March 29, 2011
Tater Trot Tracker
An Average Tater Trot
Continuing this week with our introduction to the Tater Trot Tracker as we wait for Opening Day, I thought it might be prudent to give everyone an idea of what an average trot looks like. The chart above is my attempt at that.
Over all 4,500+ measurable home run trots in 2010, the average trot speed was a very precise 22.02 seconds, represented by the large blue dot (and the vertical black line) in the center there. The two outer vertical lines represent the first standard deviation from the average trot time. If you break those trots down by the number of runners on base - from solo shots to grand slams - you see that each additional runner on base slows the overall trot down, with solo blasts being slightly faster than average and grand slams being much slower. Walkoff home runs, with their celebrations on the basepaths and at home plate, are almost as slow as grand slams. Inside the park home runs are, of course, far to the left, showing just how speedy they are.
I also matched up each home run with the data over at Hit Tracker Online, a terrific website that measures the flight of every home run ball and gives incredible detail about the true nature of the blast. One of the best things about Hit Tracker is how it breaks each home run down into categories like "No-Doubt", "Just Enough", and "Plenty", each describing the type of home run hit bases on its flight. Using those categories, you can see just how much faster players run out the "Just Enoughs" (purple dot) versus the "No Doubters" (red dot).
The fastest and slowest players and teams are also included on the graph to show just how far from average each is. As you can see on the left there, Tony Gwynn, Jr., is technically the fastest trotter of 2010, as my cutoff for the leaderboard was three home runs and Gwynn hit precisely three home runs. The reason Gwynn beats out Adam Rosales, though (even if it is by barely a hair) is that two of Gwynn's three home runs were inside-the-parkers, while none of Rosales' seven home runs were. Rosales is clearly the faster trotter on a day-to-day basis. The average trot time for the fastest and slowest trotting teams aren't nearly as far from average as the players are, but that can easily be explained by the much larger sample size available. When you're comparing the Angels' 150 home runs to Bengie Molina's five, the variance is going to be quite different.
Finally, I included the fastest home run of the year and the (near) slowest home run of the year at the edges. The slowest home run belonged to Luke Scott, who had to round the bases after pulling a hamstring passing first base. Scott clocked in at 35.76 seconds. I didn't include it for two reasons: one, the injury puts the trot in a slightly different category and, two, it's so far from the normal trots that it would skew the graph. David Ortiz's May 24 trot, on the other hand, - which clocked in at 30.59 seconds - was no one's fault but Ortiz's and very much deserves to be pointed out.
I cannot wait for Opening Day on Thursday. It means the first crack of the bat, the first batter-pitcher face-off, the first leadoff hitter dancing off first, trying to entice a throw over, and the first rendition of "Roll Out the Barrel". It also means the first home run and the first home run trot, something I'm afraid to admit being very excited for. If, in the meantime, you have any questions about tater trots and the men who run them, feel free to ask. I'll do my best to have the data with me so I can answer even the obscure questions.