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Exit Velocity And The 2017 Twins

More and more, we’re seeing on TV and hearing on the radio announcers referencing exit velocity and launch angle. The technology has been around for awhile, but it is definitely becoming more mainstream.

In the book Moneyball, stat man Voros McCracken discussed the concept that once the ball is put in play, anything can happen. That’s the idea behind Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) and others like Fielding Independent Pitching.

You can find statistics showing that batters hit for lower averages as a pitcher’s velocity increases. It’s harder to put the ball in play against higher velocity.

Likewise, it would make some sense that the harder a ball is hit, the more likely a hitter can be productive. At the right launch angle, the ball with a huge exit velocity can travel a long way.
Image courtesy of Seth Stohs, Twins Daily
When I was growing up, we were taught to hit hard line drives and vicious ground balls. Today’s philosophy is more about getting lift trying not to hit it on the ground. Either way, if you hit the ball hard, you give yourself a better chance of being productive. Even if it is at a fielder, it is more difficult to catch.

So, I was very curious. Despite the fact that they are just 21 games into the Twins season, how hard have the Twins hitters hit the ball? I’m pretty certain that there will be no surprise who is at the top of the list. After that, however, there may be several surprises. At least there were for me.

Before continuing… take a few minutes to jot down what you would think the rankings would be for Twins hitters in terms of exit velocities…

Go ahead… write them down…

Here are the names of those in alphabetical order: Byron Buxton, Jason Castro, Brian Dozier, Eduardo Escobar, Chris Gimenez, Robbie Grossman, Max Kepler, Joe Mauer, Jorge Polanco, Eddie Rosario, Miguel Sano, Danny Santana, Kennys Vargas.

There are the names…

Grab a piece of paper…

Try to rank them in order according to their average exit velocity so far this season.







Alright, I’ll give you the current Twins rankings by Average Exit Velocity:
  • Miguel Sano - 100.09
  • Joe Mauer - 91.25
  • Eduardo Escobar - 91.22
  • Max Kepler - 91.09
  • Kennys Vargas - 89.96
  • Brian Dozier - 87.78
  • Chris Gimenez - 87.35
  • Danny Santana - 87.01
  • Byron Buxton - 85.98
  • Jason Castro - 84.53
  • Robbie Grossman - 84.23
  • Eddie Rosario - 83.95
  • Jorge Polanco - 82.15
Like I said, I don’t think it is surprising to anyone to see Miguel Sano at the top of this list. He has been hitting the ball on the screws nearly every time he comes to the plate. Well, when he isn’t striking out, that is. He has hit tape measure shots and line drives all over the field.

After that, there are surprises. For those of you who did take a minute to try to rank the hitters by exit velocity, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t have Joe Mauer at #2. Did you? While his batting average remains low and he hasn’t had many extra base hits, he has hit the ball hard often.

Max Kepler started slow, but he was very strong through the second week. He has hit a lot of real hard balls.

Brian Dozier is just above the MLB average of 87.63. Chris Gimenez falls just below the average.

Byron Buxton has hit the ball well the last three games. Before that not so much. Also, there are a lot of at-bats that ended in strikeouts.

Robbie Grossman has arguably been the Twins second best hitter, so it was surprising to see him this far down on the list.

Rosario has had a slow start. He had a couple of opposite field home runs last week that were obviously well struck, but he’s also continued to take pitches off the plate and tap out weekly in the infield.

Of course, 21 games is not a meaningful sample, especially when only Miguel Sano has actually played in all 21 games. Brian Dozier leads the team at 81 at-bats. We are 1/8th of the way through the season, so it’ll be interesting to see how these numbers change (or stay similar).

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15 Comments

Joe Mauer has a great swing - he always has, but the difference is that hitting a ball hard at a fielder is not as successful as Wee Willie Keeler's dictum - "“Keep your eye on the ball and hit ‘em where they ain’t,”  http://baseballhall.org/hof/keeler-willieThat is why Mauer hits in to so many DPs.  Hard to an infielder makes their job easier. 

 

Sano hits them long and hard and it there "ain't no fielder that counts on the otherside of the fence".  

Cool article. Will be interesting to see if trends change. One question, Seth: is Polanco at the bottom of the list? That would surprise me.
Just curious where Polanco sits?

One of the most silly things that Twins fans complain about Mauer with is the double play grounders. And yes, he hits into a few.

 

Did you know... the great Kirby Puckett had 15 or more GIDP in 8 of his final 9 seasons? 

 

That's something Mauer has done just 5 times in the last 11 seasons.

 

Puckett once led the league with 27 GIDP in a season. Mauer's never had that many in a season or led the league.

 

The reality is that both of them were typically #3 hitters, meaning they came to the plate with a runner on 1B often. They both hit the ball hard often which can make for some high opportunities for double plays.

 

There's been plenty of things to complain about Mauer with, but GIDP should not be one of them. 

    • rukavina, Blake, Mike Frasier Law and 6 others like this

 

Cool article. Will be interesting to see if trends change. One question, Seth: is Polanco at the bottom of the list? That would surprise me.

 

I don't know why I missed that. He was on my list... Just forgot to type it, I guess.

 

And yes, I am surprised with where he ranks. 

    • brvama likes this
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Parker Hageman
Apr 28 2017 07:53 AM
When I was growing up, we were taught to hit hard line drives and vicious ground balls. Today’s philosophy is more about getting lift trying not to hit it on the ground. Either way, if you hit the ball hard, you give yourself a better chance of being productive. Even if it is at a fielder, it is more difficult to catch.

 

 

Ground balls are just long bunts. 

 

she-not-gonna-ignore-your.jpg?image=cdn

    • Mike Frasier Law, 70charger, Tibs and 1 other like this
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Parker Hageman
Apr 28 2017 08:43 AM
After that, there are surprises. For those of you who did take a minute to try to rank the hitters by exit velocity, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you didn’t have Joe Mauer at #2. Did you? While his batting average remains low and he hasn’t had many extra base hits, he has hit the ball hard often.

 

 

Considering Mauer had the team's third highest exit velo in 2016 (89.7), this shouldn't come as a surprise. 

 

Mauer's issue last year was that his launch angle was 3.7 degrees -- the lowest among any starter in the Twins' lineup. He was simply killing worms. The surprise this year is that he has been able to produce batted balls with a launch angle of 12.3 -- very much improved.  We have yet to see the results -- partly because of the defensive alignments -- but he is churning out batted balls in the right way. 

 

While we know what exit velo and launch angles make the best recipe for hits, we don't know some of the factors like when those numbers equalize. How many plate appearances/batted balls does it take in a season for a launch angle to become the norm instead of a sampling blip? I love that we have this data and that people are finally using it, but there are still so many questions remaining. 

 

 

    • Mike Frasier Law, Oxtung, Willihammer and 3 others like this
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Dave The Dastardly
Apr 28 2017 09:15 AM

Interesting article. My takeaway is that exit velocity and launch angle are not valuable predictors. But the limitation on stats is always that they tell us what happened and what's likely to happen, but not what is going to happen for sure on any particular play. And that unpredictability is what makes a ball game a ball game. If it were otherwise, why would we watch?

    • DJSim22 likes this
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bluechipper
Apr 28 2017 09:17 AM

I don't know why I missed that. He was on my list... Just forgot to type it, I guess.
 
And yes, I am surprised with where he ranks.

I was surprised by Polanco too, but I think it has to do with him hitting a lot of pop ups so far.
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bluechipper
Apr 28 2017 09:18 AM
I'm not surprised by Eddie Rosario being low on the list. I think he's a good hitter, but it's mostly been soft liners and well placed ground balls for his hits so far.

Polanco in last doesn't surprise me too much.

 

He's very, very good at putting the ball in play, probably the best on the team, but there's usually not much force behind it. 

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diehardtwinsfan
Apr 28 2017 07:04 PM

I'd be curious what the exit velocity is for our pitchers.

    • Oldgoat_MN likes this

 

Joe Mauer has a great swing - he always has, but the difference is that hitting a ball hard at a fielder is not as successful as Wee Willie Keeler's dictum - "“Keep your eye on the ball and hit ‘em where they ain’t,”  http://baseballhall.org/hof/keeler-willieThat is why Mauer hits in to so many DPs.  Hard to an infielder makes their job easier.   

 

No offense but this makes no sense - the whole point of exit velocity is that no matter where you hit the ball, the harder you hit it the more likely you are to get a hit. For every DP that a guy gets because he hit it hard, he's likely to lose one because a fielder can't get to the ball. If we were going to guess who would hit into DPs you'd pick someone who doesn't hit the ball super hard or soft - someone in the middle.

 

Also, it's time to stop rippin' Mauer for grounding into an obscene number of double plays. Throughout his career, Mauer has hit into a DP in 13% of situations where a double play is possible. The league average is 11%. He is slightly above average but not by some obscene amount. 

    • jimmer and spinowner like this

 

I'd be curious what the exit velocity is for our pitchers.

Many years ago the Twins pitchers got absolutely hammered in a Spring Training game. I believe it was Doug Corbett who said:

"I'm getting good distance on my fastball".

Exit velocity and launch angle are the two most important factors in how far a ball will travel, but the spin of the ball also plays a role. A ball with backspin will go farther than a ball with no spin or a ball with topspin. For this reason the ideal home run swing is slightly more level than the incoming angle of the pitch, thereby imparting backspin on the ball.

Also, I have read that bat speed is the biggest factor in exit velocity but pitch velocity also comes into play. The faster the pitch, the faster the rebound off the bat.

I've said this before, but I think there will come a time when Miguel Sano will connect with a 98-MPH pitch and hit a fair ball over the third deck at Target field.


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