Who Has Hit the Most Balls at Least 100 Miles Per Hour This Season?
Generally speaking, when a hitter steps to the plate, their most basic goal is to try and make solid contact with the ball. In other words, they try to hit it hard. Some hitters are obviously better than others at achieving this goal, but which hitters have been the best this season?
Most batted balls 100 MPH+
— Daren Willman (@darenw) September 5, 2016
While only the top-seven hitters are listed in this tweet, let's expand it to include the top 20 master. Below is a table of these hitters, which also includes their home run total, number of extra-base hits, ISO, wOBA, wRC+ and lastly, their wins above replacement (fWAR), according to FanGraphs.
|Player||Results||Total Pitches||% of Pitches||HR||XBH||ISO||wOBA||wRC+||fWAR|
There are a few surprises on this list, but the guy at the top, Miguel Cabrera, is not one of those surprised. He's one the game's best hitters and went yard twice yesterday, with both taters being hit at least 105 miles per hour (MPH), according to Baseball Savant.
¡Pa' la Calle! Miguel Cabrera conectó hoy sus HR's 438 y 439 de su carrera. #MLB #Tigers pic.twitter.com/xuQA4zmgLc
— All Sport News (@All_SportNews) September 6, 2016
Not only has Cabrera hit more balls with triple-digit velocity than anyone else, but the percentage of pitches on which he's achieved this feat is also highest of these 20 batters. Only one other hitter, Wilson Ramos, has a mark above 7%.
It wouldn't be crazy to assume the players on this list would all be impressive power hitters, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Guys like Christian Yelich, DJ LeMahieu, Anthony Rendon and Carlos Correa are not known for hitting long balls, and only 11 of the 20 have at least 25 dingers.
While power doesn't seem to correlate exactly with this list, the offensive contributions of these players more closely does. Using wOBA and wRC+ to evaluate a hitter's individual offensive value, we see that 60% of these 20 batters have a top-30 wOBA (.364 or higher) and 55% have a top-30 wRC+ (126 or better). When accounting for a player's overall value -- using fWAR -- exactly half of the hitters on this list have a top-30 fWAR (4.0 or better).
Another notable item is that the first eight hitters all play in the American League. The first National League hitter on the list is Yelich. Last week, I wrote about him being on the verge of joining an elite group of hitters, and his inclusion on the hard-hit list only adds more fuel to that fire. The guy can rake.
That walk-off double was hit 109 MPH, helping add to Yelich's career-high 38.2% hard-hit rate this season.
The player with the fewest home runs on the list is LeMahieu with 10. He also has the lowest ISO (.153), but his .391 wOBA is the fourth-highest clip. LeMahieu currently leads the National League in batting average (.344), so while his power has been below league average (.163 ISO is the current league average), he is still getting things done at the plate.
That three-bagger was hit 106 MPH.
LeMahieu's 22.1% fly-ball rate is the eighth-lowest this season. If he wants to hit more home runs, he'll need to start hitting the ball in the air. Fortunately for LeMahieu, he doesn't need to hit taters in order to be a valuable hitter.
As with most lists, especially in baseball, there are always exceptions. The two who stand out in this list are Eric Hosmer and Justin Upton. Neither is having a good season in terms of fWAR (0.0 and -0.3 respectively), and in Upton's case, his .307 wOBA and 89 wRC+ are both below league average (.318 and 96 respectively) -- although Upton is turning it on over the last two weeks.
This goes to show that simply hitting the ball hard does not always equal success, and the opposite is also true.
Both Ryan Braun and Jackie Bradley are having impressive seasons. Braun has 25 home runs with a .232 ISO, .380 wOBA, 134 wRC+ and 2.3 fWAR. Bradley has 22 jacks to go with a .358 wOBA, 120 wRC+ and 4.3 fWAR. However, neither is among the top 55 hitters for balls hit 100 MPH or harder this season. The same can be said for slugger Chris Davis, who despite bashing 34 home runs and posting a .253 ISO this year, finds himself sitting in 83rd on this list.
For the most part, hitters who frequently hit the ball hard will see success. However, baseball being the fickle sport it is, simply accomplishing the feat of hitting the ball hard doesn't guarantee success.