It wasn’t breaking Barry Bonds’ single-season home run record, but Aaron Judge set a record of sorts on Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees’ massive rightfielder hit a home run with an exit velocity of 119.4 miles per hour, according to MLB.com’s Statcast system. The two-run shot off Baltimore’s Kevin Gausman was a line drive to centerfield that reached the netting atop Monument Park in the blink of an eye.
What MLB.com calls “the Statcast era” began way back in 2015, when the technology began to be used in all 30 ballparks to quantify all sorts of things that no one knew they wanted quantified before.
Some of Statcast’s numbers — launch angle, catch probability, sprint speed — may never catch on. Nor should they, in our humble opinion, because they aren’t easily translatable and don’t enhance our understanding of the game.
And they’re not as cool as “exit velo,” as the kids call it. Even Yankees broadcaster John Sterling referred to it on Saturday.
We all want to know how hard a pitch is thrown — think of the “oohs and ahhs” when Noah Syndergaard or Aroldis Chapman reaches triple-digits. Knowing how hard a ball is hit is getting easier, too, and 100 mph is a pretty easy standard to comprehend, just as it is with a thrown baseball.
Exit velocity is becoming mainstream enough that you will continue to hear about it on broadcasts and read about it in articles. The Mets have been putting up exit velocity alongside pitch speed on the centerfield scoreboard at Citi Field for a couple of seasons now.
As the weather has warmed up, home runs are traveling faster and longer. Beginning Thursday, the following homerific events have occurred in ballparks from sea to shining sea, according to Statcast:
* On Thursday, Joey Votto of the Reds hit a home run with an exit velocity of 110.8, the hardest-hit homer by a Reds player;
* Corey Seager of the Dodgers hit a 462-foot home run in San Francisco, which tied Texas’ Joey Gallo for the longest homer of 2017 (a mark that lasted exactly one day);
* Washington’s Bryce Harper hit a 451-foot home run in Colorado;
* Kris Bryant of the Cubs hit a 449-foot home run, the longest this season at Fenway Park;
* Manny Machado beat Seager and Gallo by blasting a 470-foot home run at Yankee Stadium — the longest homer in the Bronx in the Statcast era.
* The Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman hit a 470-foot home run off the Mets’ Addison Reed in the eighth inning Saturday to tie Machado for the longest in MLB this season.
* And Judge set the record for hardest-hit homer with his second home run of the game in the Yankees’ 14-11, 10-inning comeback victory Friday night.
One of the fun things about baseball — and exit velocity — is that size is not always the determining factor. Yankees infielder Ronald Torreyes, who is 5-7 and weighs about 150 pounds, hit a ball this season with an exit velocity of 100 mph.
Judge, who is 6-7 and 282 pounds, said in spring training: “Everyone talks about the power, but I just try to be a good hitter. I think the power comes from my size. I try to be the best hitter I can. Gap to gap, just make solid contact. Usually if I get 275 pounds behind a baseball, it goes a long way.”
Judge’s blast broke the previous mark of 119.2 mph by Giancarlo Stanton of the Marlins. Stanton accomplished that on June 23, 2015, off Carlos Martinez of the Cardinals.
Judge’s home run was measured at 435 feet. Statcast also tells us it had a launch angle of 17 degrees.
Sorry. Launch angle is not likely to catch fire in the public imagination.
“One of the tests I use,” Mets broadcaster Howie Rose said on Saturday, “with launch angle, in all the years I’ve spent watching games in the upper deck at Shea Stadium, not once did my friends and/or I ever turn to each other and say, ‘Wow, that ball was up there a while. I wonder what the launch angle is?’ ’’
So launch angle, no. But exit velo, yes.