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8 unlikely hits batters are thankful for in 2017

November 22, 2017

Major League Baseball gave us plenty of moments to be thankful for this season.Just a few of them: One of the most dramatic Fall Classics in recent memory, culminating in the Astros' first World Series title in franchise history. Giancarlo Stanton's and Aaron Judge's awe-inspiring home run displays. Cody Bellinger

Major League Baseball gave us plenty of moments to be thankful for this season.
Just a few of them: One of the most dramatic Fall Classics in recent memory, culminating in the Astros' first World Series title in franchise history. Giancarlo Stanton's and Aaron Judge's awe-inspiring home run displays. Cody Bellinger breaking into the big leagues and ripping homers at a record pace. Chris Sale striking out 300 batters. Corey Kluber pitching four straight months of near-unhittable baseball. The Indians winning 22 straight games.
But sometimes it's the little things -- and no one knows that better than these players.
As you enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend, here are some of the least likely hits from the Major Leagues this year. From homers that rarely clear the wall to behemoths squibbing tappers through the defense, these hitters all had something to be thankful for in 2017.
Carlos Correa
Thankful for: The Crawford Boxes
Statcast™ hit probability: 11 percent

You remember this World Series home run -- a sky-high fly that kept going and going and going -- until it finally dropped into the very front of the Crawford Boxes at Minute Maid Park, extending the Astros' lead late in a Game 5 that was still far from over. Correa's homer had a launch angle of 48 degrees -- the highest for any homer hit in the Majors all season, and one of only five hit with a launch angle that high since Statcast™ started tracking in 2015. Even with an exit velocity of 105.8 mph, that launch angle gave his fly ball a hit probability of just 11 percent, according to Statcast™. Batted balls at those launch angles are almost always flyouts, and if not for Houston's left field, Correa's homer on the game's biggest stage might not have happened.

Nolan Arenado
Thankful for: Mile High air
Statcast™ hit probability: 13 percent

Talk about drama. Arenado came up in the ninth inning on June 18 with the Rockies trailing by one with two runners on, a home run shy of the cycle. He got it. Arenado's drive off Giants closer Mark Melancon just cleared the left-field wall at Coors Field for a walk-off three-run homer to complete his first career cycle. The home run had an exit velocity of 93.2 mph, under the Statcast™ hard-hit threshold of 95-plus mph, and a launch angle of 33 degrees. That gave it a hit probability of just 13 percent. Not only that, batted balls with that combination of exit velocity and launch angle have been homers just 7 percent of the time since Statcast™ began. Still counts!

Lorenzo Cain
Thankful for: Pesky's Pole
Statcast™ hit probability: 2 percent

On July 29, Cain stepped to the plate at Fenway Park and lofted what looked like a routine fly ball to right field. Only it kept slicing toward Fenway's famous short corner, and as Mookie Betts chased it, it landed just fair inside Pesky's Pole for a home run -- 302 feet away -- the shortest projected distance for any over-the-fence homer hit in the Major Leagues since Statcast™ started tracking. With an exit velocity of 90.4 mph and a launch angle of 39 degrees, Cain's home run came in with a hit probability of 2 percent. It's the only batted ball with that combination of exit velocity and launch angle to be a home run in Statcast™ history. Betts could only wander back to his position in disbelief.

Yan Gomes
Thankful for: The roof over his head
Statcast™ hit probability: 0 percent

This had to be one of the strangest hits of the season. On May 20, the Indians were visiting the Astros when Gomes ripped a fly ball toward the Minute Maid Park roof in left… and it disappeared. No one seemed to have any idea where the ball was. Not the announcers, not left fielder Norichika Aoki, not Gomes. As it turned out, Gomes hadn't just hit it toward the roof -- he hit it off the roof. In fair territory. As the ball ricocheted all the way back to Correa at short, Gomes scampered to first base for one of the weirdest singles you'll ever see. To top it all off, the hit probability of such a fly ball -- 105.3 mph exit velocity, 54-degree launch angle -- was 0 percent.

Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge
Thankful for: Big players hitting small singles
Statcast™ hit probabilities: 22 percent (Stanton), 9 percent (Judge)

Let's look at a pair of singles by the players who usually hit the ball the hardest. But these aren't Stanton's and Judge's typical hits. On April 23, Stanton took a mighty hack at a Kevin Quackenbush slider and hit it straight into the dirt in front of home plate at an exit velocity of 57.4 mph. Seven bounces later, third baseman Luis Sardinas futilely scooped it up, with Stanton on first following a 22-percent hit-probability single.
On June 23, Judge came up against the Rangers' Matt Bush in the ninth inning of a game where he produced a 110.2-mph groundout. This time, he hit one 77.9 mph -- more than 30 mph softer -- and dribbled it through the middle of the infield for a base hit. It had a hit probability of just 9 percent. The groundout? 47 percent.

Adam Engel
Thankful for: The Bermuda Triangle
Statcast™ hit probability: 0 percent

This could be one of the unlikeliest extra-base hits recorded. On Aug. 9 in Chicago, Engel hit a ball straight up in the air off the Astros' Collin McHugh -- it had a launch angle of 70 degrees -- into the center of the infield. All four Houston infielders converged toward the popup, and McHugh turned and watched… as none of them caught it. The ball plopped to the ground untouched just behind the mound, as Engel motored around second base. But this story has a happy ending for both Engel's batting average and the defense: Engel tried to stretch his hit one base too far, and he was caught trying to get a triple out of a ball that barely went 60 feet, six inches. But it's still a double in your scorecard, and on a hit probability of 0 percent to boot.

Cody Bellinger
Thankful for: The end of the bat
Statcast™ hit probability: 1 percent

On Sept. 3, the Dodgers' rookie sensation hit a shallow fly ball to center field against the Padres in San Diego. The ball was in the air for 5.4 seconds. Bellinger thought he was out. He tossed his bat down in frustration as he watched the ball soar into the air. But what Bellinger didn't realize was that center fielder Manuel Margot had misread it and started back. Even though Margot raced in after Bellinger's fly, he couldn't recover. Despite a hit probability of 1 percent for Bellinger, and a catch probability of 97 percent for Margot, the ball landed safely in the grass. As Bellinger saw what was unfolding, he turned on the jets and hustled to third -- a triple he should be plenty thankful for.

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.