It's not often that the eighth inning of a late-March Spring Training game provides something historic, not when the lineups are populated by names like Gorkys Hernandez, Socrates Brito, Rando Moreno and Chad Oberacker. (Those names are all real, but would you have known if we'd invented one?)Yet that's exactly
It's not often that the eighth inning of a late-March Spring Training game provides something historic, not when the lineups are populated by names like Gorkys Hernandez, Socrates Brito, Rando Moreno and Chad Oberacker. (Those names are all real, but would you have known if we'd invented one?)
Yet that's exactly what happened on Tuesday night in what would eventually become a 7-7 tie between the Giants and D-backs in Scottsdale, as Arizona's Peter O'Brien's fourth spring homer wasn't just a no-doubter, it was the hardest-hit home run of the Statcast™ era. Yes, really. Yes, harder than any of those hit by Giancarlo Stanton.
O'Brien's blast off a 94.9-mph Mike Broadway meatball left his bat at 119.5 mph and was projected to go 461.6 feet, had the left-field concourse not gotten in the way. If hitting a ball more than 119 mph -- or 14 mph harder than Aroldis Chapman has ever thrown one -- sounds impressive, that's because it is. It's in the top 0.002 percent of the more than 92,000 tracked balls in play from last year, which is to say that he hit the ball really, really hard.
Gif: O'Brien HR
Last year, only two tracked balls were hit harder than 119 mph, both by Stanton, but neither left the park. He reached 120.3 mph on a single(!) off Mike Bolsinger on May 12 in Los Angeles and 119.7 mph on a double off the Phillies' Jerome Williams on May 1. While O'Brien's launch angle of 24.1 degrees positioned him perfectly on the border of what's a high line drive and a low fly ball, Stanton's pair of harder hits were at 4.9 degrees and 7.1 degrees, respectively, leading to balls that stayed in the park.
Considering that Stanton appears, by all indications, to be the limits of what a human being can do to a baseball with a bat, that O'Brien is capable of approximating that -- off a pitcher who appeared in 21 big league games last year, no less -- suddenly makes him a lot more interesting, on a team that's invested a considerable amount of resources this offseason in becoming more interesting.
Not that we didn't know O'Brien had power, of course. He was named the D-Backs' Minor League Hitter of the Year by MLBPipeline.com last year, which noted that "there are few hitting prospects with more raw power than O'Brien." He had four hits, including a double and a homer, in a cup of coffee in the bigs in September, and scouting reports have touted his muscle ever since he was drafted by the Yankees in the second round in 2012.
O'Brien may not have a defensive position, which has always been his issue. But he definitely has power. And even though it's just Spring Training, in a game few saw and most won't remember, O'Brien will have a record … and he's given Stanton a new goal to aim for.
Mike Petriello is an analyst for MLB.com and host of the Statcast podcast. He has previously written for ESPN Insider and FanGraphs.