With the invention of StatCast, we have the capability to see just how hard a batter hits the ball. Being able to determine exit velocities has transformed the way we evaluate players, and it allows us to measure player performance on a more accurate level. In other words, StatCast is amazing.
According to my Baseball Savant query, there were 165,566 balls put in play in 2017. Of those, only 15,799 (10.4 percent) were hit with an exit speed of 100 mph or faster. Batters hit .651 with a whopping .844 wOBA on those balls, while they batted just .253 with a .249 wOBA on exit velocities that failed to reach the century mark. The lesson learned here: hit the ball hard.
Exit velocities can also let us know if a hitter is having good or bad luck. For example, if a hitter has a low batting average on balls in play but has a relatively high hard-hit rate, it’s likely the said hitter has been bitten by the bad luck bug. Chances are his misfortune will eventually turn in his favor. Unless, of course, he’s someone like Joey Gallo, who will always have a low BABIP because most of his batted balls go over the fence.
The Milwaukee Brewers just finished their first full week of the season, and currently sit in third place in the NL Central with a record of 5-5. And quite frankly, they’re lucky to have five wins. They just lost three of four to the Chicago Cubs, a series in which the Brewers managed just one hit with runners in scoring position. After a strong start in San Diego, Milwaukee’s bats have cooled off, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise to look at the team’s exit velocities after 10 games to see which players are over performing/underperforming.
As a team, the Brewers rank 26th in average exit velocity with a mark of 86.4 mph. The Chicago White Sox lead baseball with an average of 91.8 mph. Individually, the average hitter hits the ball at 88.2 mph. Let’s look at Milwaukee’s hitters to determine who’s contributing to the team’s low velocity numbers.
Note: All stats are as of April 7. Sunday’s finale versus the Cubs is not included. All stats courtesy of Baseball Savant.
|Player||Balls In Play||2018 Avg Exit Velocity (mph)||2017 Avg Exit Velocity||Difference||wOBA||xwOBA|
A few things stand out here.
- Only four players have exit velocities that are better than league average, and one of them is Jett Bandy, who’s put just six balls in play so far.
- The Brewers desperately need Christian Yelich back in the lineup. He ranks fourth in all of baseball in exit velocity and has a .474 BABIP.
- Manny Pina is really struggling to make strong contact. His xwOBA is much higher than his wOBA, but the fact he’s averaging only 79 mph on batted balls is worrisome.
- Ji-Man Choi made the most of his one at bat on Opening Day.
- I thought Orlando Arcia would take a huge step forward in 2018, and although it’s still early into the season, he’s continually hitting soft grounder after soft grounder. He has a 60 percent ground-ball rate and a 40 percent soft-hit percentage.
- Ryan Braun — aside from his late-inning home run heroics — has been miserable at the plate. He’s not hitting the ball hard and has a miniscule .158 BABIP
- Eric Thames looks good at the plate, and the peripherals back it up.
- Domingo Santana has crushed the ball, but hasn’t found any gaps yet. He has just one extra-base hit.
- Lorenzo Cain leads the team with 11 batted balls of over 100 mph. His hardest hit ball was 111.6 mph off Brian Duensing that resulted in a double.
- The Brewers have 48 batted balls that have reached 100 mph or faster off the bat. That’s the 11th most in baseball, which is strange considering how low they rank in average exit velocity.
The Brewers have a dangerous offense. The additions of Yelich and Cain have made their lineup a force to be reckoned with, but 10 games into the new season, the offense has struggled. And a lot of that has to do with the quality of its batted balls. It’s still early, so the numbers in the table are still fluctuating by large amounts with each new batted ball, but if in a month, Milwaukee’s exit velocity numbers are still in the gutter, then we may want to take more notice and start worrying.