Spin Around the Bases

I guess Jordany Valdespin couldn’t wait to celebrate with his teammates. Can you blame him? Not only did his 9th-inning home run in Philadelphia last night break a 2-2 tie, it was his first major league hit. The New York Mets rookie didn’t stroll around the bases, savoring the moment, as many home run hitters do. Undoubtedly amped by adrenaline, Valdespin raced around the bases.

The 24-year-old had not reached base in his short major league career, a total of six plate appearances, but he made his first hit memorable—a three-run homer off Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon. Just 18.47 seconds after connecting with the pitch, Valdespin touched home plate. Contrast that with the 29 seconds it took Atlanta’s Chipper Jones to round the bases after he beat the Phillies with a homer last week and Valdespin’s jog seems like an all-out sprint. The average trot time for a home run in 2010 was 22.02 seconds.

These numbers come from Larry Granillo, founder of Tater Tot Tracker, which charts the time it takes a batters to round the bases after a home run. Using video posted online by Major League Baseball, Granillo has timed nearly every home run trot since 2010.

Valdespin’s time puts him just outside the top 10 fastest for this season, but was still more than 3.5 seconds faster than average.* Considering other factors—there were two men on base and the ball cleared the fence with plenty of room to spare—Valdespin’s pace was even more noteworthy. According to Granillo’s data, extra baserunners and home runs that easily clear the wall usually slow down the home run hitter.

*I timed Valdespin’s race around the bases at 18.1 seconds, which would give him the 10th fastest time of the year, but without being able to clearly see his foot touch home, there is room for discrepancy. Granillo told me the camera angles provided for the plate touch can cause problems.

According to Granillo, the fastest home run trot so far this year belongs to Milwaukee Brewers speedster Carlos Gomez, who raced all the way to third before realizing his hit had been ruled a home run. He touched home plate just 16.46 seconds after making contact with the pitch. The slowest of the season is the aforementioned crawl by Jones, who has a bad knee. The second slowest time belongs to David Ortiz of the Red Sox, the league’s slowest home run trotter. He accounted for several of the slowest times last year and 7 of the 10 slowest times in 2010 (the only two slower trips involved the hitters getting hurt during the at-bat or while rounding the bases). Ortiz routinely clocks in around 29 seconds. By that time, Valdespin was in the dugout being mobbed by his teammates.

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