For a numbers nerd like me, Baseball Savant is nirvana.
I love digging through the numbers and confirming (or not) what my eyes tell me watching games or reading others analysis. Sometimes, I’m spot on in my observations, and sometimes, I’m off and have to recalibrate my thinking.
In this article, there was some of each for the Houston Astros. If you’re an analytics believer you have to be willing to adjust your thinking, or at least dig deeper, when the numbers clash with your initial perceptions.
So, I decided to look at which Astros hit the ball the hardest and see how that compares to my thoughts through the “eyeball test.”
Some were exactly as I thought and then there were a couple of surprises.
The details: These numbers only relate to batted balls, Baseball Savant considers a hard hit ball to be 95 MPH or higher and I included players with 100 batted balls or more in this analysis.
Yordan Alvarez – Hard Hit% 54.2% Barrel% 15.9%
Just as you’d suspect, Alvarez leads the team in both the Hard Hit % and Barrel% categories, plus he had the second longest hit ball (456 feet) and the longest average home run at 408 feet.
The native of Cuba tied Carlos Correa for the hardest hit ball at 116.4 MPH, recorded an average exit velocity of 93.2 MPH and accumulated 214 batted balls of 95 MPH or higher on the season. No surprise for me here.
Chas McCormick – Hard Hit% 49.2% Barrel% 10.2%
There’s no truth to the rumor that I decided to put this list together solely because McCormick is second on the list. There is truth in the rumor that when McCormick connects almost half of the time the ball leaves the bat at at least 95 MPH.
During his rookie season, McCormick maxed out at 108.2 MPH with an average exit velocity of 90.3 MPH and accumulated 92 batted balls at 95 MPH or greater.
The right-hander mashes when he connects, the Astros just need him to connect more often, especially if he plays a major role in centerfield in 2022.
Kyle Tucker – Hard Hit% 47.5% Barrel% 11.6%
What a breakout year for Tucker in 2021 and they weren’t opposite field bloopers or Crawford Box home runs for the most part.
Tucker maxed out at 111.1 MPH, averaged 91.4 MPH, averaged 393 feet on homers, smashed 200 batted balls 95 MPH or greater and guess who had the Astros farthest hit ball of the season?
Tucker at 459 feet. Not a surprise and the eye ball test matches the metrics.
Aledmys Diaz – Hard Hit% 44.8% Barrel% 6.5%
Yeah, I don’t know how this happened either. I’ve written multiple stories about Diaz being an average hitter from average to OPS+ to any other metric you want to throw out there, but here I find myself writing that Diaz hits the ball fourth hardest on a team of mashers.
Sometimes your eyes make you question the metrics and sometimes the metrics make you question your eyes. This is the latter for me.
Diaz maxed out at 110 MPH and 412 feet, while averaging 385 feet on home runs. Diaz’s average exit velocity was 88.7 MPH and he had 104 batted balls at 95+ MPH.
Michael Brantley – Hard Hit% 42.9% Barrel% 5.8%
In this house we love Brantley and have more confidence in him than any other Astros hitter in the clutch. Yet, we’re totally surprised the man with 8 home runs in 417 batted balls finds himself 5th on this list.
Brantley didn’t homer often, but when he did they counted, as he averaged 398 feet per homer, second only to Alvarez, and maxed out at 424 feet and 109.4 MPH. Brantley finished the season with 179 batted balls at 95 MPH+ and averaged 89.5 MPH on batted balls.