Carleton: The one about exit velocity

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on April 19, 2016:

It’s 2016 and StatCast is everyone’s favorite new toy. It’s not exactly a new toy, of course. Bits and pieces of the system were rolled out in 2014 and last year, there were plenty of chances for the data to make themselves known on game broadcasts. Baseball fans have begun to absorb a new set of numbers as they watch the game. Unlike some of the “advanced” stats that have come before StatCast, these are numbers that a lot of people had actively wondered about, but had very little ability to measure. How fast was he running on that play? That looked like a long way to run to make that catch, but how long was it?

One of the shiniest new toys coming out of StatCast has been “exit velocity” off the bat. For years, it’s been easy to measure how fast the pitcher throws the ball toward the batter, but never a way to know how fast the batter returns the favor. It always seemed that some guys hit the ball harder than others, but other than judging “the crack of the bat” there was no way to apply a little methodological rigor to the subject. But now there is. We can look up a leaderboard on exit velocity and see who’s been hitting the ball the hardest (and perhaps getting un-lucky by hitting it right at someone) and who’s been giving up the hardest hit balls.

The idea behind StatCast was that it would allow front offices and fans alike to evaluate players in new ways. With hitters, it might provide data on performance that was more divorced from luck. A hitter might go 0-for-4 in a game, but hit three screamers right at the shortstop that – an inch or two to the left – would have shot into the left-center gap for two-run doubles. Exit velocity might help us pick out a few diamonds in the rough whose result stats don’t look great, but who clearly are doing something right.

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Originally published: April 19, 2016. Last Updated: April 19, 2016.