When asked ahead of spring training if he was concerned about reported alterations to the baseball, and their impact on his production, Cruz gave a perfectly logical answer: "That's gonna be for every hitter. If they were gonna keep it only for myself, yeah, I'd be worried, but that's everybody. I'll be good."
So far in this young season, it does kinda seem like Cruz is hitting a different kind of baseball than everyone else. But not in the way he intimated.
The 40-year-old DH was raring to go after sitting out much of the opening series. In the second at-bat of his first start of the season, Monday in Detroit, Cruz launched a grand slam that traveled out of the yard at 114.6 MPH.
To put that exit velocity in perspective, it would've ranked second-highest out of all his batted balls in the entire 2020 season, and sixth in 2019.
Cruz was only warming up.
In his next plate appearance, he crushed a solo home run with an exit velocity of 116.6 MPH. Not only would that EV have ranked third among all batted balls in the major leagues last year, it was the hardest-hit home run by a Minnesota Twins since Statcast started tracking data in 2015. Surpassing all 307 hit with the juiced ball in 2019.
While we're very early on, Cruz's measurable rankings against fellow MLB hitters are hilarious. He's on another world, basically. Never mind that he's doing it at an age where, historically, even inner-circle Hall of Famers have generally failed to produce.
As amazing as Cruz's crusade against deadened baseballs and aging curves might be, I find myself even more impressed by what Byron Buxton is doing in this young season. We've grown accustomed to Nelly obliterating the ball. Buck's breakout is still very much in blossom.
On Opening Day, Buxton hit the longest and hardest home run of his career – a 111.4 MPH nuke measured at 456 feet.
After entering midway through Tuesday's game against the Tigers, Buxton re-wrote his own exit velocity record. His game-tying solo shot clocked in at 114.1 MPH. (With a slightly higher arc, it fell just short in distance of his bomb in Milwaukee, at 451.)
The return of baseball itself is itself a shock to the system, but if you feel like what you've been seeing from these Twins hitters at the plate is extraordinary, you're not wrong. Within the first five games of the season, this team is already doing eye-popping things. Cruz and Buxton are leading the charge by decimating balls in unprecedented fashion.
So, with all that said, I can't really speak much to the efficacy of MLB's efforts to deaden the baseball. But I can say with certainty that a few of those baseballs are dead now.
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