If not winning, the Detroit Tigers certainly have been doing a lot of home-run hitting over the last week or so, and, after some extra-inning disappointments during that stretch, they finally put it all together last night for an overtime win last night in a home series opener against the Seattle Mariners. That game featured three Tigers homers, each of which gave the team the lead. Especially exciting for Detroit was that two of them came off the bat of Justin Upton, who finally appears to be heating up for his new team after suffering one of the worst offensive stretches of his career.
Upton’s first of the night was a dead-center bomb in the seventh that gave the Tigers a 7-6 lead, and his second, which clinched the game in walk-off fashion in the twelfth, landed beyond the bullpen in left. There likely is no one happier about this apparent return to power than Upton himself, and, especially with J.D. Martinez out with an elbow injury, it couldn’t be more timely for the team.
Upton’s homers last night inspired celebration, but Miguel Cabrera’s, which gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead in the first inning, inspired awe. I’ve never seen a Comerica Park home run hit where Cabrera hit his last night. No one has.
Have a look:
Camera-well blasts, long the gold standard in Comerica Park home runs, now seem blasé, because Cabrera’s shot landed beyond the camera well and bounced out of the park. (!!!)
We’ve used MLB Statcast data, publicly available at Baseball Savant, to try to learn more about home runs and hitting in general this season. In doing so, it became apparent that Statcast, which MLB introduced to the public on a limited basis last year, still has some systemic flaws. As I discussed the last time I wrote on this topic, the folks at Baseball Prospectus discovered park-to-park variances in the way Statcast gathered data, which led them to develop adjusted metrics to account for those variances. Shortly thereafter, BP removed their park-adjusted Statcast data, apparently at MLB’s request. To nonparty observers, it looked as though nerds had broken Statcast. (That isn’t exactly right, of course. As one of the authors rightly noted, “Every measurement . . . has biases and this is all about helping everyone get the most out of what [Statcast] has to offer.”)
If the nerds didn’t break Statcast last month, then Cabrera certainly did last night. Via Baseball Savant, Statcast recorded Cabrera’s home run at 453.69′, with an exit velocity of 111.81. MLB deserves some credit for having this data available almost immediately. What happened almost immediately thereafter, though, is that everybody thought the Statcast distance number was wrong.
ESPN, for example, listed the distance at 461′, and others were seeing even bigger numbers in their mind’s eyes. Comerica Park is not like Wrigley Field or AT&T Park, where home-run balls rain down on Waveland Avenue and into McCovey Cove, respectively. Nobody ever heard of Adams Avenue before yesterday. Even on a bounce, balls just don’t get out of Comerica. Cabrera’s did, though.
For 2016, Tigers fans hope they will be able to remember last night’s game as the beginning of Upton’s late arrival to the team. Likely for much longer than that, though, they’ll remember it for a departure: that of Cabrera’s 423rd home run, which actually left the park, and did so on the anniversary of his first-ever big-league homer. All hail the king.
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Catching Fire: Heading for the exit velocity – 5/17
Catching Fire: Boy, the starters need to carry that weight a longer time – 5/3
Catching Fire: Who’s Number Two? – 5/2
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