Back in the mid-90’s when ESPN was actually watchable, Keith Olbermann & Dan Patrick manned the anchor desk for “SportsCenter” and entertained us with catch-phrases and clichés that made fun of sports. From Patrick’s “En Fuego”, “Gives him the high cheese” & “You can’t stop him, you can only hope to contain him” to Olbermann’s “They’re not going to get him”, “I can read his lips and he’s not praying” & “He beats him like a rented goalie”, it all amused and entertained.
During baseball highlights that included a Home Run, Keith’s fall back cliché was “He hit the ball real hard” and reminiscing about those broadcasts got me to thinking…how hard and far do they really hit the ball? In today’s analytic environment, we actually know the answer. So, with some help from fangraphs.com and baseballheatmaps.com, let’s look at the last three years and the players who hit the ball real hard.
The basic criteria is to determine the average distance a batter hits a ball in the air. This includes both fly balls and home runs and gives us a peak into the power potential of hitters. Of course, as with most statistics, it doesn’t stand alone because we also have to consider all the variables. If a player strikes out 35% of the time and hits .190, the distance of his fly balls isn’t really significant because he won’t help your team.
Here are some observations from looking over the leaderboard…
> For 2013-15, there are about 20 hitters each year who average over 300 feet in distance.
> The best performance over the last three seasons was Giancarlo Stanton’s 2015 average of 323 feet.
> Paul Goldschmidt just might be the most consistent hitter in baseball. He’s finished 2nd, 1st & 4th with averages of 314, 315 & 310 feet.
> Carlos Gonzalez was the 2013 leader with 314 feet (just edging Goldy), but he plays half of his games at altitude.
> Jose Abreu has finished 5th & 6th in his first two major league seasons (305 & 308).
> Miguel Cabrera was in the top six for ’13 & ’14 but dropped to 29th last season.
> J.D. Martinez has gone from 291 feet in ’13 to 299 in ’14 to 305 in ’15.
> Pedro Alvarez finished 3rd in both ’13 & ’15 (311 feet each time) but doesn’t have a job.
> The best rookies in 2015 were Kyle Schwarber (5th at 308 ft.), Stephen Piscotty ( 13th at 305), Joc Pederson (17th at 304), Miguel Sano (21st at 303) and Randall Grichuk (23rd at 302).
> The two Rookies of the Year faired well with Carlos Correa at 298 ft. and Kris Bryant at 297.
> Names you wouldn’t expect to see from the ’15 list include Jonathan Schoop (#8 at 306), Brandon Crawford (#9 at 306), Howie Kendrick (#14 at 305) and Alex Guerrero (#27 at 301).
> As for the MVP’s, Josh Donaldson was 15th at 304 ft. while Bryce Harper finished 33rd at 299.
> Others in the top ten last season included Chris Davis (#2 at 316), Nelson Cruz (#7 at 307) and Starling Marte (#10 at 306).
So, in April when one of your favorite players is on the highlights and hits a high drive toward the seats, get off the couch and yell, “He hit the ball real hard”.