The Disappointment Zone

Musings from a Cleveland sports fan

Miles away from ordinary

Posted by disappointmentzone on 30 August 2006

Travis Hafner hit his 40th home run of the season last night as the Indians beat the flailing Toronto Blue Jays 5-2 to improve to 15-5 in their last 20 games. (I offer that last statistic as a small diversion from the fact that in the last 131 games the Indians are only 62-69, good for fourth place in the AL Central.) Hafner is only the seventh Indian to hit 40 homers in a season and the first to do it since Thome belted 52 homers in 2002.

In an effort to further quantify Hafner’s enviable hitting feats I quickly searched around the internet and eventually stumbled across this site, which is an insanely impressive collection of information that can best be described as a physicist’s dream. What did this site teach me? Well, after tonight’s home run Hafner has hit over three miles of home runs this season. His average home run travels just over 400 feet. The ‘true distance’ of his longest homer this season is 450 feet, which he hit on August 20th in Tampa Bay off of pitcher Jae Seo. That homer looked like this to those who watch baseball with their eyes, and for those who watch baseball through a protractor and compass, it looked like this:

tropicanafield_rings_2006_4140.jpg

This season Hafner has yet to hit a homer truly to the opposite field, but he isn’t shy about hitting the ball to straightaway center or even the power alley in left, as you can see below in a plot of his home runs.

hafner_travis_scatter.jpg

During the game last night (or during any game, really) the Blue Jays’ outfielders played Hafner without a shift. The infielders’, however, were arrange thusly: 1B hugging the line, the 2B in shallow right field, the SS in the traditional spot of the 2B, and the 3B in the traditional spot of the SS. In his first at bat Hafner avoided the shift by hitting the ball into the bleachers. This was Hafner’s only hit. He struck out in his other official at bat.

Just once I’d like to see Hafner lay a bunt down the third base line against the shift. Were he to do so he’d be able to jump backwards on one foot to first base and still be safe by five feet. I’m not sure much would satisfy me more than seeing a hulking power hitter leg out an infield single by strategically bunting against a nasty infield shift. Hafner sure seems like a fun-loving guy. By now he must’ve considered that he is almost assured a hit if he bunts when the infielders all standing on the strong side of second base. Is there a better coda to a towering home run than a dainty bunt single in the next at bat? It would totally psych out the other team.

Speaking of which, during last night’s game, when Chacin walked the bases loaded and Jhonny Peralta came to the plate, did anyone else think that Eric Wedge should have sent Peralta to the batter’s box without a bat? It’s not that Peralta is a poor hitter–although this season he hasn’t made a convincing argument to the contrary–so much as it is that Chacin absolutely could not find the strike zone. Peralta eventually struck out (he would have walked had he not swung at a pitch about six inches above his eyelids), so Peralta without a bat would have been no less effective, but just think of the mind-screw a batless hitter would have cause this wayward pitcher. I’m 90% sure that Chacin would have thrown two balls, both of which would have missed by about three inches, and then would have thrown the third pitch into the ground four feet in front of home plate and the fourth pitch three rows deep into the stands. The Jhonny Peralta could have single-handedly manufactured a Rick Ankiel moment. It would have been fantastic.

There’s always next time, I guess.

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