Visualization: Miguel Cabrera and his 44 Triple Crown-winning home runs

Yes, yes, there’s an MVP debate going on involving Miguel Cabrera, Mike Trout, the concept of WAR, defense, runs batted in, and everything else under the sun. I’m not here to fan those flames. That argument often leads to vitriol and rampant negativity on both sides, and while there’s a time and place for that, we can’t lose sight of the fact that these two athletes both performed at incredible levels over the course of an entire season.

Cabrera smacked 44 home runs on the way to a Triple Crown win, leading the American League in batting average, home runs and runs batted in. Cabrera has always been good for the occasional moon shot, and this year was no exception, with a season-best blast off of Hiroki Kuroda that traveled 466 feet. That home run was still 34 feet above the grass when it cleared the deep 420-foot center field fence in Detroit.

Cabrera also came within one foot of the highest home run of the year in terms of sheer altitude. At its peak, the 374-footer was an astonishing 162 feet above the ground. Only Todd Helton hit one higher, and while it reached 163 feet over Cabrera’s 162, Helton’s home run ended up eight feet shorter in its final resting place.

I plotted all 44 of Cabrera’s home run flight paths, as viewed from the side at ground level. Click to enlarge.

image

We can argue until we’re blue in the face about who deserves the MVP more, but both Trout and Cabrera are extraordinarily adept at the one skill that causes all of us to stop, stare, and crane our heads—launching a baseball with enough force to break windshields in the parking lot.

References & Resources
Technical note: These flight paths are calculated and plotted from data on Greg Rybarczyk’s Hit Tracker Online. Rybarczyk uses flight times and landing spots to plot out a baseball’s imaginary path to the ground, if there were no seats or barriers in the way. These flight paths reflect that extrapolation.

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Comments

  1. Mike F said...

    That 349 is where it would have landed if there was no fence, stands, etc.  Go to about 320 draw a line about ten feet high and that 349 looks to have been about 5 feet over the fence and three or four rows back by my eye ball.  This is assuming that the vertical scale is the same as the horizontal.

    It isn’t surprising though.  Most true power hitters seem to get very few cheap shots down the lines.  Their fence scrapers seem to be in the alleys and center field.  This might be why you seldom see their numbers change much as they move between band boxes and canyons.  After all, Miggy hit 44 and Fielder hit 30 with Comerica Park as their home field.

  2. David said...

    Well, both of them hit more homers at home than on the road this season.  I know Comerica has a reputation as a tough HR park, but Fielder hit 60% of his HR at home, and Cabrera hit nearly 64% of HIS HR at home.  Cabrera’s ratio of home HR to away HR this season is about in line with what Mel Ott had in his career – which is the most extreme HR split of all-time. So while Comerica has that reputation, I don’t know that it actually plays that way.  Haven’t really looked into it.

  3. Bob said...

    Nice article and a great graphic. I was at the June 2nd game and I believe they way underestimated his 2nd home run because he hit is where nobody thought it was possible to hit one, the camera booth in CF. That boot is about 25 ft above the field and well back of the 420 ft wall. Greg measures it a 444 ft. His earlier 466 ft HR actually hit lower on the same wall.

    @David – Comerica is a tough park to HR and is friendlier to LH than RH. The walls at the line are reasonably close (345 LF, 330 RF) but that opens up rather quickly to 370 in LC and 365 in RC and 420 in dead CF. The hittrackeronline site has a nice feature where you can overlay parks to compare them. Cabrera’s, and Fielder’s, big discrepancy between home and away HR is about the team not the stadium. AJax, Cabrera, and Fielder were typically the only ones who hit on the road while the rest of the team hit much better at home. Teams tended to pitch around them on the road.

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