He obliterated that pitch
All of baseball’s unwritten rules are stupid, but there’s something especially irritating about the ones that tell you not to try your hardest when the game is out of reach. In a sport where (via the salary arbitration system) players are paid based on their statistics, it’s wrong to ask them to take their foot off the gas when the outcome is no longer in doubt.
One such rule dictates that you shouldn’t swing at a 3–0 pitch when your team is up big late in the game. And you definitely shouldn’t swing on 3–0 when a position player is pitching.
But that’s exactly what White Sox rookie Yermín Mercedes did on Monday against the Twins.
With Chicago up 15–4 in the ninth, Minnesota sent utilityman Willians Astudillo in to pitch. Just as he did in his first pitching appearance of the season, Astudillo floated pitches toward the plate at speeds that should be physically impossible. Statcast was able to pick up only five of Astudillo’s 12 pitches, but his slowest recorded pitch of the night, which induced a Nick Madrigal groundout for the final out of the inning, was a preposterous 45.8 mph. Timing a pitch that slow can be impossible, but not for Mercedes.
Astudillo fell behind 3–0 on Mercedes and then lofted a towering eephus pitch, which was clocked at 47.1 mph. The unwritten rules dictate that Mercedes should have let it go by, but the meatball was too appetizing. He sat back and walloped it for a monster home run.
The faster a pitch comes in, the easier it is to send it back out with some serious velocity. But despite coming in at just 47.1 mph, Mercedes crushed the pitch with an impressive 109.3 mph exit velocity. The ball ended up traveling 429 feet. That takes ridiculous strength.
Twins color commentator Roy Smalley didn’t appreciate it, though.
“I don’t like it now, at 15-4,” Smalley said. “You’re going to get the same pitch after this. I don’t like it.”
Twins veteran Nelson Cruz wasn’t upset with Mercedes giving himself the green light there, but he also wasn’t terribly impressed.
“It was another homer, no?” Cruz told reporters. “Just a homer, I guess. You know.”
No, it wasn’t just another homer. Since 2008 (as far back as MLB’s pitch velocity data goes), no one has hit a dinger on a pitch thrown slower than the one Mercedes crushed. There has been a total of five homers on pitches thrown 55 mph or slower. Only Mercedes and DJ LeMahieu (last September, on a 48.7-mph pitch from Blue Jays infielder Santiago Espinal) have homered on pitches below 50 mph. Isn’t doing something cool like that way more important than respecting some imaginary rule?
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