There are 13 qualified hitters in baseball with at least 6 triples. 12 of the 13 players have at least 5 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, 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 9 triples, which is good for the second most 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), and that one triple was hit into Triple’s Alley at AT&T Park in San Francisco on May 13th, 2014 (No, this was not a Friday the 13th). Triple’s 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.
Okay, then he must’ve hit his triples in “triple-friendly” parks; below is a table showing where he has hit his 9 triples this year:
|AT & T Park
|Minute Maid Park (5)
|Comerica Park (2)
Okay, that 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 write about it in present tense to portray the feeling of spontaneity I felt when I first started this game: Considering the factors, I get the feeling that I can guess which stadium each of his triples was 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. We’re going to take the five most centrally located red dots and say that those are the triples he hit at home.
For reference, here’s the stadium layout of Minute Maid Park (all ballpark layouts are courtesy of Clem’s Baseball.
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 some 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.
“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 a new post altogether, but I did warn about this post being disjointed.
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.
|Pitch to Gattis (06/28)
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) 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 is 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 cause 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 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 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 Andre Dawson 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. Fans rejoice and even Evan Gattis can’t believe his recent output of triples:
So we are hitting .800 after those 5 triples, but now let’s take on the triples hit away from home. Here are the triples that we have left to identify:
For reference, here are the stadium layouts for Comerica (where he hit 2 triples), AT & T Park, and Kauffman Stadium.
Kauffman Stadium – has the largest outfield in major league baseball as measured by total square feet.
Let’s to 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’s five for six.
Let’s jump ahead to what I think would be the other obvious pick, his triple hit at AT&T park. We’ll say that it was a throwback piece; an homage to his first triple, in that it was hit to triple’s 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 Blanco got 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 can’t prevent 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, and 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; 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.
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 5/8, which is good but not great. 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 8 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). I can’t imagine a reality where Evan Gattis highlights aren’t home runs and are centered around him tearing around the base paths, his massive, rippling thighs simultaneously inspiring awe and terror and some laughs – but what do I know – the last time I tried to predict something about Evan Gattis, I was only 50% right.