How Michael Taylor hit baseball's longest home run
493-foot blast longest homer tracked in 2015
Up until Thursday night, the Statcast™ leaderboard for the longest home runs of the season had exactly the names at the top you would have expected. Nelson Cruz, Josh Donaldson, and Hanley Ramirez held the top three spots, followed by a trio of blasts from Giancarlo Stanton. Beyond that, more of baseball's best-known sluggers, like Kris Bryant, Joc Pederson, and Mike Trout.
There's a new king in town now, and it's probably not a name you would have ever guessed. Rookie Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor crushed a ball 493 feet off of Colorado's Yohan Flande in the seventh inning of a 3-2 Rockies win in Denver, and now, by a good 10 feet over what Cruz did to Wandy Rodriguez in April, it's the longest homer of the Statcast™ era. It was real, and it was spectacular.
While it'd be tempting to just watch the highlight over and over -- we certainly wouldn't blame you if you did -- there's a lot to unpack here about just how this happened, so let's dig into it. Taylor's far better known for his plus outfield defense than for his bat, but it's fair to note that he isn't without power, having hit 24 home runs last year across three levels. Flande gave him an 84.1 mph slider that just didn't slide all that much, and Taylor crushed it at over 110 mph.
Now, the complete path of the ball was tracked by the Statcast™ radars, so we have everything we need at our disposal, and we'll start with how that 493 foot number came to be. When the ball hit the stands deep in center field, it was just under 469 feet away from home plate. Remember, home run distances aren't about where they land, but where they would have landed had the stands not gotten in the way.
At Coors Field, the center-field fence is 415 feet deep. Considering that the ball landed approximately 15 rows up beyond that, the extra 50+ feet seems reasonable. Then, considering how fast the ball was traveling, and that it was more of a line drive than a big high fly, the additional 24 feet between actual distance and projected complete distance (without obstructions) definitely lines up.
While launch speed is obviously a hugely important part of how far a ball goes, it's also about angle, and it's also about environment, and it's especially about how all three interact. It's easily understandable that a line drive at 100 mph is going to go a lot further than a popup at the same velocity. In Taylor's case, his blast left the bat at 25.81 degrees, where zero degrees would be directly back at the pitcher's release point.
By itself, a launch angle of 25.81 may not mean much. But we've all known for years that the thin air of Coors Field allows the ball to fly farther, and now we're able to put numbers to that. For example, just by taking a look at this chart prepared by Dr. Alan Nathan, a physics professor at the University of Illinois, it's easy to see that balls hit between 98 and 102 mph and at a launch angle of between 25 and 30 degrees go much farther in Denver, by 20 feet or more over other parks:
Taylor's shot was hit harder than that 98 to 102 mph range, and while the general point still applies, we thought we'd go farther. Our crack data team dug into the numbers, and found every ball in play from the 2015 season that was hit within 5 mph and within 5 degrees of Taylor's homer, basically trying to see how far nearly identical balls would go in parks that aren't a mile above sea level.
Surprise, surprise: Coors Field is atop the list. Here, we see the top five and bottom five of parks ranked by average distance of balls hit within that same range as Taylor's:
1) 446.41 ft - Coors Field (COL)
2) 429.74 ft - Rogers Centre (TOR)
3) 427.48 ft - Dodger Stadium (LAD)
4) 424.76 ft - Angel Stadium (LAA)
5) 421.44 ft - U.S. Cellular Field (CHW)
26) 410.87 ft - Petco Park (SD)
27) 408.64 ft - AT&T Park (SF)
28) 407.98 ft - Yankee Stadium (NYY)
29) 407.16 ft - Wrigley Field (CHC)
30) 405.75 ft - Minute Maid Park (HOU)
The distance between Coors Field and No. 2 Rogers Centre of 16.67 feet is basically the same as the distance between No. 2 and No. 25, Cleveland's Progressive Field. While this may just be confirming previously held beliefs that Coors Field is a great place to be a hitter.
Obviously, the majority of the credit here goes to Taylor, who saw a fat pitch and put an outstanding swing on it; launch velocities of over 110 mph don't happen by accident. It helped that he did so at an optimal launch angle. It helped a lot that he did so in Coors Field, where 5 of the 12 longest homers of 2015 have been hit. After all, it takes a lot of variables working together in perfect harmony to get the longest home run by any Major Leaguer all year long. You wouldn't expect it to happen any other way.