The Pure Power of Brennan Boesch and Miguel Cabrera


ESPN’s HitTracker is an incredibly fun data center for fans of the long ball. This site shows you the “standard distance” of home runs, but also the “true distance”, which calculates how far a ball would have gone if not for hitting the seats or a building, or the roof, or whatever.

According to HitTracker data, The longest true distance home run this year belong to Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder at an astounding 486 feet. The longest in the American League has been by Mark Trumbo of the Angels and Mitch Moreland of Texas, each coming in at 472 feet.

But where do the Tigers sluggers rank of the list of longest home runs, you ask? The longest home run hit by a Tiger this year is by Brennan Boesch, who clubbed one 438 feet against Boston’s Clay Buchholz on May 29 at Comerica Park. Boesch’s blast bested Jhonny Peralta‘s shot versus Tim Wakefield (5/27/11) by one foot. Where does Miguel Cabrera‘s name come in? It’s not next in line, that was a 424-foot shot by Alex Avila on June 6 in Texas against Colby Lewis.

Cabrera has hit bombs that have reached 423 feet and 422 feet this year, which rank fourth and fifth (tied with another Boesch shot) respectively among Tigers. Given that Cabrera’s size and track record suggest huge power, this was a bit surprising to me until I gave it some additional thought. Cabrera allows the ball to travel deep into the zone and frequently goes with the pitch away. Obviously, pull-power is greater than opposite field power, so seeing Cabrera’s “shorter” home runs shouldn’t be a shock. Cabrera’s longest home run this year was the second of his two bombs against New York’s Phil Hughes on April 6, but his second-longest (just one foot shorter) was a blast to right center field in Baltimore against Josh Rupe; that’s real power.

Of Cabrera’s 14 homes this year, two have gone to right, three to center, and nine to left. Just four of his moon-shots have come at home this year. His average true distance is 393.6 feet.

Boesch has had the longest home run in terms of true distance, and according to data is tied for second in the league with six home runs that have been classified as “no-doubt” shots (just one behind Jose Bautista for the lead). Cabrera has had only three “no-doubters” this year.

Of Boesch’s ten home runs this year, nine of them have been to right field, with only one ball reaching the seats to center (his 422-foot blast on Sunday in Colorado). He has hit four of his ten at home. Boesch’s average true distance is 395.6 feet per home run, and that includes a 329-foot “Pesky Pole” shot in Fenway Park.

In total, six of Boesch’s 10 round-trippers have eclisped the 400-foot mark in true distance, while only five of Cabrera’s 14 have reached that mark.

The difference in distance doesn’t necessarily mean that Boesch has more power than Cabrera, however. HitTracker also shows us the speed of the ball off the bat (how hard they hit it) and also the trajectory of each home run. Boesch’s balls have been hit much higher than Cabrera’s, with none of his home runs falling below 24.3 degrees in elevation angle and one blast reaching as high as 42.1 degrees. Cabrera’s home runs have been lower to the ground in terms of flight, with a high of just 32.3 degrees and three balls that didn’t crack 20 degrees. Cabrera’s balls have also been hit harder than Boesch’s, with three shots leaving the bat at better than 110 mph and a high speed of 114.2 mph. Boesch has hit just one home run that left the bat at at least 110 mph (111.7), and his average speed has been 104.5 mph. Cabrera’s average speed has been 105.4 mph.

So what, if anything, have we learned today? That Boesch gets his extra distance from the arc of his blasts more than how hard he hits the ball. Despite the raw numbers, Cabrera remains not only the better pure hitter, but remains the more powerful hitter as well.

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