Along Eutaw Street, fans gathered to watch a team employee perform a vital task during Sunday’s dominant Orioles win. He knelt down, Sharpie in hand, and drew an X that marked the spot where the longest home run of Gunnar Henderson’s career landed.
There were all sorts of questions that sprouted from this, though.
According to Statcast, Henderson’s home run traveled an estimated 462 feet. The Orioles have kept track of the distances of each of the 120 homers to land on Eutaw Street, and 462 is longer than any of the listed distances — beating out the 2011 blast from Lance Berkman that traveled 444 feet.
Now the confusion begins. How is it that Henderson’s home run was estimated to travel 462 feet, yet the marker for where it landed — and where he will earn a plaque in the offseason — is shorter by a few feet than the 1996 homer from Jim Thome that’s listed at 440 feet?
Enter Statcast, the advanced tracking technology that was added to all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums in 2015 that allows for the precise and rapid collection and analysis of an unfathomable amount of data.
The tracking technology studied the exit velocity (113.8 mph) and launch angle (27 degrees) of Henderson’s homer, then also took into account the temperature (87 degrees at first pitch), the wind (around 7 mph, per Windfinder) and the spin of the baseball. From there, the technology spits out a number: 462 feet.
Even then, though, there’s more to digest.
The estimated distance from Statcast is the most accurate measurement available, but it doesn’t mean the ball literally landed 462 feet away from home plate. Statcast measures where the ball would have landed on a flat ground, if there was no impediment on the way back to the playing surface. When Oriole Park at Camden Yards was built 31 years ago, the playing field was excavated into the ground. The right field wall rises about 21 feet — Eutaw Street, then, is a story above the playing field.
Henderson’s ball struck Eutaw Street before skipping up onto the B&O Warehouse. That landing spot was marked behind the 440-foot bomb from Thome’s plaque — which marks where his booming home run landed, and then also one-hopped onto the warehouse, just as Henderson’s did.
It’s impossible to know the projected distance of Thome’s home run. It was a towering shot, with a high launch angle, which could mean the distance was shorter than Henderson’s even though it is marked to have landed longer. Henderson’s homer was more on a line and had the potential to travel farther if there was no street to hit.
Before Statcast, Orioles team historian Bill Stetka said “there was just a chart that had a graphic line all the way across every dimension of the outfield,” which allowed for an estimated distance to be called on where it landed. That’s how Thome received a 440-foot measurement. And it’s how Ken Griffey Jr., who struck the warehouse on the fly during the 1993 home run derby, has a plaque that says 465 feet. With Statcast, both distances would be estimated longer.
That creates a conundrum for post-Statcast-era homers that land on Eutaw Street.
On the Orioles’ website, the most recent measurements for Eutaw Street homers regurgitate the Statcast measurement: They list Adley Rutschman’s homer at 407 feet and Boston Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers’ at 387 feet. In 2021, Anthony Santander’s plaque-worthy homer to Eutaw Street is listed at 443 feet — the same as what Statcast projected.
But to list the Statcast-estimated distances on new plaques creates the issue that became apparent Sunday, when Henderson’s 462-foot bomb was marked short of Thome’s 440-foot knock. That route would show one homer as farther than the next, even when the plaques are right next to each other.
They are apples-to-oranges measurements, bound to cause confusion.
So, is Henderson’s really the longest homer to hit Eutaw Street? The world may never know.