Lannan. It went 357 feet, was not aided by the wind, landed at essentially the same spot as the other three balls, and was a home run only in Yankee Stadium.
All that said, if I had to pick the cheapest home run of the year so far, it would be Ortiz's chip shot down the right-field line for his second dinger of the season. It was not affected by the wind much, actually helped a little bit, yet still makes it high onto every list we've compiled and was a home run only in the park where it was hit.
Nick Green, on the other hand, can rest easy. His home run under neutral conditions would have flown about as far as some of the cheapies hit out of Yankee Stadium's cozy right field.