The Evan Gattis Triples Game by Mark Davidson August 20, 2015 There are 13 qualified hitters in baseball with at least six triples. 12 of the 13 players have at least five SB and the average among those 12 players is 18 steals. Among the league leading ranks in triples stands one man who defies the common narrative that triples hitters are speedy. He’s known as ‘El Oso Blanco’, which translates to “The White Bear” for non Spanish-speaking readers, and listed at a whopping 6’4”, 260 lbs, it’s easy to see why they call him that. His story is one of modern day folklore, and it’s fitting that his wandering days eventually would lead him to an Astros squad that have taken the American League West by surprise. Evan Gattis, has as many stolen bases as he has batting gloves, or as many as he appears to have, which is zero, because if you’ve witnessed him hit at all, one of the first things you notice about him is that he does not wear batting gloves. Yet there his name is, one triple ahead of the likes of Adam Eaton and David Peralta; Evan Gattis, with nine triples, the man in sole position of second place for the most triples in major league baseball. Consider this: he had 1 triple in his first 783 PA (or even 1 in his first 928, if we want to include all of his career PA up to May 28th, 2015 – the date of his first triple this year), and that one triple was hit into Triples Alley at AT&T Park in San Francisco on May 13th, 2014 (No, this was not a Friday the 13th). Triples Alley is aptly named for the high volume of balls that are hit there that result in triples (relatively speaking). So that was Gattis’ one and only, and yet he’s hit 9 in his following 446 plate appearances (or even scarier, 9 in 301 PA). Before delving too much into this, I thought, “Conditions for an Evan Gattis triple would have to be perfect. I bet at least 6 of these triples are due to Tal’s Hill“, which is the 90 foot wide, 30 degree incline, that extends the area of balls in play about 34 feet beyond where the fence would normally end at Minute Maid Park. It is a whopping 436 feet to the wall at the top of Tall’s Hill. However, a quick peek at Gattis’ home/away splits would reveal that he has just 5 triples at home and 4 on the road. Well then he must have hit his triples in “triple-friendly” parks; below is a table showing where he has hit his 9 triples this year: STADIUM 3B FACTOR AT & T Park 1.211 Minute Maid Park (5) 1.549 Kauffman Stadium 1.240 Comerica Park (2) 1.465 Okay, that was predictable and makes a lot of sense to me. Now here is a spray chart that shows his hit types (if you don’t read keys, the red dots are the triples): *There is a sneaky red dot signifying a triple hiding behind a home run dot in left center just to the right of the most far left red dot* Looking at the plotting of the red dots and considering what stadiums he hit his triples at is where I got the idea for this article – and I will now switch to writing in present tense to portray the feeling of spontaneity I felt when I first started this writing. Considering the factors, I get the feeling that I can guess which stadium each of his triples have been hit at – an exhibition of frivolity to be sure, but this is just the kind of thing that we’re looking for while we’re at work, trying to look busy, isn’t it? If you wanna play, keep reading and guess along. I am going to take a liberty and use the pronoun “we” instead of “I” so this feels more like a group effort. And I also have a disclaimer: If you continue reading, you are assuming the risk that this could be a jarringly disjointed, moderately sarcastic, and gif cluttered article – it is. The Evan Gattis Triples Game Let’s consider my first hypothesis – that Tal’s Hill is responsible for a majority of these triples. Looking at the red dots it looks like 3 of them may have very well landed there. In order to kind of stick with my original idea, we’ll take the five most centrally located red dots and say that those are the triples he hit at home. For reference into this reasoning, here’s the stadium layout of Minute Maid Park (all ballpark layouts are courtesy of Clem’s Baseball). Note the massive depth of center field. Using FanGraphs’ Game Logs I’ll pinpoint the dates of his 5 home triples and then plug those dates into Gattis’ spray chart over at BrooksBaseball. 1st Triple at home; 3rd Triple of Season: 06/28 vs NYY That ball is not hit to Tal’s Hill, but it is one of his 5 most centrally hit triples of 2015, so that’s 1/1 if you’re scoring at home. Now here’s the GIF – and here’s where I have to pause and give credit to another article. When I started to write this post I hadn’t planned on including so much media, but as the post evolved it really did call for GIFs of these triples. When I searched ‘Evan Gattis triples’ on google, the first link that popped up is this SB Nation post by Murphy Powell, and it’s the source for 6 of the 8 GIFs here and is, by all accounts, VERY similar and a much better article than mine, so check it out. Any other GIFs were created using Baseball Savant media and makeagif.com. “ARGH!” That’s the sound of Michael Pineda groaning as he grimaces and falls on to bended-knee while telepathically willing the ball to stay in the park, which it does, barely. Pineda is groaning because that was not a quality slider. This information could probably be an entirely new post altogether, but I did warn you about this post being disjointed, so let’s to a quick detour. This triple took place at the end of June – a table tracking velo and movement of Michael Pineda’s sliders shows that Pineda was throwing sliders of a lesser quality during this period. Date(s) Velo x-movement v-movement BAA Pitch to Gattis (06/28) 87.9 2.15 1.25 1.000 (obviously) April 2015 84.08 4.54 -0.30 .208 May 2015 85.76 4.00 -0.41 .191 June 2015 87.12 2.47 0.02 .250 July 2015 87.10 1.34 0.46 .231 Whether it has been a conscious decision to throw his slider harder or it is a product of his ailing elbow, the results have not been so good. Anyways, at this point, three triples into the season – and 3 in his last 36 games – Gattis’ reputation as a triples machine is really starting to build momentum (I warned you about the sarcasm, too) and as soon as the ball bounces away from Brett Gardner and is left to be retrieved by a scurrying Garrett Jones, Gattis is off to the races. 2nd Triple at home; 4th Triple of the season: 06/30 vs KCR Bingo! This is a Tal’s Hill special and would be a home run at 29 other ball parks. Lorenzo Cain, who has to at least be in the conversation for the smoothest looking active baseball player, is rendered looking like a reckless drunkard, smashing head-first into the wall and then toppling over on to his side after heaving the ball in towards a cut-off man from his knee. Nonetheless, Gattis has his 4th triple of the year and we are 2 for 2. 3rd Triple at Home; 5th Triple of the season: 07/17 vs TEX That one is not quite as impressive as the last one in terms of distance, but he laid into this one pretty good, too. This hit scoots up on to Tal’s Hill after it nicks off Leonys Martin’s glove and then bounces off the wall – are you already missing the antics that Tal’s Hill won’t be causing in 2016? The main thing here is that we are now 3 for 3 in this game. I knew this would be easy. 4th Triple at Home; 7th Triple of the year: 07-28 vs LAA So we’re wrong on this one and that brings our tally to 3 for 4 – and I’ll take most of the responsibility for the ones we get wrong – my bad. “My bad” suffices when a player makes an errant pass out of bounds in a professional basketball game, so it should be enough here, too. This one hit just under the yellow line against the Papa John’s sign, and it had to careen off the wall in such a way that it caused the ball to bounce into another empty center field where Shane Victorino finally picks it up and hurls it in just in time for Gattis to pull in to third base with a stand up triple. 5th Triple at Home; 7th Triple of the year: 08-14 vs DET This is technically another one of the 5 most centrally located triples so we are 4 out of 5. The ball comes off the bat hard enough (99.3 mph) and then takes a generously frictional hop and loses speed as it trickles up against the wall in the deepest part of right center field at Minute Maid. I don’t care if even the great Roberto Clemente was in right field, that is a long relay throw and there is plenty of time for Evan Gattis to lock down his 9th triple of the season. Gattis is immediately pulled from the game as he is probably completely out of juice at this point in the season, but fans rejoice over his exploits and even Evan Gattis can’t believe his recent output of triples: So we are hitting .800 after the home stand, but now let’s take on the triples hit away from home. Here are the triples that we have left to identify: The media, for whatever reason, has started to get smaller, so I will point out the locations of the triples: there is one to deep, left center; one to deep center, one to right-center, and one down the right field line. For reference, here are the stadium layouts for Comerica (where he’s hit 2 triples), AT&T Park, and Kauffman Stadium. Comerica AT&T Kauffman Stadium: has the largest outfield in major league baseball as measured by total square feet. Let’s start with the one triple hit to deep center that did not take place at Minute Maid and say that one took place at Comerica Park, since, like Minute Maid, Comerica has a cavernous center field. 1st Triple of the Year: 05/21 vs DET @ Comerica Huzzah! That was kind of obvious and maybe shouldn’t have elicited a Tobias Funke jubilation, but the fact that we’re five for six does. Let’s jump ahead to what should be considered the other obvious pick, his triple hit at AT&T park. There’s a triple that was hit to right center and we’ll say this triple it was a throwback piece; inspired by his first triple in the bigs, in that it was hit to Triples Alley. 8th Triple of the Year: 08/11 vs SFG @ AT&T Park This one is wrong and that stings because I felt like this one would’ve been obvious. I’m not sure how much of the ball Gregor Blanco gets when he leaps – he may have ultimately sandwiched the ball between his back and the wall – but it looks like he prevented an Evan Gattis HR; but still can’t prevent yet another Evan Gattis Triple. We’re 5 out of 7. So of the two triples left, there is one that goes to deep right-center, and one that scurries down a right-field line. The ballparks left are Kauffman and Comerica. We’ll play the odds and guess that the one down the right-field line is hit at Kauffman Stadium because it would make sense for the one to right-center to have ended up in that little enclave at Comerica. 6th Triple of the Season: 07/26 vs KCR @ Kauffman Stadium Oddly enough there is no data for this on Brooks Baseball and there is also no GIF for this triple; Who’s padding the stats?? At least that builds some suspense… 2nd Triple of the Season: 05/24 vs DET @ Comerica Wrong – which also makes us wrong on the triple hit at Kauffman so we miss the final 2 – “my bad”. It looks like Rajai Davis was positioned towards the gap and therefore had to hunt this ball down while El Oso Blanco set the base paths aflame. So our (my) final score is 5/9, which is good but not great considering my 100% accuracy prediction. While I’m completely aware of the vast, expansive magnitude of my ignorance, I really did believe I could pick out where each of these 9 triples happened…it’s probably this same hubris that causes me to lose $3 daily over at Draft Kings. Trying to elicit some meaning out of this article would be contrived, so I’ll just say (tongue-in-cheek-ly), Gattis is likely to experience some regression to the mean (whatever that mean is in regards to triples). I can’t imagine a reality where Evan Gattis highlights aren’t home runs and continue to be centered around him tearing around the basepaths – his massive, rippling thighs simultaneously inspiring awe, terror, and a few chuckles among his teammates – but what do I know? The last time I tried to predict something about Evan Gattis, I was only 55.6% right.