Statcast is pretty neat. The brainchild of MLBAM collects data using a series of high-resolution optical cameras and radar equipment to precisely track the location and movements of the ball and every player on the field at any given time. The result: new data about how hard balls are hit in the form of the dramatic sounding “exit velocity.” The angle of elevation of each batted ball. Route efficiency for hitters and other things. So much new data.
Data, however, is kind of useless without context. It takes some time to get context and Statcast has only been around a couple of years. A lot of smart people are messing around with all of that new data and I am confident that at some point there will be some insights gained about our beloved game based on the manipulation and interpretation of said data. They’re smart dudes.
For now, though, it’s generally being talked about — at least by broadcasters and fans — like some kind of parlor trick or something from those 1001 interesting facts books. “Oh, wow, look how hard that ball was hit!” being the most common thing you hear mentioned. On some abstract level it’s cool that we know that a homer had an exit velocity of 103 m.p.h. or whatever, but for now, until we can say something beyond just how hard the ball was hit, all that really matters is that it went over the fence.
Which brings us to the hardest-hit ball of all time! It happened last night in the Marlins-Twins game. It was a hit off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton. Not surprising! He hits the ball hard! It also happened to be a ground ball which turned into one of the easier double plays you’ll see on a given night:
Obviously angle of elevation matters a good bit too. And at some point I’m sure someone will be able to make some keen insights into how those things go together with the type of pitch delivered and perhaps explain how hitters can maximize the chances of the sweet spot in both of those metrics coming together. For now, however, it’s still “oh, neat,” as I pencil in 4-6-3 into my scorebook.