MLB Metrics 101: Baseball's 15 Most Powerful Home Run Mashers

Zachary D. RymerMLB Lead WriterApril 20, 2017

MLB Metrics 101: Baseball's 15 Most Powerful Home Run Mashers

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    Ron Elkman/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Gone are the days when spectators could only guess about the hardest home run hitters in Major League Baseball. There's now an app for that.

    Sounds like a task for Bleacher Report's MLB Metrics 101.

    Hello and welcome back to the series. This week's objective is to use Statcast data from Baseball Savant to track down the 15 mightiest dinger mashers in baseball today.

    This will be based on overall bodies of work, so as to reward hitters who consistently clobber home runs rather than hitters who can clobber home runs. For this, only a few ground rules are needed:

    • Active players only
    • A minimum of 30 home runs in the Statcast era (since 2015) are required
    • Regular season and postseason home runs count

    Once David Ortiz, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder are plucked out of the sample, this leaves 130 sluggers to choose from.

    For more on how that list will be whittled down to a top 15, read on.

Methodology

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

    No matter which broadcast you're watching, these days you're liable to be told three things about any home run that's hit:

    • Launch Angle: The angle of the ball off the bat. Higher is generally better for power hitting, but Rob Arthur of FiveThirtyEight found that the sweet spot for home runs is roughly 25-30 degrees.
    • Exit Velocity: The speed of the ball off the bat. Nothing too complicated here. The faster the ball comes off the bat, the farther it's going to go.
    • Distance: Enough said.

    With these three numbers in hand, you can get a general idea of what a hitter's home runs look like. But since the goal here is to find hitters who really crush their homers, a general idea isn't good enough.

    What counts as a "crushed" home run must be clearly defined. Here are the definitions at play in this space:

    • Any home run over 420 feet. It's an arbitrary number, but it's an intuitive benchmark for a long home run. It's also 21 feet farther than the average home run travels.
    • Any home run hit under 420 feet, but at more than 105 mph off the bat. The latter is another arbitrary number but is safely above the average of 102.3 mph for such home runs. This is mainly for the sake of counting "laser" home runs that may not go far but are definitely crushed. Allow Nelson Cruz to demonstrate.

    With a hitter's crushed home runs in hand, it's easy to calculate his "Crushed HR%." That is, the percentage of his home runs that are crushed. Hint: The higher, the better.

    To see a spreadsheet with all the relevant numbers on it, go here.

    Otherwise, it's on to some honorable mentions and then the top 15.

Honorable Mentions

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Mark Trumbo, Baltimore Orioles

    Mark Trumbo is the reigning MLB home run champion and the author of one of your narrator's favorite home run highlights. Yet "only" 61.97 percent of his homers have been crushed. Although he has tremendous raw power, he has hit some fence-scrapers—in part thanks to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

     

    Khris Davis, Oakland A's

    Khris Davis just missed the cut with a crushed home run rate of 62.67 percent. But to his credit, he has way more home run power than anyone else in his size bracket (5'10", 195 lbs).

     

    Kris Bryant, Chicago Cubs

    Kris Bryant has huge raw power, and it can produce some impressive home runs. His issue is that his homers tend to be of the high and arcing variety, leading to a modest 55.56 crushed home run percentage.

     

    Josh Donaldson, Toronto Blue Jays

    They don't call Josh Donaldson the "Bringer of Rain" for nothing. He's hit home runs in bunches in recent seasons, and many of them have been bombs—just not as many as you might think. His crushed home run percentage is only 57.14.

     

    Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies

    Nolan Arenado has hit 89 home runs since 2015, and 34 of them have traveled over 420 feet. But as his home/road distance splits reveal, his long home run prowess does have much to do with Coors Field.

     

    Jung Ho Kang, Pittsburgh Pirates

    With 36 Statcast era home runs and a rate of 66.67 crushed homers, Jung Ho Kang actually made the cut for the top 15. But due to his visa issues, it's hard to call him an "active" player.

     

    Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers

    He doesn't have enough Statcast era home runs to qualify for consideration for this, but...dang.

15. Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals

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    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     4526.0106.240629 64.44 

    Eric Hosmer is an odd fit for a list of the most powerful home run hitters in baseball.

    He's topped 20 homers in a season only once and has a hard time getting the ball airborne, much less over the fence. While many hitters have looked to get off the ground in recent seasons, Hosmer has remained one of baseball's most steadfast ground-ball hitters.

    But when he does get the ball in the air...hoo boy.

    It's eye-catching that 17 of Hosmer's 45 Statcast-era homers have traveled at least 420 feet. Even more impressive is that he's one of only 14 players with at least 10 homers that were 110 mph or faster off the bat.

    So if it's ever seemed like his bat is especially good at making that sound, well, there you go.

    Dig This Video: 446-Foot Poke

14. Edwin Encarnacion, Cleveland Indians

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    Ron Jenkins/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     8628.0105.9 40856 65.12

    With 86 home runs since 2015, Edwin Encarnacion has been nothing if not prolific during the Statcast era.

    Whereas Hosmer doesn't mind trying to hit the ball where they ain't, Encarnacion is only thinking about going yard when he's up. The right-handed hitter's approach is tailored to hit fly balls, preferably to his pull side.

    That's a good way to hit for power, but it also helps that he's a large man who packs a punch.

    A stereotypical home run off the 34-year-old's bat is a high fly ball that seems to keep going forever, as he's hit 28 homers over 420 feet and 10 homers over 440 feet. But he hits lasers, too, notching 28 dingers that have gone less than 420 feet but were harder than 105 mph off the bat.

    Now, if only he could hurry and bring that act from Toronto to Cleveland...

    Dig This Video: 452-Foot Upper-Decker

13. Pedro Alvarez, Baltimore Orioles

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    Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     4927.1107.24093265.31

    Power is really all Pedro Alvarez has; hence why he's toiling away in the minors right now. But if power is all a guy is going to have, he might as well have this much of it.

    The 30-year-old veteran falls somewhere in between guys like Hosmer and Encarnacion. He's neither an extreme ground-ball hitter nor an extreme fly-ball hitter. He doesn't even favor his pull side (right) that much.

    Nope. Alvarez is just a 6'3" and 250-pound bull of a man who doesn't miss when he gets the ball in the air. Only two hitters have averaged better than his 98.5 mph on fly balls and line drives. And even with limited exposure in the Statcast era, he's hit more 420-foot homers than all but 14 other hitters.

    The last thing the Baltimore Orioles need is more power. But if Alvarez does rejoin them, he'll fit right in.

    Dig This Video: 452-Foot Jack

12. Joc Pederson, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     5326.8105.94133566.04

    Fun fact: Joc Pederson is one of only two players on this list who plays a middle-of-the-diamond position.

    That's generally not where you look to find sluggers, after all. It takes at least a little athleticism to play in the middle. And this center fielder has more than a little.

    But at 6'1" and 220 pounds, nobody can accuse him of being a littl'un. And he swings like a big'un.

    Although its length can get him in trouble, Pederson's swing is hard and violent. It also packs such a punch that he tends to skip past the 420-foot mark and go right to 430 feet with his home runs. He's hit 15 bombs that have gone at least that far, more than all but eight other hitters. 

    Could Pederson be a more complete player if he cut down on his swing? Sure. But he'd probably less interesting, too.

    Dig This Video: 477-Foot Crank

11. Chris Carter, New York Yankees

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
    6627.7106.34094466.67

    Looking for the answer to why Chris Carter is on the New York Yankees? You won't find it here. Or there. Or possibly anywhere.

    Nice power, though.

    Carter is a fly-ball hipster. Whereas many hitters are just now being turned on to the benefits of fly balls, Carter's 49.4 career fly-ball percentage is the highest among active hitters since 2010. When you hit that many balls in the air, home runs are going to happen.

    But, sure, it also helps that Carter is 6'4" and 245 pounds. Although he rarely seems to put much effort into his swings, he has an equal number of 420-foot moonshots and laser-type homers since 2015. It makes one wonder what he could do if he cut loose and started swinging from his heels.

    (Folds up message and leaves it in Carter's suggestion box.)

    Dig This Video: 465-Foot Long Ball

10. Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     7327.1106.441049 67.12 

    Here's the other guy who plays up the middle of the diamond. Bet you're just so surprised to see him.

    With a modest 37.1 fly-ball percentage since 2015, Mike Trout has mostly been sitting out the fly-ball revolution. This fits what the eye test sees in the center fielder's swing, which is short and quick rather than long and loopy.

    But, oh well. Who needs volume when you can have efficiency instead?

    That's what Trout's home run power is all about. Balls in the air off his bat have averaged 95.5 mph, a mark that even Encarnacion can't reach. Thus, he can manage both the longer variety and the laser variety of home runs.

    Trout has other talents, of course. But those aren't quite as fun as this one.

    Dig This Video: 454-Foot Rocket

9. Miguel Sano, Minnesota Twins

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     4628.8106.640731 67.39

    They tried to warn us about Miguel Sano's power, you know.

    "Sano has enough juice to earn comparisons to Giancarlo Stanton," read the Baseball America book on him in 2012, "the only right-handed hitter in the game who matches his 80 raw power on the 20-80 scouting scale."

    While Sano doesn't hit the ball quite as hard as Stanton, he's almost there. Fly balls and line drives off his bat have averaged 98.3 mph. Among Statcast-era hitters, Stanton is one of only three who's done better.

    That alone would make Sano a power threat, but he's also one of baseball's top fly-ball hitters. That's how 17 of his 46 home runs have traveled over 420 feet. Of those, nine have gone over 430 feet.

    And now for the really scary thought: at just 23 years old, Sano's power may not be fully matured yet.

    Dig This Video: 464-Foot Clout

8. Yoenis Cespedes, New York Mets

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     7426.9106.040750 67.57

    Now's a good time to appreciate how weird it is that Yoenis Cespedes was a two-time Home Run Derby champ before he was one of baseball's top home run hitters.

    Anyway. On with the program.

    Cespedes has always looked the part of a slugger. He has a muscular 220 pounds on a 5'10" frame, and his bat speed has always been a blur. What kept him from regular home run power earlier in his career was a frustrating mix of injuries and plain, ol' inconsistency.

    No longer. Cespedes is among the leaders both in 420-foot bombs and laser home runs since 2015. Already a good fly-ball hitter, he's become a more patient hitter in the last two years. His power has done the rest.

    For the record: Ken Griffey Jr. is the only three-time Derby champion. For now...

    Dig This Video: 457-Foot Tater

7. Chris Davis, Baltimore Orioles

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    Greg Fiume/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
    8830.5106.140461 69.32

    Chris Davis is 6'3" and 230 pounds and somehow appears even bigger than that.

    That's one thing that explains his massive power. He's also become more of a fly-ball hitter, as he's now rocking a solid 43.6 fly-ball percentage since 2015. And it's no joke that he has the highest average launch angle on his homers of any hitter on this list. His do tend to soar.

    However, arguably Davis' most impressive home runs are the ones (like this one) where he flicks his wrists and drives a low line drive over the wall. He gets those in bunches—hence why he has laser-type dingers since 2015. The next closest hitter has 30 such homers.

    Hitting home runs isn't actually that easy. Davis is just special like that.

    Dig This Video: 458-Foot Goner

6. Justin Upton, Detroit Tigers

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     5926.6106.740542 71.19

    Although Justin Upton is only 29 years old, he's now in his 11th major league season and doesn't appear to have quite the same bat speed he had when he was younger.

    He can still punish mistakes, however.

    Every power hitter likes the ball in a spot where they can extend their arms and send it on a ride. But Upton seems to have an uncanny ability to never miss when a pitch ends up in such a spot. The homers he's hit since 2015 have come almost exclusively on mistakes in the heart of the zone.

    He's blasted an equal number of 420-foot shots and laser homers in the process. So regardless of how he connects, he really does connect.

    Dig This Video: 445-Foot Smash

5. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies

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    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     6625.0106.0 42247 71.21 

    Carlos Gonzalez hits bombs. In the Statcast era, only Stanton has averaged more distance on his home runs.

    Disclaimer: This is partially thanks to Coors Field. But only partially. Although CarGo's dingers have averaged 428 feet amid the thin air at home, he's still averaged 411 feet on the road.

    It's not hard to see how Gonzalez generates so much power. He's a sturdy 6'1" and 220 pounds, and his swing is a delightful mix of long, loopy, quick and dangerous. That power, combined with the relatively low launch angle that he generates on his homers, is why so many of them fly through the air like missiles. 

    And with more 420-foot homers than anyone since 2015, it's a good idea for even people in the cheap seats to beware when he's up.

    Dig This Video: 468-Foot Laser

4. Lucas Duda, New York Mets

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    Rich Schultz/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     3926.9106.540728 71.79

    If Lucas Duda feels like a surprise entry on this list, that's probably because he played in only 47 games in 2016 and is now easy to miss on a New York Mets roster that's loaded with interesting players.

    But, here's the deal: 2015 is part of the Statcast era, and Duda spent a good chunk of that season hitting bombs.

    Nobody in the league had a higher fly-ball percentage that year, and whatever Duda hit in the air tended to stay hit. Of the 27 home runs he launched, 14 traveled at least 420 feet. When you're 6'4" and 255 pounds, that kind of power abides.

    It's early yet in 2017, but Duda's power appears to be making a comeback now that he's healthy. Two of the four homers he's hit have traveled over 440 feet. So, stay tuned.

    Dig This Video: 456-Foot Moonshot

3. Nelson Cruz, Seattle Mariners

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    Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     8926.8107.1 41464 71.91

    Only Arenado has hit as many home runs as Cruz since 2015. But only one of them is a hulking 6'2", 230-pound monster with the power of a mythical beast.

    As odd as this might sound, Cruz needs as much power as he can get these days. He used to hit fly balls in bunches, but he's become less of a fly-ball hitter with age. He's not taking the volume route to Dinger Land.

    Instead, he just doesn't miss what he does get airborne. Fly balls and line drives have left his bat at an average of 98.6 mph, a mark topped by only one other hitter. And his fly balls and line drives are equally dangerous, as he's the only hitter with 30 or more 420-foot shots and laser blasts.

    Cruz can't do this forever. But since he's still doing it at 36, he clearly means to try.

    Dig This Video: 493-Foot Missile

2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    Duane Burleson/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     5827.0106.84034577.59 

    Miguel Cabrera has always been a hitter first and a power hitter second. It's largely because of this relationship that he's not losing power as he ages.

    Watch Cabrera hit and you won't see a hitter who's trying to clear fences. You see a hitter who's trying to get the ball on the barrel. He happens to be really good at that. Since 2015, he's "barreled"—that is, hit balls with an ideal combination of exit velocity and launch angle—at a higher rate than all but two other hitters.

    Cabrera has gotten some (18, to be exact) longer homers out of that skill, but he's mainly specialized in laser home runs. He's launched 27 homers that have gone shorter than 420 feet but have been over 105 mph off the bat.

    On many of those, he swung like he was just trying for a hit and ended up with a homer. That's sort of his thing.

    Dig This Video: 462-Foot Blast

1. Giancarlo Stanton, Miami Marlins

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    Mark Brown/Getty Images
    Total HRLaunch Angle (º)Exit Velo (mph)Distance (Ft)Crushed HRCrushed HR%
     5724.9110.0 42348 84.21 

    What makes Giancarlo Stanton so powerful?

    Well, let's see. He's 6'6" and 245 pounds and built like a Greek god. He generates tremendous bat speed. And has recently turned himself into one of baseball's top fly-ball hitters. Other than that, nothing.

    Seriously, though, there's nobody even close to Stanton when it comes to home run power. Although he doesn't top either the long or laser home run leaderboard since 2015, that's because of injuries that have taken him off the field and nothing else.

    At 99.6 mph, he averages more speed on fly balls and line drives than anyone else. And since 2015, he's hit 32 home runs that have been faster than 110 mph off the bat. Contained within those are many of his most impressive dingers.

    If anyone was expecting to see somebody else atop this list...well, no. 

    Just no.

    Dig This Video: 504-Foot Dinger

     

    Data courtesy of Baseball ReferenceFanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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