Perhaps the single greatest injustice imposed on the game of baseball by the information age is that interest-provoking websites deserving of greater attention and praise than they actually receive are often overlooked and/or taken for granted at a time when those with the loudest voices and most outrageous opinions consistently seem to garner the biggest audiences.
Baseball's fascination with the ever-elusive tape-measure home run transcends that conventional wisdom, however, and one of the real gems out there that everybody should acknowledge is Greg Rybarczyk's fantastic Hit Tracker Online, which tirelessly documents each and every major league home run -- with a few exceptions, of course -- and mathematically calculates their distances.
The Texas Rangers' exhibition season is about to begin, and the spring training storylines are about to get a whole lot more interesting, but to ignore the surfeit of monster 440-plus-foot blasts that the likes of Milton Bradley, Josh Hamilton, and a few notable others deposited last year would be a real shame, and we're going to set about rectifying that wrong over the next five days with a fun little three-part series designed to get you even more fired up about the impending regular season.
First, a few basic definitions courtesy of Hit Tracker Online:
True Distance, a.k.a. Actual Distance - If the home run flew uninterrupted all the way back to field level, the actual distance the ball traveled from home plate, in feet. If the ball's flight was interrupted before returning all the way down to field level (as is usually the case), the estimated distance the ball would have traveled if its flight had continued uninterrupted all the way down to field level.
Standard Distance - The estimated distance in feet the home run would have traveled if it flew uninterrupted all the way down to field level, and if the home run had been hit with no wind, in 70 degree air at sea level. Standard distance factors out the influence of wind, temperature and altitude, and is thus the best way of comparing home runs hit under a variety of different conditions.
We'll be sorting through these home runs by 'True Distance' first and foremost, with 'Standard Distance' acting as the tiebreaker in the event of identical 'True Distance' calculations (of which there are several); now, with all of that said, let's get down to business:
Notes: Opportunistic major league hitters don't often permit bad pitches to drift right into their wheelhouse without making solid contact, and in that regard Hamilton did not disappoint, clouting a horrid 80.7 mph Marcum change-up about halfway up the center field grassy knoll at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington that is more frequently referred to as "Greene's Hill" in honor of former Arlington mayor Richard Greene.
This seemingly innocuous homer denoted the beginning of a rather remarkable comeback. Texas chased Marcum from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, and baseball's most prolific offensive team in 2008 orchestrated yet another dramatic late-inning victory -- after left-hander C.J. Wilson yielded a pair of ninth-inning runs, mind you -- that culminated in David Murphy memorably slashing a two-run walk-off single past a diving Scott Rolen at third base, plating Michael Young and Brandon Boggs and setting off a celebration.
Forty-five minutes later, the Rangers announced the firings of pitching coach Mark Connor and bullpen coach Dom Chiti. Go figure.
Notes: I presume that Josh Lewin didn't actually mean to quote Salt-N-Pepa's "Shoop" when he awkwardly muttered "Go do that voodoo that you have to do here" at Ian Kinsler from the home broadcast booth, but he can work Milli Vanilli lyrics into his presentations for 162 games in 2009 if it'll produce more tape-measure shots like this one.
Fun little fact: Robertson allowed 26 homers in 168.2 innings in 2008 ... and five homers in just 3.2 innings -- spanning 63 pitches -- on this evening. Yikes.
Notes: Bonus points if you can determine which of the two advertisements -- belonging to Reliant Energy and Brookshire's -- adorning the facade of the right field upper deck was the one Hamilton banged this monster blast off of.
Chacon soldiered on for six more forgettable starts in an Astros uniform before a June 25th altercation with Houston general manager Ed Wade earned him his walking papers; according to Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle, the two men exchanged colorful four-letter expletives after Chacon refused to engage Wade and manager Cecil Cooper in a closed-door conversation, and shortly thereafter Chacon grabbed Wade by the neck and threw him to the ground, evoking vague memories of Lenny Randle and Latrell Sprewell.
Coincidentally, when Tom Grieve humorously noted that Chacon didn't possess a pitch with which he could retire Hamilton "right now," that statement could have been applied far more broadly; opposing hitters clubbed Chacon to the tune of .270/.354/.491 in 2008, and .285/.367/.545 after his disastrous 3.1-inning sojourn in Arlington.
Part II will drop on Wednesday morning.