Evan Gattis had quite a remarkable rookie year. By seasons' end, he built enough trust with his abilities behind the plate for the Braves to allow him to take over as the primary catcher for the 2014 season.
In his first big league season he finished with 21 home runs. Across both leagues, he ranked 12th in PA/HR and 14th in isolated power (ISO) among all players with over 250 PA. Both of these metrics are a solid indicator that Gattis has some of the deadliest power in the majors. Looking back over the course of the season, there were two home runs that rose above the rest because of the extraordinary physical strength and ability that were put on display.
4/13/13 v. Stephen Strasburg
The first home run pretty much reconfirmed to pitchers that you’re not going to beat Evan Gattis with a fastball. Catching up to a high-90’s fastball is a good way to earn yourself a large dosage of off speed pitches, something that pitchers rightfully adjusted to as the season went on. Pitchers will continue this adjustment in 2014, something Evan will continually need to counter-adjust to.
Looking at the images above and the chart below, the pitch itself was about eight inches above the TOP of the strike zone, or shoulder high, at contact. The chart is from the catcher's POV.
Yes, Strasburg missed with his location, but usually that is a place where flame throwers can miss and get away with it. Not this time; 426 ft. later, Gattis graced us with one of the most remarkable home runs of 2013.
9/8/13 v. Cole Hamels
The second home run, which came off LHP Cole Hamels, traveled a astonishing 486 ft. according to ESPN’s Home Run Tracker. It just so happened to be the longest home run of the season… by 10 feet.
As you can see from the clip above, it was an absolute no doubter right off the bat. Hamels tried to backdoor a 92 mph cutter on the outside part of the plate. Looking at the still frame below and the strike zone plot, the ball wound up being belt high, allowing Gattis to get full extension through his swing and deposit the ball onto the concourse, just the left of center.
As I mentioned above, ESPN’s tracking system calculated the ball traveling at 486 ft. However, they also estimate a home runs "standard distance" or the estimated distance the ball would have traveled at sea level, with no wind, in 70 degree air. This helps compare distances across all parks, displaying a more accurate estimated distance when neutralizing natural conditions.
Gattis’ true distance on the home run was estimated at "only" 475 ft. The main difference? The wind. According to the data collected, Gattis home run gained 10 feet due to the impact of the wind, compared to that of a windless day. The acute reader will notice that in the video clip that Joe Simpson quickly mentions that Gattis hit the ball "into the wind", contradictory to what the data suggests. I don’t know who is right of which way the wind was blowing, but either way it was the longest home run in Citizens Bank park history since data became tracked in 2006.
Evan Gattis did a lot of cool things this past season, but these two home runs stand out because of the physical ability it took for what he did to actually happen. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that this won’t be the last time the "bare-handed bear" makes baseball’s collective jaw drop over the next few months.