Statcast School: Hardest Hit Ball to 3B

Source: Pixabay

When a third baseman is playing close to the bag, he is not much more than 90 feet away from the batter. Only the pitcher, and sometimes the first baseman, is closer. A ball hit to third base can exceed 100 miles per hour. At 100 mph, that is 146.7 feet/second, so it will reach the third baseman in fewer than one second. Not much time to react.

Who has hit the hardest ball (ground ball or line drive) to third base this season? Here is how to find that out.

Statcast Search Selections
1. Batted Ball Type: both Line Drive and Ground Ball
2. Batted Ball Location: Third Base
3. Season Type: Regular Season
4. Season: 2019
5. Player Type: Batter
6. Metric Range: Exit Velocity
7. >=: 114
8. Min # of Total Pitches: None
9. Min # of Results: None
10. Group By: Player Name
11. Sort By: Pitches
12. Sort Order: Desc
13. Min PA: None
14. Change Total Pitch Parameters: None

Results
Two batters qualified: Maikel Franco and C. J. Cron. On April 25, 2019 Franco hit a 114.1 mph per hour line drive at Marlins third baseman Martin Prado. The ball traveled 138 feet. On June 23, 2019, Cron hit a 114.7 mph grounder at Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier. Its distance: 122 feet. Thus so far this season (as of games thru June 23), C. J. Cron has hit the hardest ball to third base.

Two Research Questions (Use Statcast to find answers)
As of games through June 23, 2019, how many batters hit a ball at least 114 mph? Who hit the one with the greatest exit velocity? How fast was it?

Mets pitchers faltering with first pitch

If one of the secrets to pitching success is to get off to a good start with each batter faced then the Mets’ pitchers seem to have forgotten it.

While this season the League’s first-pitch batting average against pitchers is .348 (2420 for 6952), opposing batters are hitting .391 (99 for 253) against the Mets’ first pitches.

Statcast Search results | baseballsavant.com

That is the third-highest in MLB, 43 points higher than the league average. Joining the Mets in the top six are the Pirates, Orioles, Marlins, and Reds. All have losing records.

Tops among the Mets starters is Jacob deGrom. Against him, opponents’ first-pitch batting average is .424 (14 for 33).

Statcast Search results | baseballsavant.com

In 2018, opponents batted .378 against him on first pitches, still quite high, but 46 points fewer than this season.

As the Mets’ playoff probability declines — it is now 17.5% — they might want to investigate why opposing batters are hitting a Ted Williams-like average against their starters.

Statcast School: Barrels

Pete Alonso has quickly become one of the top power hitters in Major League Baseball, but unlike in days of old, how many homers a batter hits and how far he hits them are no longer the only measures of a slugger. Today, “barrels” has become a popular indicator.

In an article for Baseball Prospectus, Russell A. Carleton wrote that

Until Statcast, we didn’t have systematic (public) data on how hard a batter hit the ball. Now, we know how fast the ball was going when it left the bat and at what angle the ball was “launched.”

MLB defines a barrel as those

batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015.

Further, “To be Barreled, a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph,” according to MLB.

Here is MLB’s definition of a batted-ball event:

A Batted Ball Event represents any batted ball that produces a result. This includes outs, hits and errors. Any fair ball is a Batted Ball Event. So, too, are foul balls that result in an out or an error.

To start, in Statcast I sought to answer this question: Which players have hit the most barrels this season. To do the search, I used the search settings below.

Player Type: Batter
Season: 2019
Season Type: Regular Season
Quality of Contact: Barrel
Min # of Total Pitches: 25 Pitches
Sort By: Pitches
Change Total Pitch Parameters: Click “Plate Appearances.”

Being a Mets fan, the third name in the results drew my attention: Pete Alonso. Up to May 13 he has 20 barrels in 165 plate appearances (12.1%). The radial chart below shows the exit velocity and launch angle of each barrel. The area in red contains the barrels. To see the “live” chart, click this link.

Position your cursor over the topmost circle in the Barrels area. When you do that, the information in the image below should appear.

The three black circles indicate outs, the 17 green circles hits, so not every barreled ball is a hit. “KC” is knuckle curve.

Some other facts:

  • The average distance of Alonso’s barreled balls is 386.5 feet.
  • The average launch angle is 23.69º.
  • The average exit velocity is 109.8 mph.
  • The hardest-hit ball traveled at 118.3 mph.
  • The lowest launch angle was 12º: the result, a line drive double to left field.

Finding Met with most base hits in 2019 with runners on base

Which Mets player had the most base hits in 2019 with runners on base?

That is the research question which the table at the top of this page answers.

How to get the information in the table
(I did the search before the Mets game on May 2, 2019. As you will be doing it on a later date, your results will be different.)

Go to Statcast Search and match the settings below.

For PA (Plate Appearance) Result you have 26 choices. Group select “Base Hit” to choose all four types of hits: single, double, triple, and home run. This will appear in the PA Result box as “Homerun (4).”

For Season Type you have three choices: Regular Season, Playoffs, and Spring Training. Choose “Regular Season.”

Season: 2019

Player Type: From the 10 choices, select “Batter.”

Team: Select “Mets.”

Runners On: You have nine choices. Select “Runner On Base.”

Min # of Total Pitches: Choose 50. That will require a player to have at least 50 plate appearances (not pitches) because of the next setting. Though the row heading say “Total Pitches,” I will be overriding that so it contains plate appearances.

Change Total Pitch Parameters: “Check Plate Appearances.”

Note: On its bottom, The Change Total Pitch Parameters box contains these statements: (a) “Use these check boxes to select which columns to include in the ‘Total Pitches’ column in the results” and (b) “The default is every pitch.” By checking “Plate Appearances” that information will appear under the heading “Total Pitches” in the resulting table.

In addition, check “Runner On.” Then, the search result will show all the 2019 plate appearances of the Mets hitters in which there was at least one runner on base and, in them, how many base hits there were.

Change Total Pitch Parameters box, Source: Baseball Savant

It would be preferable if “Plate Appearances” appeared instead of “Total Pitches,” but that is not what happens. To further confuse things, there is a Results column in the Results table. The Results column in this scenario contains the number of base hits. Finally, the “% of Pitches” column does not contain a pitch count. Instead, it contains the percent of plate appearances in which the player got a base hit.

Analysis of Results
Amed Rosario has the most base hits so far in 2019 with runners on base. He came to the plate 58 times with runners on base and got a base hit in 19 of them (32.8%).

In the results table below, for clarity the column headings have been adjusted.

This link will take you the Statcast Search page that shows the Search form.

In contrast, Rosario had 58 plate appearances with no one on base and got 11 hits in them (19.0% of those plate appearances) — That data is from a different Statcast search.

Rosario had a much higher hit rate with runners on base than with none on (32.8% vs. 19.0%). Did the added pressure of “runners on” cause him to concentrate more? Did he change his hitting approach?

The next statistics are from baseball-reference.com. They were obtained on May 2, 2019 for Amed Rosario to provide independent verification of his Statcast results:

The first row in the table from Baseball Reference contains data that we have not obtained. To get Rosario’s RISP results in Statcast, two changes must be made. One is the “Runners On” row’s contents must be switched to “RISP,” but if that were the only change made, when I ran the search I would get this message: “There are no results for your search.” That’s because no Mets batter has 50 plate appearances with a runner in scoring position — it’s too early in the season. By reducing “Min # of Total Pitches” to 25 I averted the problem.

For those interested, Rosario got those 11 hits in 32.4% of his plate appearances with a runner in scoring position (34). That was the highest percentage on the team. Ramos was second, and though he also had 11 hits with RISP, he got them in 38 plate appearances (28.9%). Surprisingly, Alonso was fourth with only six hits in 26 PA (23.1%). Third best was McNeil with 10 hits in 35 PA (28.6%). Rounding out the top six was J.D. Davis with 5 hits in 29 PA (17.2%) and Conforto with 5 hits in 39 PA (12.8%).