10 August 2013

Cabrera vs Rivera

My family is currently on holiday in Michigan.  We are staying at a family cottage on Lake Huron.  Being in Michigan gives me the chance to watch Tigers baseball.  Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter in baseball right now, and when he comes to bat, I stop what I'm doing and watch.

In last night's game in Yankee Stadium, the greatest closer ever, Mariano Rivera, came to the mound in the 9th inning with a 3-1 lead.  The Tigers had no chance, right?  Don Kelly pinch hit for Jose Iglesias, and hit the ball to center for out number one.  Austin Jackson doubled, and then Torii Hunter gounded out to Rivera.  That set the stage for Miguel Cabrera to face Mariano Rivera with two outs in the top of the 9th inning.  Luckily for sports fans, Rivera put the idea of an intentional walk out of his head and challenged Cabrera.

Cabrera fouled off the first pitch down the first-base line.  Yankee first baseman Lyle Overbay didn't exactly go all out to make the play, and the ball landed just out of his reach.  Had he made the catch, the game would have ended and Rivera would have had his 36th save.  Cabrera then fouled off the next pitch off his knee.  After walking around in pain, he stepped back in the box, took a ball, and then fouled a pitch off his shin.  He was pounding his own left leg!

With a 2-2 count, Yankee catcher Chris Stewart set up for a low and inside pitch.  Rivera made a serious mistake and put the ball over the plate in Cabrera's wheelhouse.  Cabrera sent the ball over the center field fence to tie the game at 3-3 and give Rivera his 4th blown save of the year.

According to ESPN's home run tracker (click here to access the site), Cabrera's home run left his bat at 105.5 mph (169.8 kph) at 24.3 degrees above the horizontal.  Reaching a maximum height of 87.0 ft (26.5 m), the ball's horizontal range was 427 ft (130 m).  Using that information, I modeled the home run.  The trajectory appears below (click on the image for a larger view).
The ball's time of flight was about 5.4 s and landed with a speed of 55.1 mph (88.7 kph).  Drag and lift are both needed to make the above plot.  Yankee Stadium is at sea level, so there was no need to correct air density for elevation.  

The Tigers lost in the 10th inning when the Yankees loaded the bases and Brett Gardner hit a two-out single past Cabrera at third.  What intrigues me is why Cabrera was playing so far in while there were two outs.  Had he been playing at normal depth, he could have fielded the ball and thrown to first to end the inning.

At least fans got to see Rivera battle Cabrera.  While writing this post, Cabrera hit another home run in today's afternoon game against the Yankees.  The guy is amazing!

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