Whereas watching Shohei Ohtani take a Dylan Stop fastball that was on the top of his Adam’s apple 450 toes out to proper middle Sunday night time, I felt my curiosity piqued when the Statcast numbers got here in. 450 toes appeared proper, as a result of he totally murdered that ball. However that wasn’t what shifted my eyebrows. It was the 115 MPH exit velocity. Not that that quantity appeared misplaced, as a result of once more, Ohtani had guessed the first-pitch fastball and squared it up. 137 MPH exit velo would have been plausible.
It was the truth that over baseball’s first weekend, I felt like I’d been seeing numbers over 110 MPH … lots.
Seems it was as a result of I’ve, even when I’d solely had one eye on MLB whereas attempting to maintain observe of my regular NHL and soccer duties. “Looking out With My Good Eye Closed,” certainly. (Soundgarden opened with this once I noticed them, and it nonetheless stays one of many higher moments of my life.)
Per BaseballSavant.com, to this point, there have been 88 balls hit with an exit velocity of 110 MPH or increased. There have been simply 508 all of final 12 months. So we’re at 17 % of that determine already, in only a week of play. It was a shorter season, clearly, however one week is just about 10 percent-11 % of final 12 months’s 60-game schedule. So, yeah, hitters appear to be thwacking lasers on a extra common foundation to date. It could be simple to dismiss this as pitchers trailing hitters in preparedness as we at all times get at this level in a season. However pitchers have been in all probability much more missing final 12 months with solely that mini-training camp in July earlier than being thrown to the wolves, and this didn’t occur.
It’s additionally about 5 % of the exit velocities over 110 MPH of your entire 2019 season, and that is smart, as one week is rather less than 5 % of a season. However the 2019 season was one the place the baseball was stuffed with flubber. If the aim was to not repeat that, to date (with a really restricted pattern dimension), MLB isn’t heading in the right direction.
MLB made an entire factor over the winter about the way it was altering the baseballs for this season to attempt to cut back the variety of homers. Anybody who’s watched baseball the previous couple seasons noticed some fairly half-assed dingers that had no enterprise touring that far, and the sport had change into borderline-cartoonish. It was one in every of many strands of baseball’s motion drawback.
Now, monitoring any fee over only one week of a season is futile, as a result of any variety of elements can result in a spike in something over seven days of a baseball season. It’s barely a grain of sand on the seashore. It’s only a level we are able to come again to in a few weeks or months. There have been 203 homers in 176 video games performed to date. That’s 1.15 per sport, solely barely down from the 2019 determine of 1.23 that drove everybody batty (get it?). And it hasn’t gotten heat but across the nation, when offense and residential runs are likely to rise regardless of the tablet being tossed round.
The sheer quantity of hits being ‘returned to sender’ at 110-plus MPH is a strict counting stat although, and that may be mentioned and studied. It could have one thing to do with MLB really lightening the ball a contact in its changes, as an try to extend drag and produce down the variety of homers. The lighter baseballs would journey at increased velocities. 4 days into the season, it will seem MLB hasn’t gotten any of it proper. In different breaking information, tomorrow is Friday.
It may nonetheless even out, in fact. Balls that fly from bats at increased speeds don’t essentially fly additional if the drag on them within the air has, actually, been elevated. However the COR, or bounciness of the ball, was what MLB cited in its memo to entrance workplaces because the main impact of homers. The upper exit velocities would counsel that that bounciness hasn’t been diminished in any respect. The typical exit velocity to date this 12 months is up one MPH from final 12 months, which may imply something. The proportion of “hard-hit” balls, what Statcast defines as an exit velocity over 95 MPH, has elevated 4 % this 12 months to 40.5 % this 12 months from 37 % final 12 months. However once more, percentages can fluctuate for 4 days for any purpose and any path. It’s the sheer quantity that’s the main focus right here.
And followers like large numbers, whether or not it’s fastballs or exit velocities. Infielders can take a step or two deeper to regulate. The one hazard, so far as I can inform, is the pitchers who can’t play deeper and are susceptible to pitches coming again at them at speeds nobody can deal with. However that was a problem earlier than an uptick in exit velocity anyway.
There are not any conclusions to be drawn but from the abundance of lightning bolts screaming via infields and out towards the warning tracks to date this season. However it’s a pattern value keeping track of.