All dingers are great, but not all dingers are created equal. On Tuesday night in San Diego, Hunter Pence hit a dinger off the scoreboard. It might have been the final dinger of Pence’s weird and beautiful career. It was an edifying moment of dinger-bliss that transcended the score or Pence’s disappointing season or the fact that it happened in a Giants and Padres game in September when both teams were eliminated from playoff contention. Also, he hit the absolute tar of it.
In that same game, Franmil Reyes hit a fly ball to left field that Chris Shaw could have caught had a dude in a teal v-neck not reached over the fence and caught it. Franmil Reyes hits some good home runs. This was not one of them.
Still, there have been worse home runs in 2018. Nick Hundley hit a dinger on Mother’s Day that had a 5 percent hit probability. The Astros walked off against the A’s with a 44-degree fly ball that landed in the Crawford Boxes. J.D. Martinez hit a home run that went a projected 324 feet, the shortest home run of the season.
But all of those were at least hit hard (95+ MPH) and had a direct impact on the outcome of the game. They may not have been as aesthetically pleasing, but at the time they mattered. There was controversy over Tyler White’s walkoff.
On September 19, with his team up by eight in the eighth inning, Guillermo Heredia hit the worst home run of 2018. Statcast tracked its launch angle at 30 degrees and its exit velocity at just 88 MPH or roughly the average velocity of a Dan Haren fastball. This was the slowest home run hit all year.
In the Statcast era, it is the only ball hit at 88 MPH and at a 30-degree launch angle to go for a home run. Notice that batters are hitting just .077 on such balls.
Not only was it a cheap home run by Statcast standards, the game was already decided. Before Heredia’s home run, the Astros had a 0.2 percent chance of winning the game. After the home run, the Astros were down to a 0.1 percent chance. The home run was worth .001 win probability added. Mike Zunino led off the inning with a strike out that was worth .000 WPA. Heredia’s home run (the best possible thing a hitter can do) was only worth one one-thousandth more wins than Zunino’s strike out (the worst thing a hitter can do with nobody on base).
I had to make a GIF of the home run because video of this home run does not exist. It was an unspectacular home run. MLB Advanced Media didn’t make a highlight for MLB.com. The Seattle Mariners Twitter account didn’t even post a clip. They did the bare minimum, which was to tweet that the event had occurred along with this very good GIF of Heredia.
There isn’t even a photo of Heredia hitting the home run in the SB Nation photo tool. The image used for this article is of Heredia hitting a single two days earlier.
The home run essentially didn’t happen. It was a tree falling in the woods with no one around to care. If video of the dinger existed, you could go back and listen to the complete apathy from the hometown crowd. There was not a single groan of displeasure from the Astro fans who had stayed to watch the end of the game out of loyalty/wanting to get the most out of their expensive baseball ticket. There was hardly a scrum for the souvenir home run ball which was eventually discarded back onto the field.
Heredia’s home run had the right intersection of cheapness and insignificance to be truly forgettable. Had the score been 0-0 when Heredia hit his dinger, this article would have been about Hundley’s or Martinez’s. But Heredia hit the softest home run of the season at a time when no one cared what he did: not the paying fans in attendance, not the person who wound up with his ball, not MLBAM, and not even the Seattle Mariners’ official Twitter account. But isn’t its unremarkableness remarkable in its own way?
Kenny Kelly is a writer at Beyond the Box Score, McCovey Chronicles, and BP Wrigleyville.