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Inside the Park Is Outside Common Sense

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There's nothing in baseball, maybe not even in all of sports, like an inside-the-park home run. A great hit and serious hustle are not enough to achieve the feat, it takes a freak occurrence to round all four bases with the ball still in play. A strange bounce off a tarp on the outfield wall enabled Ichiro's game-winning, inside-the-park home run at the 2007 All-Star Game. The most recent inside-the-parker was hit by the Phillies' Chase Utley on Thursday. He would have had to settle for a double had the ball not rolled along the outfield wall for 50 feet, evading two Astros fielders as he raced for home. The inside-the-park home run is a thrilling and unique part of baseball that deserves it's own statistical category, separate from the standard, out-of-the-park homer.

The two ways of hitting a home run are so absurdly different, that it seems ridiculous to place them in the same stat column. I tried to come up with a similar situation in a different sport, but I can't think of anything that comes close to this discrepancy. So I'll try an art analogy instead.

Think of the classic home run as Michelangelo's David, and an inside-the-park homer as a Jackson Pollock painting. David is huge, bold, and in your face, like a Josh Hamilton crushing a ball into the night sky. No one can deny that it took incredible talent to create it. But if you don't see its amazing detail from close up, David kind of looks like Lowe's garden statuary on a massive steroid cycle. Nothing different or special about it.

Then there's Pollock's splatter paintings. You look at one and think, that's not art! It's craziness, a mess! But you could never copy the painting exactly, no matter how hard you try. The painting was born of randomness and chaos, the very things that turn a double or triple into a magical inside-the-park home run.

The home run is the simplest and best stat to determine who the best power hitters in baseball are. It doesn't make sense to add the scrambling mad-dash of an inside-the-park homer to a hitters total of clean blasts into the bleachers. Seperating the two home runs into different categories will guarantee that fans are getting a clear picture when they peruse baseball's home run leaders. Although inside-the-park shots are rare, they can have a big effect on a player's home run numbers. That is, from a stat geek's point of view. In 2007, Brewers star Prince Fielder lugged his 270-pound self around the bases for an inside-the-parker against the Mets. That season, Fielder finished the season with exactly 50 home runs, becoming the youngest player to hit 50 in a season at age 23. Without the inside-the-park-homer, Fielder wouldn't have reached that milestone

Some people would probably be angered if the two home runs were seperated, as it would change the home run totals of their favorite players. But really, seperating the two stats would not affect the way the game was played on the field. These equally wonderful but very different plays deserve to be recognized individually (perhaps as "HR" and "IHR"?) in the morning box scores.

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About Josh Mandell

  • jerryman

    A really wonderful article. So good that it should be sent to the Commissioner of baseball.