Broadcasters and fans alike often marvel at how quickly a home run ball jumps off the bat or exits the stadium, but they've never been able to precisely quantify such aspects -- until now, that is.
Thanks to Statcast, a revolutionary player- and ball-tracking technology, it's now possible to evaluate exactly how fast and at what angle a ball comes off a player's bat on any given swing. So now, instead of simply relying on phrases such as, "He smoked that one" or "That ball got out of here in a hurry," broadcasters will have the capability of sharing exactly how hard a player hit a ball or how long it took the ball to travel to its ultimate landing spot.
That luxury will start tonight when Statcast makes its broadcast debut during the MLB Network Showcase game between the Cardinals and Nationals at 7 p.m. ET.
In preparation for tonight's game, let's get Statcast's take on four home runs hit over the weekend by four of the game's top sluggers and how they compare to some of the hardest-hit balls this season overall.
• Donaldson's walk-off: Let's start with Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson's 10th-inning, walk-off home run Saturday against the Braves. Donaldson teed off on the second pitch he saw from Atlanta reliever Sugar Ray Marimon, who according to Statcast delivered an 82.3-mph changeup that had a perceived velocity of just 81.1 mph due to his below-average 5.8-foot extension away from the mound when he released the ball. As for the hit, the ball left Donaldson's bat at 103.7 mph and traveled a total of 382.4 feet, narrowly clearing the left-field wall at Rogers Centre.
• Bautista's blast: Though Donaldson's round-tripper went as the game-winner, teammate Jose Bautista crushed a go-ahead homer of his own two innings earlier that had a bit more pop to it. Bautista's came on a 94.2-mph fastball from Braves reliever Jim Johnson that had a perceived velocity of 93.6 mph. Bautista turned the pitch around to the tune of a 104.5-mph exit velocity, while ultimately sending the ball 393.4 feet into the second deck beyond the left-field wall.
• Abreu's grand smash: White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu, however, proved that the higher exit velocity on Bautista's homer was not strictly the result of hitting a faster pitch. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year winner crushed a grand slam in Saturday's 12-3 victory over the Tigers that came off his bat at 106.1 mph, despite the fact that it came on just an 85.8-mph cutter from Anibal Sanchez. Statcast projects that Abreu's homer would have traveled a total distance of 391.3 feet from the point of contact to where it would have landed on the ground.
• Cespedes' grand follow-up: Not to be outdone, Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes responded one day later with a grand slam of his own during the first inning of Detroit's eventual 9-1 victory over the White Sox. Facing Sox southpaw Jose Quintana, Cespedes turned around a 92.3 mph fastball at a blistering speed of 112.9 mph off the bat. On what was an absolute no-doubter, Statcast projects that the total distance the ball would have traveled from contact to landing point was 408.1 feet.
Bonus tidbits: While Cespedes' home run had the highest velocity of this bunch, it wasn't quite enough to break into the five hardest-hit balls so far this season. While not all home runs, the top five exit velocities on batted balls heading into Monday night belonged to Mike Trout (117.7 mph), Carlos Gonzalez (117.1), David Peralta (115.3), Mark Trumbo (114.4) and Hanley Ramirez (113.8). Not only did Gonzalez have the second-highest exit velocity, but the Rockies slugger actually held down three of the top 10 spots overall.
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.