clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Quantifying Edwin Encarnacion's most majestic home run of 2014

Edwin Encarnacion hit his fair share of dingers last season, but which one was the most impressive?

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

What makes a truly great home run?

That is the sort of question that can never really be answered. Some might prioritize the sound off the bat while others might believe that the context of a round tripper lends it its beauty. Evaluating home runs is a very subjective field.

Interestingly, though, it's not without its quantifiable elements. There is a great deal about any given home run that we can measure with modern statistics (especially the ESPN Home Run Tracker) and the more I thought about this idea the more I thought the topic worth exploring. As a result I present to you my quest to identify which Edwin Encarnacion home run from 2014 was the most majestic.

Why Encarnacion? For one, he hits a lot of home runs. This exercise would not be very fun with his Blue Jays teammate Munenori Kawasaki. Secondly, even though he might be the most obvious choice for this, I wrote about Jose Bautista on Monday and I don't like to repeat myself. Lastly, I have always particularly liked watching Encarnacion hit long balls because he seems to have rare raw strength and a "force of nature" quality.

So what criteria are best used to determine which home run by EE is the most glorious/majestic/impressive/face-melting? My model (named the AAI, or Ashbourne Awe Index) takes four factors into consideration.

1. Speed Off the Bat

I think this aspect of home run hitting is underrated. There are many players who can hit a fly ball that carries out of the field of play, but truly crushing the ball on a line is more impressive, to me at least. After all, this is my awe index. There is nothing stopping you from crafting your own.

Measured in: Miles per Hour

2. Distance

This is the most obvious thing to include in an evaluation of home runs. No one number better summarizes what a home run was than its distance. Good luck finding a 500 foot round tripper that isn't impressive.

Measured in: Feet

3. Opposing Pitcher

"Opposing Pitcher" is to evaluating home runs what "Degree of Difficulty" is to Olympic diving. Anyone can take John Danks deep, clearly the fence off Clayton Kershaw is a different proposition entirely.

Measured in: Expected wOBA (The average total of the hitter's wOBA and the pitcher's-adjusting for handedness)

4. Ballparks the Home Run would leave

For a home run to be a credible moonshot it's important that it would leave every ballpark in baseball. If it a ball escapes a park based on a quirk of that particular location it is hardly awe-inspiring.

Measured in: Number of parks the home run would work in.

As the alert reader will be quick to notice, these four factors are measured very differently. In order to compare apples to oranges, I provided a rating in each category for each home run. Since I only measured Encarnacion against himself in this exercise, the home run he hit with the best mark in a given category got a rating of 100. All other ratings were formed in relation to that benchmark.

For example, the fastest home run hit by Encarnacion in 2014 travelled at 115.5 mph off the bat. As a result it's "Speed Rating" was 100. If EE somehow managed to hit a lethargic 57.75 mph home run its Speed Rating would be 50. A home run going 86.625 would have a 75 Speed Rating and so on.

After ranking each home run in each category, I tallied up the overall AAI ratings. Without further ado, I present the three most awe-inspiring Encarnacion home runs of 2014.

Bronze Medal

Date: July 2nd

Opposing Pitcher: Wily Peralta

Count: 3-1

Men on Base: None

Game Result: Blue Jays

Speed Score Distance Score Opposing Pitcher Score Park Score Total AAI
97 97 86 100 380

This home run absolutely flew off the bat and traveled 442 feet to deep left-centre field. It was the first of two home runs he would hit in the game, a game which ended up being one of the most heart-breaking losses of the season. The least impressive part of this home run is that it was hit off James Shields, a guy who just signed a contract worth $75 million. Edwin's third-greatest shot of the season would be a career highlight for most guys.

Silver Medal

Date: May 8th

Opposing Pitcher: A.J. Burnett

Count: 1-1

Men on Base: None

Game Result: Blue Jays 12, Phillies 8

Speed Score Distance Score Opposing Pitcher Score Park Score Total AAI
97 99 85 100 381

This home run scores very similarly to the one above, it just went a bit farther with a distance of 455 feet. Although it is diminished slightly by the fact it came off an over-the-hill A.J. Burnett, on the flip side it's a little bit sweeter because it came off A.J. Burnett. It was also his 200th career home run, which makes it sweeter still.

Although it's hard to beat a milestone dinger off Burnett, the choice for the most majestic moonshot was head-and-shoulders above the competition by AAI.

Gold Medal

Date: September 5th

Opposing Pitcher: Alex Wilson

Count: 0-1

Men on Base: One

Game Result: Red Sox 9, Blue Jays 8

Speed Score Distance Score Opposing Pitcher Score Park Score Total AAI
97 100 100 100 397

The opposing pitcher score is somewhat surprising here given that Alex Wilson is something of a no-name reliever, but he held right-hander hitters to .148/.193/.283 line last season including Encarnacion's shot here. The sample is small and unlikely to be reflective of true talent, but there is a good chance its representative of how hard Wilson was for a right-hander to hit in that moment.

Even if that score got bumped down a tad this home run was still a clear champion. The fact it left the building was a nice bonus, it being against Boston was great, the fact it was an in-season milestone is just the icing on the cake.

Before I leave you I thought I might include Encarnacion's least majestic home run, as determined by AAI, so you might have a better sense of perspective. Since all home runs are magical and should be treasured it shall be given the "34th place medal", which is probably a real medal that kids are getting at swim meets nowadays.

34th-Place Medal

Date: June 9th

Opposing Pitcher: Ricky Nolasco

Count: 1-1

Men on Base: Two

Game Result: Blue Jays 5, Twins 4

Speed Score Distance Score Opposing Pitcher Score Park Score Total AAI
85 79 81 53 298

By no means is this the worst home run you're going to see. However, it is a wall-scraper without a ton of speed on it against a pretty ordinary pitcher. The fact the the ESPN Home Run Tracker figures it would leave only 16 MLB ballparks is a huge issue. Nonetheless, if you're a Blue Jays fan time spent watching that video wouldn't be the worst 37 seconds of your life.

After all of that I don't know if we've learned anything of real substance here, but I do think that bringing a little science to one of baseball's core aesthetics has some value. I also think that it's possible I've gotten Excel fever and created something no one is remotely interested in. It wouldn't be first time.

So, I'm going with a historic first and opening it up to a poll as I've watched enough "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" to know about the wisdom of crowds.