Sporting Charts

How Home Run Distance is Calculated

One of the best things for players to brag about when talking about hitting is their power. Talking only about how many home runs they have shot over the fences is not enough, as park factors are big influences over that quantity. However, if you talk about the distance a

Home run distance is measured from home plate to the place where the ball landed or where it would have landed had it’s flight not been obstructed by anything (like the stands, light towers, or even a fan’s glove). Thus, some calculations have to be made to be able to determine this distance and, while it’s fairly reliable, it can only be a simulated approximation.

There have been a few methods that have been used over the course of history to measure HR distance. In older of times, this distance was not really well recorded and old claims of really long dingers are rather questionable. For example, some people say that  Josh Gibson of the old Negro League once hit a homer that travelled 668 feet in the air and then went up to 911 ft once they added the distance it ran on the ground. With no true measurements at the time, stuff like this is more of a myth than a reality.

Nowadays, there exist more reliable methods like ESPN’s Home Run Tracker (previously known as Hit Tracker). It’s a spreadsheet tool that takes a few inputs that account for many different factors that influence a ball’s flight:

ATMOSPHERIC DATA

Wind speed, temperature, altitude (above sea level) and the calculated spin that the ball will have once it leaves the bat. All these properties are used in some crazy physics calculations we thankfully need not comprehend.

OBSERVED DATA

The tracker utilizes an initial point where the ball was launched and a final point, as well as the time of flight and angle of flight which are all input into the spreadsheet.

INITIAL TRAJECTORY

The trajectory of the ball is calculated using the initial angle the ball was projected by and the speed it had right off the bat. Using more physics, the trajectory is built taking into account variables like gravity, the baseball’s spin and wind resistance.

FINAL RESULT

The tracker churns out a final result that states the true distance of the home run.

For more information about this calculations, click on this link.


Longest Home Runs measured by ESPN’s Home Run Tracker

ESPN’s tracker has been working since 2006, so we can reliably talk about the distances of homers since then. These are the 20 longest home runs ever measured by this tool (up to the 2012 season):

Date

Hitter

Hitter Team

Pitcher

Pitcher Team

Ballpark

Distance

9/27/2008

Adam Dunn

ARI

Glendon Rusch

COL

Chase Field

504

9/19/2006

Matt Holliday

COL

Matt Cain

SF

Coors Field

498

10/2/2009

Wladimir Balentien

CIN

Daniel McCutchen

PIT

Great American BP

495

9/21/2007

Aramis Ramirez

CHC

Paul Maholm

PIT

Wrigley Field

495

8/17/2012

Giancarlo Stanton

MIA

Josh Roenicke

COL

Coors Field

494

9/1/2012

Edwin Encarnacion

TOR

J.P. Howell

TB

Rogers Centre

488

6/15/2006

Alex Rodriguez

NYY

Cliff Lee

CLE

Old Yankee Stadium

488

9/27/2006

Wilson Betemit

LAD

Aaron Cook

COL

Coors Field

488

4/29/2011

Prince Fielder

MIL

Brett Myers

HOU

Minute Maid Park

486

7/10/2008

Adam Dunn

CIN

Jon Lieber

CHC

Wrigley Field

486

7/2/2012

Cameron Maybin

SD

Trevor Cahill

ARI

Chase Field

485

6/27/2010

Josh Hamilton

TEX

Roy Oswalt

HOU

Rangers Ballpark

485

4/19/2006

Reggie Abercrombie

FLA

Mike Gosling

CIN

Great American  BP

485

6/3/2012

Nelson Cruz

TEX

Bobby Cassevah

LAA

Angel Stadium

484

5/12/2006

Prince Fielder

MIL

Jose Lima

NYM

Miller Park

484

7/30/2006

Vladimir Guerrero

LAA

Curt Schilling

BOS

Fenway Park

484

5/22/2006

Lance Berkman

HOU

Zach Day

WSH

RFK Stadium

483

9/12/2011

Juan Francisco

CIN

Rodrigo Lopez

CHC

Great American BP

482

6/30/2008

Brad Hawpe

COL

Greg Maddux

SD

Coors Field

482

4/15/2012

Travis Hafner

CLE

Luis Mendoza

KC

Kauffman Stadium

481

4/20/2010

Mark Reynolds

ARI

Mitchell Boggs

STL

Chase Field

481

6/27/2010

Colby Rasmus

STL

Blake Wood

KC

Kauffman Stadium

480

9/21/2007

Mark Teixeira

ATL

Carlos Villanueva

MIL

Turner Field

480

9/14/2010

Adam Dunn

WSH

Jair Jurrjens

ATL

Turner Field

479

10/7/2007

Manny Ramirez

BOS

Jered Weaver

LAA

Angel Stadium

479

4/12/2011

Justin Upton

ARI

Chris Carpenter

STL

Chase Field

478

5/22/2009

Raul Ibanez

PHI

Chien-Ming Wang

NYY

Yankee Stadium

477

4/5/2010

Jason Heyward

ATL

Carlos Zambrano

CHC

Turner Field

476

7/4/2008

Hanley Ramirez

FLA

Greg Reynolds

COL

Coors Field

476

 

As you can see, only one home run has eclipsed the 500 ft mark over the past few years, a huge bomb that Adam Dunn smashed. This is sometimes a stark contrast to some of the measurements existing for some classic players. For example, one homer that’s believed to be the longest in history was hit by Mickey Mantle in 1960. That monstrous hit was said to have flown for 643 feet! Then again, in 1995, the National Baseball Hall of Fame deemed it to have been “only” 575, and is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest home run to date though many still reserve judgment on such a play.