Henry Emmett “Heinie” Manush first crept into my consciousness in 1954, when he was a Coach for the Washington Senators and his baseball card (#187) was part of the Topps set. He was 53 years-old at the time, but the man on the card appeared to be at least 70. The back of the card said that he was “One of the best hitters of his day, batting over .300 in 11 of his 15 major league seasons.” For a youngster just learning about the history of the game, this was where information was found and the unusual name always stuck in a far corner of my brain as part of old school baseball.
Today, of course, a quick click at baseball-reference.com will tell you that Heinie made his major league debut at age 21 with the Detroit Tigers in 1923. He led the AL with a .378 Batting Average in 1926 and hit .378 again in 1928, finishing 2nd to Mickey Cochrane in the MVP voting. With over 2,500 hits and a lifetime BA of .330, he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1964 by the Veteran’s Committee.
One of my closest friends is a technology geek. He loves having all the gadgets but somehow can’t get them to function properly. Invariably, his smart phone, laptop, iPad or wi-fi connection isn’t working and he diligently labors to fix them himself. During one recent baseball season, his e-mail system wasn’t delivering the messages from his Fantasy League’s Commissioner and the only way he could figure out who was on the waiver wire was to have the Commish send updates to his three different e-mail addresses and hope that one of them would work. Based on this history, he’s been nicknamed “Hy Tech”.
As baseball evolves into the technological age and discussions among friends lead to disagreements between old-school fans and stat heads, you can’t help but wonder how the change in the game would be embraced by the likes of Heinie & Hy.
Starting in 2015, MLB added state-of-the-art video technology (called Statcast) to every ballpark. If you watch the MLB Network, these numbers get rolled out to the viewers on a regular basis. Included in the process is data about Pitching, Hitting, Baserunning & Fielding. They are even able to review “route efficiency” of Outfielders. Route efficiency is defined as “Divide the distance covered by the fielder by a straight-line distance between the player’s position at batted ball contact and where the ball was fielded.” In other words, more conclusive data for Gold Glove voters.
While some of the statistics are still proprietary, MLB.com does provide a glimpse into what we have in store. Here are some category leaders through September 8th…
> Only eight batters have hit a home run this season that went at least 475 feet…Trevor Story (505), Franchy Cordero (489), Avisal Garcia (481), Javier Baez (481), Marcell Ozuna (479), Christian Walker (479), Franmil Reyes (477) & Matt Olson (475). The last two Home Run Derby winners are close behind with Bryce Harper at 473 and Aaron Judge at 471.
> Over the years, we’ve heard scores of broadcasters say, “the ball sounds different coming off his bat.” For stat geeks, this translates to “Exit Velocity”, the speed that the ball comes off the bat. Not surprisingly, Giancarlo Stanton has 8 of the top 10 balls exceeding 119 mph (including the #1 ranking at 121.7 mph). The only other hitters in this tier are Gary Sanchez (121.1) & Aaron Judge (119.9)…and Sanchez made an out!
> Judge and Stanton also lead the way in “average exit velocity” with 96 & 95.4 respectively. Some of the other guys with exceptional contact might peak your interest. #3 is future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera at 95.3 mph, followed by Joey Gallo at 95.2 mph. Then there’s veteran Nelson Cruz at 95 and youngster Matt Olson at 94.8. Players having big seasons are also near the top with Khris Davis, J.D. Martinez and Shohei Ohtani all above 93 mph.
> In one of the strangest statistical tables you’ll ever see, Statcast lists the fastest individual pitches of 2018…all of the top ten (104-105 mph) were delivered by Aroldis Chapman & Jordan Hicks
> How about average pitch velocity with a four-seam fastball? If you took a wild guess and said Hicks would lead the way, give yourself a gold star. He’s the only major league hurler to average better than 100 mph (100.3). Chapman is close behind at 99, but some others on the list might be a surprise. #3 is Marlins reliever Tayron Guerrero at 98.8 followed by the Rays Diego Castillo at 98.1. Others at the 98 mph level are Joe Kelly, Seranthony Dominguez and Ryan Stanek. Of course, relievers only need to pitch in short stints, so the 97.6 mph averages of starting pitchers Luis Severino & Noah Syndergaard are very impressive.
All this is just an introductory lesson. As time goes on, you’ll be hearing about the “arm strength” of fielders (wonder what Shawon Dunston’s velocity was from SS), the “acceleration” of baserunners and the “spin rate” of a pitch. Not sure how Heinie would react to all of this, but Hy is chomping at the bit.