Nomar Mazara joins elite home run distance club with 491-foot blast
When the Rangers called up Nomar Mazara at the end of the season's first week, the book on the 21-year-old rightfielder was that he had more raw power than his minor league home run totals suggested. On Wednesday, he demonstrated that by walloping the longest home run of the season according to Statcast, a solo shot estimated at 491 feet.
Mazara's homer led off the bottom of the second inning of Wednesday afternoon's game against the Angels at Globe Life Park. It came at the expense of lefty Hector Santiago, whose 83-mph cut fastball on the inner third of the strike zone just didn't cut it:
According to Statcast, the ball had an exit velocity of 107.8 mph, a launch angle of 27.0 degrees and a hang time of 5.8 seconds en route to its final destination. The homer was Mazara's team-high eighth of the season and second to the upper deck of Globe Life's rightfield in as many games; he hit a 422-footer off Jhoulys Chacin on Tuesday night. Wednesday's blast cut the Angels' lead to 4–2, and Texas would go on to win the slugfest 15–9, with Mazara adding a two-run single in the sixth.
Mazara came into the season ranked as high as fifth on the major prospect lists and figured to get a callup at some point this season, but Shin-soo Choo's calf strain and Josh Hamilton's knee woes accelerated his schedule. He collected three hits including a homer in his stellar debut and hasn't looked back, demonstrating the advanced approach and use of the whole field that endeared him to prospect hounds. He's now hitting .320/.365/.500 for a team-high 130 OPS+; his 1.4 WAR trails only Ian Desmond and Adrian Beltre on the Rangers. Two weeks ago, Cliff Corcoran anointed him the front runner for this year's AL Rookie of the Year, and he's done nothing to relinquish that status. With Hamilton's season over and Choo back on the DL after just two plate appearances due to a left hamstring injury, the kid—whose preternatural calmness has earned him the nickname “The Big Chill”—is suddenly of vital importance to the Rangers' season.
According to MLB.com's Daren Willman (who created the great Baseball Savant site for parsing Statcast and PITCHf/x data), Mazara's homer is the longest of the year and the third-longest of the past two seasons, the "era" covered by Statcast. Here's a quick showcase of the other four distance champions Willman cited in the wake of Mazara's shot.
Kris Bryant, Cubs: 495 feet
En route to winning NL Rookie of the Year honors and helping the Cubs to their first playoff appearance since 2008, Bryant—whose light-tower power came as advertised—hit the longest of his 26 homers off the new Wrigley Field scoreboard on Sept. 6, 2015, at the expense of the Diamondbacks' Rubby De La Rosa. Via Statcast, Bryant's towering shot had an exit velocity of 111.5 mph and a launch angle of 33.2 degrees.
Michael Taylor, Nationals: 493 feet
Though well-regarded as a prospect, Taylor had a rough rookie season for the Nationals last year, hitting just .229/.282/.358 for a 72 OPS+, and was right at replacement level as far as WAR was concerned. Of his 14 homers, however, his Aug. 20 shot off the Rockies' Yohan Flande was one for the scrapbook. Yes, it was aided by the high altitude of Coors Field, but it still counts. That one had an exit velocity of 110.1 mph and a launch angle of 25.8 degrees.
Jonathan Schoop, Orioles: 485 feet
Schoop's command of the strike zone is a significant hole in his game, but nobody doubts the 24-year-old second baseman's power. Among players with at least 20 homers in the last two seasons, his average distance of 413.7 feet ranks fifth behind Joc Pederson (417.7 feet), Giancarlo Stanton (416.7), Mark Trumbo (413.9) and Khris Davis (413.8). Spoiler alert: None of those sluggers are represented within this top five, but Schoop is thanks to shots like this one from Aug. 26 of last year. He pulled a low-and-away cutter from the Royals' Johnny Cueto down the leftfield line, well above the foul pole and about halfway to Des Moines, Iowa. His exit velocity was 110.6 mph with a launch angle of 31.3 degrees—not quite as towering as Bryant's shot, but not far off.
Nelson Cruz, Mariners: 483 feet
Cruz clubbed 157 homers for the Rangers from 2006 to '13, then led the AL with 40 homers in his lone year with the Orioles in '14. He began his career with the Mariners with a flurry of long balls, including this April 29 special at his old stomping grounds in Arlington, his 10th of the 44 he would collect for the season. Hit off Wandy Rodriguez, the shot to the second deck in leftfield had an exit velocity of 115.9 mph and a launch angle of just 24 degrees. "You can summon a search party for that one," says one of the Mariners' announcers.
Wilman cited Josh Donaldson's 481-footer off the Orioles Chris Tillman from April 23, 2015 as the next-longest on the list at 481 feet, but Hanley Ramirez's June 21 homer off the Royals' Chris Young was also estimated at 481 feet. It turns out the AL MVP has the slight edge due to rounding (481.23 to 480.53), but we're calling that one a tie. As for Stanton, his longest of the Statcast era measures up at 479 feet, from last June 23 off the Cardinals' Carlos Martinez; it's in a virtual tie with an Oct. 4 homer by Pedro Alvarez off the Reds' Josh Smith for the eight spot on the list. Before Mazara, Stanton's 475-footer off the Phillies' Hector Neris from May 6 was the longest of this season:
Though he's in the throes of a slump right now, Stanton is still the owner of the most 450-foot homers of the past two seasons, with 10, more than the second-ranked Cruz (five) and any one of the three players tied for third at four (Pederson, Carlos Correa and Carlos Gonzalez) put together. He's also the only player with more than two homers of at least 470 feet, with six; Bryant and Pederson are the only other sluggers with more than one of that distance.
It would be a distance buff's dream if retroactive home run distances could be calculated with Statcast, but the venerable ESPN Home Run Tracker (which uses a different means of estimating distances than Statcast's radar-based technology) has a whole lot of home run data dating back to 2006. They've also taken a stab at estimating some famous home runs of yesteryear, such as Reggie Jackson's legendary 1971 All-Star Game shot—539 feet, had it not struck the transformer on the roof of Tiger Stadium, a home run so towering that it fooled the cameraman. We'll leave you with that one.