Jedd Gyorko Leads the Padres in Batted Ball Velocity

As you may have heard, this year MLB is collecting more information about various goings on during baseball games. The system is called Statcast, and while its ceiling is high, it also has a lot to prove before I feel comfortable trusting it in the show. I think of Statcast as a fun new toy we’re all learning how to use properly.

One thing we can now measure is the velocity of the baseball after being hit. We can then take each of those measurements and come up with an average over time. My plan is to use that  average batted ball velocity to find hitters who have been un/lucky on balls hit into play.

For example: a batter might be hitting balls hard, which is good. But he might happen to be hitting them right at defenders, which is bad. If a hitter is squaring up on a ball consistently, eventually those hits will start dropping. But figuring out how long “eventually” means will be the hard part. On the other hand, weak contact can sometimes find holes in a defense creating the appearance of good hitting when good luck on ball placement has more to do with the success.

We can use baseballsavant.com, a fantastic tool to view a ton of new Statcast info. Unfortunately there’s no way I can find to sort by team. So I’ve taken the liberty to compile a list of Padres starters’ average batted ball velocity, average batted ball distance, and MLB rank with a minimum 25 ABs. This is as of 5/17:

Name Avg Velo Distance (ft) MLB Rank (of 293)
Jedd Gyorko 89.8 138.9 100
Justin Upton 89.3 156.5 115
Will Middlebrooks 89.1 168.4 128
Matt Kemp 89.0 133.5 131
Yonder Alonso 88.3 125.8 165
Derek Norris 88.1 181.1 173
Wil Myers 88.0 126.6 178
Cory Spangenberg 87.2 144.0 209
Yangervis Solarte 86.8 148.2 221
Alexi Amarista 85.5 112.3 244

You may notice personal favorite player Jedd Gyorko atop the list. You probably did notice since I made it the title to this post. Jedd’s hitting the ball the hardest on the team. Based on his batted ball velocity, the average batted ball velocities of Gyorko’s replacements, and Jedd’s history of hitting baseballs long distances, I still think he deserves to start at second base most every day.

Also of note, the Padres’ measured batted ball velocity as a team seems low. I have no idea why that may be. It could be an issue with the measurement tools at Petco, my understanding of the team’s ability to hit balls hard being wrong, general weirdness, or something else entirely. In any event, here’s a selection of former Padres, other Sacrifice Bunt favorite players, and some notable players:

Name Avg Velo Distance (ft) MLB Rank (of 293)
Giancarlo Stanton 97.4 204.7 1
Yasmani Grandal 94.5 143.8 7
Cameron Maybin 92.4 174.5 27
Everth Cabrera 88.7 85.4 138
Kyle Blanks 88.4 166.7 153
Seth Smith 88.2 171.6 169
Nori Aoki 87.8 88.9 184
Chase Headley 85.3 143.6 249
Billy Hamilton 81.9 151.9 287

Don’t tell Dustin about Yasmani Grandal.

If you’d like more details about batted ball data, the awesome Tony Blengino at Fangraphs has some outrageously thorough work (Part 1, Part 2) worth checking out.

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  • ballybunion

    Bud seems to be favoring Spangenberg and Solarte because they offer top of the order speed to the lineup. I agree, Gyorko is the regular 2B and should be getting more starts. Meanwhile, Kemp has played in every game. He got one day off, but came in as a pinch hitter.

    Bud might want to try either Yangervis or Cory in RF for a couple games and give Kemp some real days off. In fact, Upton, Norris, and Myers have been run out there nearly every game too. Bud might be in danger of wearing out his big four.

    • Sac Bunt Chris

      I have a feeling Melvin Upton will be getting those starts in the outfield when Venable isn’t. I think Spangenberg should be the odd man out, he just doesn’t have the history of performance. I don’t believe in his power, and don’t think the defense is there to be a utility guy.

      • ballybunion

        According to the Padres web site, Melvin Upton just had his first of TWENTY rehab games! He missed all of Spring Training, so he gets more than the usual games allowed. By then, Alonso will be off the DL and Almonte will be sent down. To make room for Melvin, the likely candidate will be Spangenberg – I can’t see Middlebrooks being sent down.

        Melvin can spell Kemp and brother Justin, and replace Myers in CF when Alonso gets time off against lefties. That may be bad news for Venable, who has trade value – and that is the wild card. What AJ Preller might do cannot be predicted by us lowly bloggers and commenters, or even psychics and astrologers!

  • Pat

    More data is better or at least interesting. Bit I’m much more excited about what the data met tell us about defense than batted ball velocity (though it is still interesting).

    And you’re both wrong about Spangenberg. 🙂

    • ballybunion

      I’d like to be optimistic about defensive data too, but there are so many factors that go into each defensive stat, that I have to agree with Bill James, that measuring defense may not be possible. Defensive performance is a team effort with managerial positioning and the where and how of batted ball flight complicating analysis. The stats in use now can’t be isolated enough to be useful.

      And I’m not knocking Spangenberg, I think he’d be a solid 2B if we didn’t have Gyorko. He’s just got options and the Padres have too many infielders.

      • Pat

        That’s the point. The data being collected now on defenders will measure speed acceleration routes from starting point to end point. In addition to the batted ball data it should allow us to meaningfully measure defense. I wasn’t speaking of current metrics.

  • Tom Waits

    Strange to see Melvin Upton touted above Spangenberg based on a “history of performance.” We should be skeptical of Cory, bat and defense both, but Upton hasn’t been good in his last 1000 plate appearances.

    I can see Middlebrooks being sent down. Has an option and a 597 OPS.

    • Sac Bunt Chris

      Didn’t mean to imply I thought Melvin Upton deserved it, just what I thought would happen. I wanted to keep Maybin. 🙂

      (I did mean to imply I don’t think Spangenberg deserves it)