FOX Sports MLB analyst
Home missions are suspended.
Not in terms of popularity, no. Those joints still rule. But from a volume perspective, home operations are down in 2022, like Enron stock. There were 5,215 big flies last season, down 729 from a year ago, or the second-most season-to-season in MLB history.
But 5,215 is still a big number, more home runs than you or I or any of our friends have ever witnessed in person. Many of those big flies were notable. Some for the distance of their jaw. Others because they changed the trajectory of games, seasons, careers. But not all home runs can live forever in our memories. Some must melt like chalk in the rain.
Was that home run you saw in person that day Kyle Farmer’s 11th or 12th of the year? Who can say. There are too many real problems crammed into our brains to remember every ball we see in 2022, but only one can be crowned Most Untouchable Homer of the Year, an award that no one seeks and few cherish.
Let’s begin this futile quest!
Step 1: Low Game Impact (5,215 –> 453)
Stop changing the game. It’s fine as it is. Our home run cannot be a run, tiebreaker, lead changer, or anything like that. It should have little effect on the final outcome of the game.
Fortunately, there are statistics for that. Win Added Probability (WPA) calculates the percentage change in the outcome of a particular game in a given game. The higher the WPA, the more impactful the play, the lower the irrelevant. The highlight of the WPA was this two-out, three-run walk by Jorge Alfaro in 2022.
This is one hair-raising, goosebump-inducing, highlight reel home run. We want to stay away from this kind of excitement as much as possible.
In 2022, 454 home runs had a WPA below 0.01 (less than 1% impact on final game outcome). These are daytime entertainment, forgettable four bags. I can’t think of a better place to start.
Step 2: Away teams only (453 –> 228)
In the eyes of an impressionable kid, all home runs are awe-inspiring. These kids can’t even do their own floors or dice an onion yet, so you can imagine the stench blowing their minds. Most kids at baseball games are fans of the home team, and even the dirtiest home run can inspire an innocent youngster to become the next Mike Trout.
Take this ninth inning Tyler O’Neal solo home run against the Braves. Of course, the Cardinals were down 10 at the time and had essentially zero chance of coming back and winning. But the fireworks were still going, the crowds were still cheering, a kid or two’s days were still up for grabs.
The home team’s home runs are off the board.
Step 3: No Prize Winners or Votes Received (228 –> 183)
Do you want to look Aaron Judge in the eye and call him irrelevant? I don’t. Anyone voted MVP is too important to have the least important home run.
Step 4: No free agents (183 –> 100)
When it comes to the bargaining table, all home runs, both hit and allowed, make a difference. Maybe if Carlos Correa doesn’t hit this home run he’ll end up on the Giants or something.
Step 5: No Players Positions (100 –> 81)
Hahahahaha. Does that seem out of place to you?
Step 6: No Players Eligible for Arbitration (81 –> 41)
As with free agents, every last statistic plays a role in determining contracts for arbitration-eligible players. Final dollar figures are directly based on past performance and we don’t want to take a penny out of anyone’s pocket.
Step 7: There are no first two months of the year (41 –> 29)
Spring is the time of dreams. Even the most rudderless team has a glimmer of hope in April and May. No club is really out of it until Memorial Day. To diminish that sense of heroic faith would be a scientific error. Even this April shot by Charlie Blackmon has a hint of promise… if you look hard enough.
Step 8: No Playoff Teams (29 –> 11)
Any home run can make or break a magical atmosphere. Maybe this random August Garrett Stubbs was the spark for the Phillies’ World Series. Better safe than sorry.
Time to start crossing them off one by one.
11. Steven Vogt. Last year was Steven Vogt’s final season. One last hurray for an MLB cult hero. It is not irrelevant.
10. Luis Garcia: This was 113 mph off the bat. Absolute laser beam.
9. Jake Fraley: Left-handed homers are always impressive. Plus, the Brewers were only 3.5 games out of the wild card at this point, and Fraley’s homer was another straw that broke the camel’s back.
8. Eric Hase: Looks further than the measured distance. Second deck. Not unrelated enough.
7. Corey Seager: Seager is too good for this list.
6. Romy Gonzalez: The homer, which pushes the score from 11-0 to 14-0, takes the game from routine to memorable, from landslide to ridiculous dust-up. This homer makes you laugh.
5. Christian Arroyo: A really, really strong contender, except for one obvious thing: Arroyo hit this one over Wal-Timor. The new dimensions of left field at Camden Yards confused hitters all season. Anyone who has conquered it deserves their flowers.
4. Sebi Zavala: It was the first homer by Chicago’s backup catchers this season. I’m shocked he didn’t ask for the ball.
3. Ketel Marte: Hundreds of humble homers have found the bleachers in Cincinnati’s hitter-friendly yard over the years. This Marte blast is a prototype scoop, start and clock. However, the highlight of this clip is Cincinnati’s 6-foot-6 right fielder Aristides Aquino. As the ball slides toward the fence, Aquino slides too, and for a brief moment you think you’re about to watch a truly stunning heist.
2. Skye Bolt. This homer has all the makings of an unhinged home run champion. A lone hit in the ninth between two mediocre teams coming off the offseason and featuring two players who will likely never make the All-Star team. Alas, the guy who hit the home run is named Skye Bolt, so it can’t be our winner.
1. Max Stasi: Shohei Ohtani strikes out Royals pitcher Angel Zerpa in the top of the third inning on July 26, his 21st of the season. The crowd at Kauffman Stadium was bigger than usual on a Tuesday, with 20,834 in attendance to see the game’s hottest talent. And gave up Ohtani in his second at-bat with that long ball.
A few hours later, in the top of the ninth, with the Angels up by five and most of the home crowd long gone, Anaheim catcher Stassi slid a Joel Payamps cement mixer over the left-center field fence. It was deep enough to dispel any doubt, but deep enough not to reach Kaufman’s iconic fountains.
I have nothing bad to say about Stasi. I have nothing bad to say about Payamps. I wish them both the best in their future endeavors and hope they live happy and fulfilling lives. But this home run is a worthy winner. I have little to say.
So while there isn’t a brighter spotlight in today’s game than the one constantly shining on Ohtani, there’s an unknown in the immediate shadows. Beneath the surface lurks inconsistency. Congratulations, Max! Congratulations.
See you all next year!
Jake Mintz, top half @CespedesBBQ is a baseball writer for FOX Sports. He’s an Orioles fan living in New York City, so he’s been single for most of October. If he’s not watching baseball, he’s almost certainly riding his bike. Follow him on Twitter at @Jake_Mintz:.
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