Why is everyone freaking out about Willians Astudillo's from-his-knees home run?
When you woke up this morning, you probably thought it was going to be just another wintery day. But you were wrong. Because the Twins' Willians Astudillo hit a game-winning home run from his knees and leaned on his bat to take in the view:
Even if you didn't have any context for it, you might have watched that clip and been amazed simply from the visuals. Here was someone smashing an orb over the outfield wall without even staying on his feet. That's impressive. That he followed it up with a beatific stare usually reserved for church windows rather than sports just makes it all the better:
But clearly, that wasn't the only reason that the whole baseball internet rose up with one collective voice to say, "Yes! This! More of this!" So, just what is the deal with this? Glad you asked.
You may have notice that Astudillo doesn't look like other baseball players. He's a little thicker, a little shorter. That is an important part in his rise to deific memeification: Fans love players who don't quite match the Charles Atlas-meets-Marvel-superhero-meets-Greek Adonis physique that makes up about 99 percent of the Major Leagues. For proof of this, see: Colon, Bartolo.
Not only did he not look like other big leaguers, Astudillo was able to play almost every position. Originally a catcher in the Braves organization, Astudillo also played third, second, left field and center field last year. He's the only 5-foot-9, 225-pound player to ever line up at arguably the game's most athletic position. Oh, yeah, he also pitched. And every one loves a position player pitching:
But it wasn't until September that he went from curiosity to folk hero -- thanks to this one glorious run from first to home, panting like we all do when we head to the gym a few times a week. Hair blowing in the wind, legs pumping wildly, this was baseball art:
The absolute unit that could. pic.twitter.com/r2a5uj9E7o- MLB (@MLB) September 13, 2018
He gets it, too. After his race around the bases, Astudillo said that he "just wanted to show that chubby people also run."
There's one more thing Astudillo does that sets him apart from every Major Leaguer: He doesn't strike out. As the game has seen strikeout rates rise year after year, with a bevy of relievers throwing 95-something-mph fastballs, Astudillo stands apart.
In Triple-A last season, Astudillo went down on strikes just 14 times in 307 plate appearances. After his call to the Majors, facing the best pitchers in the game, he somehow did even better. He struck out 3 times in 97 plate appearances -- while also hitting .355/.371/.516. That's a shocking batting line for any utility player, and especially shocking for someone whose game seems predicated on making contact.
He may be getting even better. This winter in Venezuela, Astudillo is hitting .325 with 10 home runs and -- wait for it -- four strikeouts in 234 at-bats. This combination of power and contact is something rarely seen outside of someone like Joe DiMaggio.
Now, obviously, Astudillo is not the next DiMaggio (probably), but he's something incredibly unique. And that's what people find so great. It's not just that he doesn't strike out, it's that there's no player like Astudillo in the game at all. He doesn't look like other players. He doesn't play like other players. And, yet, he continues to do amazing stuff -- like hit an Adrian Beltre-esque tumbling game-winning home run.
That combination has made him a fan favorite in a way few players can match. And you can probably expect more moments like this every time Astudillo takes the field. That includes costumes, too, by the way: