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Inside MLB’s Bat-Speed Revolution: What We’ve Learned So Far

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MLB's Bat-Speed Revolution

Statcast has introduced a groundbreaking bat-tracking leaderboard on Baseball Savant, revolutionizing how hitter performance is measured. Among the array of new statistics available, bat speed emerges as a crucial metric, gauging the velocity of the bat’s sweet spot upon contact with the ball. This metric holds particular significance for power hitters, as it directly impacts exit velocity and, consequently, fly-ball distance.

The Technology

Renowned physicist Alan Nathan underscores the importance of bat speed, noting its direct correlation to exit velocity. Each additional mile per hour of bat speed translates to a 1.2 mph increase in exit velocity, potentially adding six feet to fly-ball distance, particularly at optimal launch angles.

Utilizing the Hawk-Eye tracking system, which deploys 12 cameras around every major league stadium, including high-speed cameras operating at 300 frames per second, MLB meticulously refined its bat-tracking model over two years before releasing it on its Statcast platform. By measuring swings using the sweet spot about 6 inches below the bat’s head, MLB captures every hitter’s swing objectively, providing a wealth of data for analysis.

King of Speed

When Statcast emerged in 2015, thrusting exit velocity into baseball’s forefront, Giancarlo Stanton, then of the Miami Marlins, dominated nearly every leaderboard. That season, of the 12 balls hit at least 117 mph, nine belonged to Stanton, with one each from Mike Trout, Nelson Cruz, and Carlos González.

The now New York Yankees hitter, Stanton’s bat-speed figures still hold up. His average swing velocity hovers around 80.6 mph, almost 3 mph faster than the next contender, Pittsburgh Pirates’ shortstop Oneil Cruz. Notably, Stanton maintains a consistently rapid swing pace, with over 98% of his swings clocking above 75 mph, far surpassing his peers.

Additionally, Stanton ranks near the top in swing length, trailing only Baez. Standing tall at 6-foot-6, it’s no surprise that Stanton’s swing spans an impressive 8.4 feet.

However, as Stanton’s recent struggles highlight, sheer exit velocity or bat speed alone doesn’t guarantee success. Despite boasting the hardest-hit ball of the MLB season at 119.9 mph and leading in average exit velocity on his hardest-hit balls, Stanton’s overall performance has been only slightly above league average, with a batting line of .230/.283/.452.

The takeaway: While having the fastest swing is impressive, it’s clear that success at the plate involves more than just raw power.

On the Flip Side

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies San Diego Padres’ artisan Luis Arráez, whose slow bat speed of 62.4 mph earns him a new distinction in baseball: the slowest bat in the league. Arráez trails behind the next slowest hitter, Cleveland Guardians’ outfielder Steven Kwan, by 2 mph, showcasing a unique approach to thriving in Major League Baseball without elite bat speed.

Arráez and Kwan exemplify the controlled, short swings that consistently make solid contact. Arráez’s swing covers just 5.9 feet, while Kwan’s extends to 6.4 feet. Joining them in the category of sub-68-mph bat speed and sub-6.4-foot swing length are Milwaukee Brewers’ second baseman Brice Turang (128 OPS+), Yankees outfielder Alex Verdugo (107), and Toronto Blue Jays’ DH Justin Turner (111), all of whom contribute significantly offensively.

Some may argue that their success is despite their swings, but perhaps it’s time to recognize that their hitting prowess is intertwined with their unique approach. Arráez leads MLB by making solid contact on 43.9% of his swings. This metric is determined by comparing bat speed and pitch speed to determine the maximum exit velocity, with a ball considered squared up if it reaches at least 80% of the peak velocity. 

When hitters square up the ball, they boast an impressive .372 batting average and slug .659. In contrast, when they fail to square up, their average drops to .127, with a meager .144 slugging percentage. Therefore, players like Arráez and Kwan, despite not possessing immense power, deserve recognition for their mastery of the art of hitting.

The Hardest Hitters

AL East

Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (75.6 mph)

While Guerrero’s traditional stats may suggest a downturn in 2024, with his slugging percentage (.390) and OPS (.753) potentially hitting career lows, his bat speed hints at a comeback. Averaging 75.6 mph (14th in MLB), Guerrero ranks impressively in metrics like xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, average exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate, indicating that his performance might be better than it appears in Toronto.

NL East

Phillies: Kyle Schwarber (77.0 mph)

Known for his boom-or-bust hitting style, Schwarber’s average bat speed ranks third in MLB, trailing only Stanton and Cruz. With a hard-swing rate of 73.9%, he consistently delivers powerful contact, evident in his nine homers for the Philadelphia team. While unconventional for a leadoff hitter, Schwarber’s success speaks for itself, ranking second in MLB with 11 “swords” behind Zach Neto.

AL Central

Tigers: Javier Báez (75.4 mph)

Báez boasts the longest swing among MLB hitters, spanning 8.7 feet, yet he holds the fastest swing speed among Detroit’s roster. Despite a high chase rate (44.7%), Báez manages to swiftly connect with the ball, with 57.4% of his swings categorized as fast, showcasing his ability to make quick contact.

NL Central

Pirates: Oneil Cruz (77.7 mph)

Cruz’s exceptional bat speed places him second in MLB, just behind Stanton, showcasing his prowess at the plate. As a towering 6-foot-7 shortstop, Cruz leads his fellow Pirates teammate Rowdy Tellez by a significant margin in bat speed. Supported by a 73.5% fast swing rate, Cruz consistently crushes the ball, boasting the hardest-hit ball (122.4 mph) of the Statcast era (since 2015).

AL West

Angels: Jo Adell (76.3 mph)

Once hailed as the Angels’ top prospect for his blend of power and speed, Adell is starting to showcase his potential in his fifth MLB season. With 64.7% of his swings surpassing 75 mph, Adell ranks among the top 10 in fast swing rate, demonstrating his evolving offensive prowess.

NL West

Giants: Matt Chapman (76.9 mph)

While not fitting the modern power hitter mold, Chapman consistently ranks among the top hitters in hard-hit rate. His fourth-highest average bat speed among MLB qualifiers, behind Stanton, Cruz, and Schwarber, highlights his ability to generate impressive contact. Chapman’s presence near the top of the leaderboard speaks volumes about his hitting prowess and consistency.

Read more : MLB Revives Players’ Weekend: A Fresh Take on Tradition for 2024

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MLB Revives Players’ Weekend: A Fresh Take on Tradition for 2024

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Los Angeles Dodgers MLB Player Batting

This year, Players’ Weekend returns to MLB for the first time since 2019, dedicating three days in August to spotlighting players beyond their on-field stats. From August 16-18, MLB aims to celebrate players’ personalities, interests, and the charitable causes close to their hearts, making the event appealing to young baseball enthusiasts and fans alike.

MLB Revives Players’ Weekend in August 2024

This three-day festivity promises a dynamic mix of activities and experiences designed to captivate fans both in-stadium and online. Attendees can look forward to exciting in-stadium game presentations that bring an extra layer of entertainment to the live sporting experience. 

Social media engagement will play a significant role, offering fans interactive opportunities to connect with their favorite players, participate in contests, and share their experiences in real-time. This immersive approach aims to create a vibrant and inclusive atmosphere that resonates with fans of all ages, whether they’re cheering from the stands or following along from afar.

  • Day 1 (Fun): Spotlights the playful side of players, delving into their personalities, friendships, and off-field hobbies, offering fans a better connection and understanding of the athletes beyond their on-field performances.
  • Day 2 (Causes): Focuses on the charitable and community efforts players are passionate about, highlighting their commitment to making a positive impact off the field and inspiring others to give back to their communities.
  • Day 3 (Appreciation): Honors the individuals who played pivotal roles in guiding players to the Major Leagues, celebrating the coaches, mentors, and supporters who have shaped the athletes’ journeys and contributed to their success.

A New Spin on Tradition

This year, instead of the usual special uniforms and nicknames, players will wear unique New Era caps. These caps will feature each player’s uniform number on the side in a “youthful design.” Additionally, players will have the freedom to use customized bats and wear cleats with personalized designs.

This revamped initiative is termed a “reimagined Players’ Weekend,” moving away from its previous version between 2017 and 2019 that showcased unique uniforms with player nicknames on the jerseys.

In previous years, players seized the chance to add a playful twist. Toronto Blue Jays reliever Ken Giles sported “100 Miles Giles” on his jersey during his time on the mound. Cleveland Guardians pitcher Shane Bieber went with “Not Justin” as his nickname, and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler opted for “Ferris” on his uniform.

Reflecting on Players’ Weekend

Introduced by MLB and the MLBPA in August 2017, the concept was developed collaboratively, with key contributions from players like CC Sabathia, Bo Schultz, and Josh Thole, along with league and union representatives. 

The initial editions saw some unique twists:

  • In 2017, the traditional MLB logo was replaced with one showcasing a player’s evolution from Little League to the big leagues.
  • 2017 and 2018 featured pullover jerseys instead of the usual button-downs, adorned with tribute patches where players could honor those who influenced them the most.
  • Players also got the chance to sport nicknames on their jerseys—a first for the traditionally nameless New York Yankees.

The 2019 edition took it a step further with monochromatic uniforms and caps, allowing for customizable logos and accessories.

However, due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the shortened 2020 season, and changes in uniform suppliers, Players’ Weekend was on hiatus in 2021.

The aim of this weekend is to engage younger audiences, a demographic that has been growing steadily over recent years. League data indicates a decrease in the median age of ticket buyers from 51 to 45 since 2019, with a nearly 10% rise in ticket purchases from individuals aged 18-35 during the same period. MLB hopes to continue this positive trend.

Two nationally televised games are set for the weekend: the Los Angeles Dodgers versus the St. Louis Cardinals and the Little League Classic featuring the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball.

Read More: TGL 2025 Preview

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Cincinnati Reds’ Top Prospect Noelvi Marte Faces 80-Game Suspension

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Cincinnati Reds Logo

Major League Baseball announced on Friday that Cincinnati Reds’ top prospect, Noelvi Marte, will serve an 80-game suspension for testing positive for Boldenone, a banned performance-enhancing substance. The suspension will commence on Opening Day, March 28, allowing Marte to participate in spring training and play in spring games until then.

The Reds released a statement expressing full support for MLB’s drug policy and its penalties, adding that they will refrain from making further comments on the matter. Marte, aged 22, was acquired from the Seattle Mariners in the Luis Castillo trade during the 2022 deadline. Despite making his MLB debut last season and posting impressive stats of .316/.366/.456 in 35 games, Marte’s suspension will sideline him until June 26, which will be the final game of a 3-game home series with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Reds Adjust Plans in Absence of Marte

As the Reds’ top prospect and ranked 21st in all of baseball entering the current season, Marte’s performance was poised to be a cornerstone for the team’s success and was expected to be Cincinnati’s everyday third baseman in 2024. However, the Reds now find themselves adjusting their Opening Day plans and recalibrating their strategies for the summer. With Marte out, former NL Rookie of the Year Jonathan India is likely to return to the everyday lineup. The team may also consider Jeimer Candelario or Spencer Steer for the third base position.

Reds manager David Bell expressed belief in Marte’s ability to overcome the suspension, stating that when he returns, Marte will be welcomed back with open arms. Before his call-up last season, Marte showcased a strong performance in Double-A and Triple-A, batting .279/.358/.454 with 20 doubles and 11 home runs in 92 games. Originally signed by the Seattle Mariners in July 2018, Marte was traded to the Reds in July 2022 as part of a package deal for All-Star right-hander Luis Castillo and received a $1.55 million bonus.

The Reds, who finished the previous season with an 82-80 record, just missing the postseason, are anticipated to improve in the upcoming season, with promising young players like Marte, Elly De La Cruz, and Matt McLain contributing to the team’s development.

What Does this Change?

Impact on Marte

Marte’s positive test for a performance-enhancing substance introduces a cloud of uncertainty. Questions arise about intent, prior use, and the perceived benefits sought. His suspension not only affects his playing time but also leaves a lasting stain on his reputation. Previously ranked as the 14th-best prospect in the minors by CBS Sports, Marte’s potential seemed promising. However, the suspension places him in a challenging position, where success upon return may raise suspicions, while struggles could lead to doubts about his prior achievements. Under the league’s rules, a first suspension entails an 80-game penalty, while a second offense results in a full-season ban. A third positive test would lead to a permanent ban for the player.

Reds’ Depth Chart

Marte’s suspension disrupts the Reds’ plans, particularly in the third base position where he was expected to start. The team, however, possesses infield depth, having retained players like Jonathan India, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer, and added Jeimer Candelario. The reshuffling may see Candelario taking over at third base due to his defensive prowess, while other players could be repositioned accordingly. Manager David Bell’s strategy will play a crucial role in adapting to this unexpected change.

Impact on Playoff Chances

While the Reds have viable options to cover Marte’s absence in the initial 80 games, the overall impact is substantial. The team, already predicted to win around 80 games by most projections, faces a tighter National League Central picture. Marte’s potential upside, despite a limited sample size last year, could have been a catalyst for the team’s success. Now, the Reds will navigate a competitive race without one of their promising young players, making each win crucial and every run more significant. Marte’s absence adds an element of challenge, with playoff hopes hanging in the balance. Unlike an injury, the blame falls squarely on the player involved, intensifying the consequences for the team.

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