Tater timing: Taking the long way home
Anthony RieberAnthony Rieber
Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998
It's true that baseball is the only sport without a clock. But baseball does have a stopwatch.
The stopwatch belongs to 33-year-old Larry Granillo, who runs a baseball blog called www.wezen-ball.com. Imbedded in the blog since 2010 is Granillo's "Tater Trot Tracker," which is exactly what it sounds like.
Granillo times how long it takes batters to round the bases after hitting home runs. He has done so for every home run during the last four seasons, with one period of interruption late in 2013 for a very good reason we'll tell you about later.
But first, some news that might not surprise Yankees fans: One of the slowest trotters in the history of the Tater Trot Tracker is Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who is famous for bat-flipping, standing and admiring, and taking his time around the bases.
"David Ortiz is my absolute favorite home run trotter because he is so slow and he has been so slow for four straight years," Granillo said. "Every year, he's always at the top of the list, three or four of the top five every single year. He's 28, 29 seconds all the time."
Granillo's methodology is simple: He starts the clock when bat meets ball and ends it when foot touches home plate.
The fastest recorded trot of 2013 (excluding inside-the-park home runs, because that's a sprint, not a trot) was 16.13 seconds by then-Texas infielder Adam Rosales, who has the top four spots. The slowest was by Todd Helton of the Rockies (31.54).
Seven of the top 10 were by Ortiz, ranging from 28.91 to 29.61. Surprisingly, none of them was against the Yankees.
"I love him for that," Granillo said. "It's so fun to see him still doing it no matter what. Doing his thing."
Granillo, a data coordinator in the financial aid office at Marquette University in Milwaukee, is well known in the baseball stats community for more than just his timeless hobby. But it has brought him a certain amount of unintended notice.
"It started kind of on a whim in 2010," Granillo said. "On the first or second day of the season, I just decided I wanted to start now and see what happens. My thinking was, you hear all these people complaining about the home run trots of players on teams we dislike. Cardinals fans might dislike the trots of Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun of the Brewers, but they always seem to ignore the slow trots of the players on the home team. So I decided I can put a stopwatch to these home run trots and put them down on paper and see who really is the slowest.
"It was kind of spur of the moment: I'll do this, see how long it lasts. That was four seasons ago."
The reaction? Let's just say it was a home run for lovers of baseball minutiae.
"I was surprised," Granillo said. "I didn't think it would be all that exciting. But there are those trots where everyone notices and everyone wants to know what it's about, and they love having something to compare it to."
Granillo has chronicled the trotters ever since, either with an actual stopwatch or the clock on his computer. If he misses a day or two -- and if he does, he hears about it on his blog or Twitter -- he eventually will catch up.
With one exception. The 2013 Tater Trot Tracker stopped Aug. 28 and was never completed. Granillo, you see, got married in September. So the stopwatch took the rest of the season off.
But Granillo plans to bring it out again on Opening Day later this month. With his bride's blessing.
"She likes it," Granillo said with a laugh. "She's been around the whole time. She's very supportive of it."