Let’s take a break from sabermetric evaluations and analytics for a minute. Let’s just stop and pause for a moment to reflect on what the baseball world has just seen. Ignore the 21 runs the Astros scored on Sunday against the Mariners. Ignore the 15 runs they scored yesterday against the Athletics.
Ignore all of them, except for one. The run from Astros Designated Hitter Yordan Alvarez’ second home run of last night in the second inning:
Forget exit velocity. This thing almost achieved escape velocity. September 9, 2019 might be forever remembered as the day NASA, Houston and the Astros joined forces with Yordan Alvarez to establish the Cuban Space Program.
The ball went into the upper deck. No, not the mezzanine below the scoreboard that Alvarez damaged earlier this year during batting practice. The upper upper deck alongside the giant scoreboard. The nosebleeds, where I sat once and felt so far away from the game, I wasn’t entirely convinced I was at a game. Section 337.
It landed in Row 1 of Section 337.
Section 337, Row 1 is where the Yordan Alvarez moonshot landed. pic.twitter.com/jKqZTxVVu7— Mike Acosta (@AstrosTalk) September 10, 2019
Incredible. Forget GetRoman; Play by play announcer Todd Kalas found another cure to get him excited:
“Oh my goodness! Are you kidding me? This ball is un— WAY OUT OF HERE! One of the longest home runs in the history of this ballpark! I don’t think a ball’s ever landed up there! . . . I cannot believe what we’re witnessing with this 22-year old! Oh my goodness! That was the top deck of the stadium!”
Look at these fans scurrying to get a ball they didn’t think was physically capable of reaching them.
Not a single one of them brought a glove to the game. There’s never going to be protective netting put up there. What the hell for? You’re in the Section 337! You’re a few feet away from the “free seats” you get when you sign up for the Astros Buddies Club.
Kalas must be right. That’s got to be the longest home run this ballpark has ever seen.
36 degree launch angle. Excellent. 113.5 mph exit velocity. Very excellent. The hardest hit home run by the Astros all year. Very very excellent...
Distance: 415 Feet. Wait, what?
#Athletics 0 @ #Astros 10 [B2-1o]:— Home Run Tracker (@DingerTracker) September 10, 2019
Yordan Alvarez homers (24): fly ball to RF (solo)
Hit: 415.5ft, 113.52mph , 36.23°
[2nd of game]
Pitch: 91.5mph Four-Seam Fastball (RHP Paul Blackburn, 2) pic.twitter.com/d8wxwPGIUR
It’s not the longest home run hit in this ballpark. It’s not even the longest home run hit in the game that night. It’s not even the longest home run hit by Yordan Alvarez in the game that night. His first inning home run deposited to centerfield mezzanine was measured by Statcast at 429 feet.
How is this possible? Statcast must be wrong. Daren Willman must have forgotten to carry a one or something.
Inspired by an article over at Buffalo Bills SBNation site Buffalo Rumblings earlier this year, where one writer took it upon himself to mathematically answer the question “COULD Josh Allen actually throw a ball OUT of New Era Field?”, I decided to conduct a mathematical investigation myself.
Join me in this pointless exercise of trying to refute the Statcast machine. We can be Kasparov to Statcast’s Deep Blue, except we’re going to win.
We could just start with the exit velocity and launch angle, and presume the point of contact was around 3 feet off the ground, calculate the x and y vectors to the batted ball speed, and factor in the force of gravity. But there’s air resistance, spin on the ball, along with seams physics that make that model not ideal.
Let’s just go with the last known whereabouts. Just how far is Row 1 of section 337 from home plate? Here’s an overhead schematic map of Minute Maid Park:
I don’t know if this is to scale or not. I’m just going to go ahead and presume it is, because I’m not exactly trying to calculate actual military missile trajectories here. If home to first is a known distance of 90 feet, by measuring pixel distance and applying it to the distance from home to the edge of our section of interest, Section 337 is 370 feet away.
How high is Row 1 of Section 337? Here’s a daytime photo of Minute Maid Park’s right field seating I found on the interwebs:
By the same method, since we know the right field wall is 7 feet tall, using pixel measurements, Row 1 of Section 337 is about 61 1⁄4 feet off the ground. That’s higher than the spot on the scoreboard Alvarez damaged a few weeks ago!
So by the time those fans caught off guard by a ball entering their little part of heaven found themselves suddenly scrambling for a home run ball, the ball had already gone 370 feet and was still over 60 feet in the air.
But if there were no stands there, is it conceivable that when the ball finally hit ground levels again, it would only be 415 feet away from home plate? That would mean the ball only traveled horizontally another 45 feet before it finished dropping 61 1⁄4 feet:
Which it could do if it were dropping at a 36.5 degree angle. Actually, probably even slightly more, because the force of gravity would be accelerating the vertical speed of the ball by 9.8 m/s2.
So, it looks like 415 feet is a reasonable number for that blast. The machine wins again.
But, Holy Havana, that was an incredible shot.
UPDATE (7:15 p.m. 9/10/2019): The Astros have commemorated this prodigious blast by specially marking Section 337, Row 1, Seat 18.