Good Afternoon, It’s Wednesday, Septemeber 2nd, and this is The Broken Bat: A Lucky Homerun.
So, there has been this tweet that has been bothering me the past couple of weeks. Philadelphia Eagles reporter Eliot Sharr-Parks tweeted about the NHL playoffs and said, “I could maybe score a touchdown. I could luck into a home run. I could probably get two points in an NBA game. I could play hundreds of games of hockey and never ever score a goal. It looks impossible.” I agree with the point of this tweet saying that scoring an NHL goal is one of the hardest things to do in sports, but there is one part of the tweet that has kept me up at night. “I could luck into a home run.” This claim is preposterous. Yeah, sure, anyone can put a glove on and run out on the field, but it takes an incredible amount of skill to succeed. To achieve those skills takes a considerable amount of time. Hitting a baseball is one of the most challenging things to do across all sports.
The average batting average for the entire MLB has historically been around the .250 range, although this year that number is down to .244. Regardless, that number means that the average MLB player will record a hit 5 times for every 20 times he steps up to the plate or that he won’t hit the ball 15 times out of every 20 attempts. The average team has 37 plate appearances a game spread across nine players ,and therefore, each player has about 3 or 4 plate appearances, a game. That’s one hit a game for the average player. Combine that with the fact that most of these hits are small singles or doubles, and a Major League team only hits about 1 home run per 8 hits.
Two other factors make it nearly impossible. The first is seeing the pitch thrown at you. Most Major League pitchers can throw 90+ mph, and some can even throw over 100 mph. It is nearly impossible to see a pitch that fast coming at you. A famous expression in baseball is “blink and you’ll miss it.” We don’t even notice when we blink unless we think about it. If you can swallow a 90+ mph fastball, good luck trying to swing at another pitch. Today, pitchers will follow a 95 mph fastball with an 80 mph curveball that confuses even the majors’ best hitters. Below is a video from the tv show Sports Science and it explains the process and difficulty of seeing an MLB pitch.
The Sports Science video talks about seeing fastballs, but that’s only half the battle. Pitchers today can create such great movement and spin. A twitter account that I have been fascinated with this MLB season is called Pitching Ninja. Pitching Ninja is an account that posts videos of the craziest pitches for that day’s games, and it is just mesmerizing to see how pitchers can do that. If you take five minutes to look at the page, it puts it in perspective how good these pitchers are in the MLB and how it would be so hard for someone off the street to even make contact with a pitch. Los Angeles Dodgers Pitcher Dustin May has a pitch nicknamed the “Demon Pitch”. This pitch is one of if not the nastiest pitches I have ever seen ,and I plan to write an article about it soon. I attached a video of the pitch below from Pitching Ninja’s account.
Another factor is the physical makeup and talent of the person hitting the ball. Some of the best home run hitters are big hulking mounds of muscle such as Yankee’s outfielder Aaron Judge, which of course helps with power hitting. Still, there are also players like Houston Astro’s slugger Jose Altuve, who is 5’6 and only weighs 160 pounds. He is an excellent home run hitter and hits his home runs with a combination of hand speed and form. Altuve didn’t just suddenly luck into being able to hit with such finesse and talent. He spent years and countless hours fixing the tiniest mechanics to perfect his swing to muscle memory. This combination of mental and physical skills makes it nearly impossible for someone off the street to simply “luck into a hitting a home run.”