Eric Chavez took a Ryan Dempster pitch 441 feet on August 13th.
This new feature will recall the longest home run hit by a Yankee during the previous week. This post will appear slightly delayed because I wanted to keep the week's worth of games limited to a normal week in the year (Sunday-Saturday). Thus, this first week will remember the longest home run hit between August 12th and August 18th, which was slugged by the scalding hot Eric Chavez against new Rangers starter Ryan Dempster.
Dempster pitched very well with the Cubs this year in hitter-friendly Wrigley Field, and he became the pitching prize of the trade deadline with a 2.25 ERA and a 178 ERA+ as of July 31st. He wanted to go to the Dodgers, but the two teams were unable to agree on terms. The Rangers, searching for pitching due to Neftali Feliz's season-ending surgery and midseason signing Roy Oswalt's poor performance, swooped in at the last moments of the deadline before 4:00 PM EST, and they acquired Dempster in exchange for prospects Christian Villanueva and Kyle Hendricks. Interestingly, Dempster returned to the team that originally drafted him in the third round of the 1995 MLB draft but dealt him a year later to the Marlins for John Burkett. The Angels slammed him for eight runs on nine hits in his first start, but he then threw 6.2 innings of six-hit ball at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, allowing zero earned runs (three unearned). No one was sure which Dempster would show up for his next start against the Yankees in the Bronx.
Powered by a Nick Swisher grand slam, the Yankees surged to a 5-2 lead before Chavez came to the plate, leading off the bottom of the sixth inning. Dempster had settled down since the five-run third inning, but Chavez was in the middle of a terrific hot streak entering game action on August 13th. He missed the previous three games in Toronto due to a bad back, but since July 30th had hit .452/.485/.903 with four homers in 33 plate appearances. Before this year, Chavez last hit more than four homers in a season in 2007. So what did Chavez do against Dempster?
Oof. To the jump for further visuals.
Boy, that fifth pitch looks like it was begging to be crushed, and Chavez obliged. Splitters that stay up in the strike zone will go up in the air in a hurry if the hitter does what he should. Did it really look that flat though?
Oh yes. That pitch was right down the middle.
According to Hit Tracker Online, the ball appeared to travel about 415 feet, but its true distance had it returned to field level was 441 feet. Chavez hit the pitch at a speed of 111 mph, the fifth-fastest a ball has left the bat for the Yankees this year (Alex Rodriguez's laser beam 118 mph shot in Atlanta is still the top speed by a margin of nearly five mph). Here's where it landed:
The beautiful MS Paint Baseball shows where the fans were reaching for it. Not many players have hit balls behind the bullpen in New Yankee Stadium's brief history. Thoughts, Mr. Dempster?
None? He might be wondering why a bar with the score is coming out of his head, but other than that, he does not seem surprised. Nonchalant. This blast was not the first long homer Dempster has given up, nor will it be the last.