Try as I might, I can't shake the good-natured ignorance of exploding things that travel great distances. No, I'm not talking about the Mets current West Coast swing, I'm referencing the glorious Hit Tracker Online site and their Golden Sledgehammer list.
Some interesting names populate the list, currently topped by Nelson Cruz of the Rangers. Albert Pujols and his chuckle stick sit 4th in a virtual tie with the injured Torii Hunter and Toronto's Lyle Overbay. Lyle Overbay? The mild-mannered first baseman with the slick glove and splits so unsightly he's platooned? Overbay only has 12 dingers but his spray chart shows most are hit to centerfield.
The Golden Sledgehammer ranks sluggers based on the average standard distance of their home runs. What is standard distance, you ask? Allow the good people at Hit Tracker to inform and entertain:
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
For an avowed nerd like myself, this is cat nip. This is the US Weekly of baseball stat nerding. Considering all the revolutionary technology headed for the baseball world, this type of "reporting" will only improve. Just as the baseball world buzzedwithasmallB over Justin Verlander touching 100 on the real (not TV underlined) radar gun at Fenway this week, big massive home runs with crazy bat speeds gets the geek blood racing like only a flight of stairs can.
What will all this mean for the future? Will a long drive baseball tour sprout up, touring the county fairs of the nation with over-sized roid monkeys pounding dingers into corn fields two towns over? Hardly. Hit Tracker is just like all over modern baseball tool: a good and fair way to evaluate two events in context.
There is one other place you'll see many of these same names together: the bottom of the contact rate leaderboard. Aside from E.T. Pujols (86.3%) and Overbay (81.6%) these sluggers all contact fewer than 70% of the pitches they swing for (Overbay, with only 12 home runs, had better be putting the ball in play.) And that is quite all right.
We discussed strikeout bias a few weeks ago, nothing's changed since. If you'd like to employ Nelson Cruz or Mark Reynolds and ask them to be a doll and move the runner over, you be my guest. If it was me, I'd be sitting in the dugout furious trying to remember which sign means "hit it a mile."