- With the MLB on pace to set a league record in home runs this season, here’s a highly scientific ranking of the best dingers so far in 2019.
July 4 is all about explosions here in the United States—big, bright, ear-drum-shatteringly loud explosions that fill the sky with wonder (and also turn dogs into puddles of fear). It’s fitting, then, that the Fourth of July is a big baseball day, full of the game’s own fireworks: home runs. And the 2019 season has been nothing but one cannon blast after another, with MLB on pace to set a new league record for most dingers in a season and with dozens and dozens of players aiming for new career highs.
That can mostly be blamed on the juiced (or at least different) ball, one that is way more aerodynamic than that of years past. The result is a cavalcade of round-trippers, including some majestic shots that will live long in the highlights. But which of the thousands of homers already hit emerge as the best of the year so far?
I’m glad you asked. Using a highly scientific system of assigning points based on arbitrary values that I care about, I’ve gone ahead and ranked the 10 best homers of the season. My scoring is simple: five categories, each worth a maximum of 10 points. Distance and velocity are pretty straightforward (and provided by Statcast). Leverage is a matter of when the homer was hit; a solo shot in a rout is less important (and thus less cool) than one hit late in a close game. Location, meanwhile, takes into account where the ball landed, with more points awarded for things like going out of the stadium or into a weird park-specific zone; basically, the more it reminds me of a putt-putt hole, the better. Finally, there’s savagery/style, the all-important subjective category that measures all the intangible elements of the homer: bat flips or tosses, degree of difficulty, and other external factors like vengeance and trash talking.
So with all that squared away, let’s get to the list.
10. Mike Trout, LAA | June 19 at TOR
110.9 mph, 434 ft., grand slam, tie game (3–3, T4)
Distance: 8 | Velocity: 8 | Leverage: 7 | Location: 5 | Savagery/Style: 4
This may not be the most impressive of Trout homers, but it is a perfect representation of what every Trout homer looks like: a ball that’s absolutely scalded and rises like a surface-to-air-missile before impacting on some dude in the crowd (in this case, a guy who tried to catch this ball with his bare hand and damn near lost it in the process). It also neatly encapsulates Trout’s greatness, as that slam was his second homer of the day, making him virtually the entirety of Los Angeles’ offense. (What else is new?)
9. Ronald Acuña Jr., ATL | Apr. 16 vs. ARI
114.3 mph, 448 ft., solo, 2–0 Diamondbacks (B4)
Distance: 8 | Velocity: 9 | Leverage: 4 | Location: 6 | Savagery/Style: 6
This one may not look like much initially, but consider the variables. Acuña—who is all of 21 years old—took a curveball at his shins and drove it to the opposite field on one knee at a speed and distance that most hitters can’t accomplish in batting practice. He is a freakish, terrifying talent, and even though this isn’t 2019’s top home run, it’s still a jaw-dropping display of athleticism (and a terrific Adrian Beltre impression).
8. Nomar Mazara, TEX | Mar. 28 vs. CHC
112.1 mph, 482 ft., two-run, 12–2 Cubs (B9)
Distance: 10 | Velocity: 8 | Leverage: 2 | Location: 8 | Savagery/Style: 6
Mazara has a technically more impressive homer than this one: MLB’s distance leader on the year, a blast measured at a mind-melting 505 feet on June 21 against the White Sox. But for as absurdly far as that ball went, it didn’t feel like 505; consider me a Nomar Distance Truther. This bomb against the Cubs, despite going only (“only”) 482 feet, simply feels bigger, flying far into the upper deck of Globe Life Park. It gets bonus points, too, for smacking a fan straight in the shoulder upon reentry.
Honestly kind of amazed that ball didn’t go through this poor woman.
7. Gary Sanchez, NYY | June 21 vs. HOU
113.3 mph, 481 ft., two-run, tie game (0–0, B3)
Distance: 10 | Velocity: 9 | Leverage: 6 | Location: 4 | Savagery/Style: 6
Every Gary Sanchez homer is a marvel of violence—a shiver-inducing combination of speed and power, in that he doesn’t hit homers so much as bludgeon them. Sanchez’s brute force approach to crushing dingers makes him a Statcast darling. This is his 2019 peak: a homer that is somehow both laser and mortar strike, getting out in approximately a tenth of a second while still carrying halfway up the leftfield bleachers at Yankee Stadium. Peep the bat flip, too; he knew he got all of that one.
6. Joey Gallo, TEX | Apr. 19 vs. HOU
113.4 mph, 442 ft., solo, 7–1 Astros (B9)
Distance: 10 | Velocity: 9 | Leverage: 2 | Location: 10 | Savagery/Style: 5
Why am I giving this homer—not close to the longest on either the season or this list—a perfect 10 in distance? Because if this ball only went 442 feet, then Yao Ming is only four feet tall. Gallo hit this into a black hole conveniently located in the rightfield corner of Globe Life Ball Park—a light-consuming vortex, a Bermuda Triangle of dingers. This home run went so far that it just vanished. No one actually knows where it landed, or if it even landed; some say it’s still flying today, tearing a hole through time (and maybe a popcorn cart) as it barrels its way into deep space. This was a behemoth blast that Statcast can’t capture, and it makes me weep that Gallo’s prodigious ball-smashing talents won’t be on display at the Home Run Derby.
5. Josh Bell, PIT | May 8 vs. TEX
114.9 mph, 472 ft., two-run, 2–0 Rangers (B4)
Distance: 10 | Velocity: 9 | Leverage: 5 | Location: 10 | Savagery/Style: 4
Bell has splashed down into the Allegheny River twice this season (the other came two weeks after this blast, against the Rockies), but this is the more impressive of the two. (It’s somehow not his longest of the year, though; he crushed one on April 7 against Cincinnati that beat this one by a mere two feet, way over the batter’s eye in PNC Park’s centerfield.) Still, for as awe-inspiring as this blast is and for as beautiful as a river shot always is, it loses points for being pretty perfunctory. Bell has a nice bat drop, but there’s oddly little emotion in this titanic blast. Plus, the stakes are decidedly low, costing this one some points.
4. Bryce Harper, PHI | Apr. 2 at WSN
111.5 mph, 458 ft., two-run, 6–2 Phillies (T8)
Distance: 9 | Velocity: 8 | Leverage: 4 | Location: 8 | Savagery/Style: 10
This is the Platonic ideal of baseball revenge (or whatever you want to call whatever feelings Harper has about the Nationals): Launching an absolute bomb into a part of the stadium filled with fans of your new team after you and your new teammates have spent an entire night making your old team and its fans look stupid (and including a gargantuan bat flip to boot). Had it been a game-winner, this would’ve been the No. 1 homer of the year without question. I have to admit, though, that it’s lost a little of its luster given Harper’s relatively down year. An alternate universe in which this kicks off the ultimate MVP campaign is fun to imagine.
3. Dan Vogelbach, SEA | May 27 vs. TEX
No Statcast data, two-run, 3–2 Mariners (B7)
Distance: 10 | Velocity: 8? | Leverage: 6 | Location: 10 | Savagery/Style: 6
Unfortunately, Statcast was down the day Vogelbach hit this upper-deck moonshot, so exactly how far it traveled is lost to the mists of time. But when future generations talk of this home run over campfires in the deserted streets of ruined and abandoned cities, they’ll be limited in how far it flew only by their imaginations. “With his clubstick, Ol’ Big Dan made a clobber,” the tribe elder will say, as the children gasp. “Over in Sea-ttle, to the highest mountain, where the shadows and spirits go after you die.”
For those of us who don’t live in the post-apocalyptic future in Cloud Atlas, though, we’re left to describe Vogelbach’s homer with such precise verbiage as “insanely, idiotically far” and “holy crap, I didn’t know balls could reach that deck.” Indeed, that homer made him just the third player in the history of T-Mobile/Safeco Field to visit that rare territory. Truth is, you don’t need a fancy computer to tell you that this ball was hit a mile. That it was one of the game’s biggest boys who did the deed only makes it that much better.
2. Pete Alonso, NYM | May 7 at SDP
114.6 mph, 449 ft., two-run, tie game (5–5, T9)
Distance: 8 | Velocity: 9 | Leverage: 10 | Location: 8 | Savagery/Style: 8
It would’ve been very easy to have this entire piece be nothing but Alonso homers. He owns the majors’ fastest home run by exit velocity—a 118.3-mph rocket against the Braves on April 11 that landed in SunTrust Park’s centerfield fountain—as well as one on June 15 versus St. Louis that went 458 feet and clanged off the facing of the third deck in Citi Field’s leftfield. But this is his magnum opus of the year, combining his ridiculous raw power and strength with his flair for the dramatic (as well as some flair via an enormous bat toss). And it counted as Alonso dropping the mic (or bat, I suppose) in his feud with the Padres’ Chris Paddack, who had struck him out twice the night before but could only watch this one fly from the home dugout. It’s a borderline perfect home run—but it’s not 2019’s best.
1. Max Muncy, LAD | June 9 at SFG
108.8 mph, 426 ft., solo, tie game (0-0, T1)
Distance: 8 | Velocity: 8 | Leverage: 7 | Location: 10 | Savagery/Style: 10
The best homer of 2019 so far is no contest. Muncy’s blast into the bay was already great on its own, but the display of redassery it inspired from Madison Bumgarner made it hilarious, and Muncy’s trash talk afterward—the infamous (albeit geographically incorrect) “Go get it out of the ocean”—made it iconic. And while it’s tied with Alonso’s homer against the Padres in points, any home run that spawns its own catchphrase automatically wins in my book.