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Over-analysis: Logan Webb’s first career home run

Home run hitters aren’t just born, they are formed.

MLB: OCT 03 Padres at Giants Photo by Larry Placido/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Logan Webb’s two run homer in the 5th inning of the San Francisco Giants division-clinching win over the San Diego Padres was categorically unimportant.

At the time of the shot, the Giants were up 7 to 1. Webb’s hit made it 9 to 1. The win probability jumped 1 % in favor of the Giants: from 98% to 99.4%.

In a game of consequence, Logan Webb’s first career home run was inconsequential.

And yet, in the 48 hours that have elapsed since, it is all I have thought about.

It has sustained me through two school days with fourth graders swarming around me, waving papers in my face, asking me if they can go to the bathroom, and how to spell words like phoenix or Percy Jackson.

But through all that elementary noise erupted the sublime: the small step, the quick turn of the hips, the wide swing of the arms, the long stroke of black lumber connecting with leather and emitting a short and complete *pop* that says it all: Gone.

I watched the home run on repeat—over and over in the theater of my mind. A pure baseball moment. One that does not hold inherent value, but finds its worth in the preceding pitches, plate appearances, games—weight accrued through small moments.

That is the real story of Webb’s home run—not the face-value metrics: 368 feet, 102 MPH off the bat, 83 MPH change-up—but the journey.

Let’s work backwards.

Logan Webb homered on the second pitch of his at-bat to Nabil Crismatt. The first pitch was a fouled away, but within that swing contained the DNA of the four-bagger.

After the first pitch, I sent a text to my friend (let’s call him Stu) who was standing on the arcade in right field. It felt like Webb was swinging like he knew it was possibly the last at-bat of his career. It was the last game of the regular season and a couple of off-season months away from a new collective bargaining agreement that could potentially bring the designated hitter to the National League, rendering the pitcher AB extinct.

Webb knew all that, so he stepped up to the plate against Nabil Crismatt with purpose. He wasn’t going to waste his last opportunity at a free trip around the bases. If you squinted in the afternoon sun, you could see the shadow of Madison Bumgarner digging in. Even from 300 feet away, it was obvious to Stu as well. Webb was as focused as he was on the mound. He was up there to hack.

But to get to the foul tip in the fifth, we must go back to Webb’s at-bat against Dinelson Lamet in the fourth.

The game at that time was close. The Giants held a slim 2-1 lead over the Padres.

Dinelson Lamet, a starter who has been dealing with injuries all season, entered the game. He promptly walked Kris Bryant and Mike Yastrzemski and struck out Evan Longoria on a generous call by the home plate umpire before Logan Webb stepped into the batter’s box.

In a close game, with runs at a premium for San Francisco the past two days, it was an obvious sacrifice bunt situation for the pitcher. Webb needed to avoid grounding into a double-play and advance the runners to second and third.

He held his bat over the plate before Lamet started his wind-up.

The first pitch was a 95 MPH fastball that made a beeline for Webb’s chest. Visions of a baseball colliding with Brandon Belt’s thumb flashed before everyone’s eyes. Webb lurched back and somehow the ball hit the knob of the bat. Foul tip, strike one. Webb took a walk, staring down Lamet and shaking his head.

The next two pitches were nowhere near the strike zone. The fourth pitch was 95 at the top of the zone that Webb fouled straight back. Mike Krukow chuckled to himself on the television broadcast. The bunt was off and Webb was mad. Pitch number 6 was another fastball, this time a notch faster with a different eye-line, and Webb spoiled it.

2-2 count. With two strikes, we often see batters expand their zone, especially pitchers. If they see a pitch coming in straight, no-wrinkle, they’ll swing if it’s anywhere close. Pitch number six from Lamet was straight heat and desperate—it was the best pitch of the at-bat given the situation, but Webb read it as high and tight and spat on it.

Full count and the 7th pitch wasn’t close. Webb snarkily shoveled the bat towards the dugout before walking to first and signing a lease for the inside Lamet’s head until the start of the 2022 season.

Instead of two outs and runners in scoring position, Webb’s walk set up the bases loaded with one out. The Giants proceeded to add five runs to their total, effectively winning the game and the division with that outburst.

Would the five-run fourth have happened without Logan Webb’s 8-pitch walk? It’s hard to say—but according to Baseball Reference, the win probability for the Giants jumped up 5% after the at-bat, making it the fifth most consequential play of the game.

It also set-up the opportunity in his next plate appearance to swing for the bleachers.

Without the six-run cushion, Webb either has to put together a situational at-bat with a runner in scoring position, or (but unlikely, given the way he was pitching) would have been lifted for a pinch hitter in a high-leverage situation.

The walk in the fourth became the home run in the fifth.

And if we wanted to, we could go back further.

We could go back to Kevin Gausman’s pinch-hit walk-off sacrifice fly on September 17th that Logan Webb had to watch from the dugout.

An ember sparked into a flame in Webb’s chest that night as his teammates swarmed the unlikely hero—he needed to one-up Gausman. But when? But how?

He was running out of time…

Or we could go back to Webb’s RBI single in mid-August that hit off the top of the wall in center field—inches from a home run. The moment bittersweet: a ball crushed, a home run in every aspect but name. So close and yet so far.

All Webb could do was smile. Maybe he knew then what we know now: The dinger would come.

But we could go back batting practice, to spring training, to the temporary NL DH for a shortened 2020 season, to September 28th, 2019 when Webb bagged a batting average for the first time.

Maybe it was then, when he was sprinting to first having to leg out his first career hit on a ball that came off his bat at 100 MPH, that he decided that for the rest of his career as a hitter—however long that ended up being—he’ll only swing for the fences.