While watching Shohei Ohtani take a Dylan Cease fastball that was on the peak of his Adam’s apple 450 ft out to proper middle Sunday night time, I felt my curiosity piqued when the Statcast numbers got here in. 450 ft appeared proper, as a result of he totally murdered that ball. But that wasn’t what shifted my eyebrows. It was the 115 MPH exit velocity. Not that that quantity appeared misplaced, as a result of once more, Ohtani had guessed the first-pitch fastball and squared it up. 137 MPH exit velo would have been plausible.
It was the truth that over baseball’s first weekend, I felt like I’d been seeing numbers over 110 MPH … so much.
Turns out it was as a result of I’ve, even when I’d solely had one eye on MLB whereas making an attempt to maintain monitor of my regular NHL and soccer duties. “Searching With My Good Eye Closed,” certainly. (Soundgarden opened with this once I noticed them, and it nonetheless stays one of many higher moments of my life.)
Per BaseballSavant.com, up to now, there have been 88 balls hit with an exit velocity of 110 MPH or greater. There had been simply 508 all of final yr. So we’re at 17 p.c of that determine already, in only a week of play. It was a shorter season, clearly, however one week is just about 10 percent-11 p.c of final yr’s 60-game schedule. So, yeah, hitters appear to be thwacking lasers on a extra common foundation to date. It can be straightforward to dismiss this as pitchers trailing hitters in preparedness as we at all times get at this level in a season. But pitchers had been in all probability much more missing final yr with solely that mini-training camp in July earlier than being thrown to the wolves, and this didn’t occur.
It’s additionally about 5 p.c of the exit velocities over 110 MPH of the whole 2019 season, and that is smart, as one week is rather less than 5 p.c of a season. But the 2019 season was one the place the baseball was stuffed with flubber. If the purpose was to not repeat that, to date (with a really restricted pattern measurement), MLB isn’t heading in the right direction.
MLB made an entire factor over the winter about the way it was altering the baseballs for this season to attempt to scale back the variety of homers. Anyone who’s watched baseball the previous couple seasons noticed some fairly half-assed dingers that had no enterprise touring that far, and the sport had develop into borderline-cartoonish. It was one in every of many strands of baseball’s motion drawback.
Now, monitoring any fee over only one week of a season is futile, as a result of any variety of elements can result in a spike in something over seven days of a baseball season. It’s barely a grain of sand on the seashore. It’s only a level we are able to come again to in a few weeks or months. There have been 203 homers in 176 video games performed to date. That’s 1.15 per sport, solely barely down from the 2019 determine of 1.23 that drove everybody batty (get it?). And it hasn’t gotten heat but across the nation, when offense and residential runs are inclined to rise irrespective of the capsule being tossed round.
The sheer quantity of hits being ‘returned to sender’ at 110-plus MPH is a strict counting stat although, and that may be mentioned and studied. It might have one thing to do with MLB really lightening the ball a contact in its changes, as an try to extend drag and convey down the variety of homers. The lighter baseballs would journey at greater velocities. Four days into the season, it might seem MLB hasn’t gotten any of it proper. In different breaking news, tomorrow is Friday.
It may nonetheless even out, after all. Balls that fly from bats at greater speeds don’t essentially fly additional if the drag on them within the air has, in reality, been elevated. But the COR, or bounciness of the ball, was what MLB cited in its memo to entrance places of work because the main impact of homers. The greater exit velocities would counsel that that bounciness hasn’t been diminished in any respect. The common exit velocity to date this yr is up one MPH from final yr, which may imply something. The share of “hard-hit” balls, what Statcast defines as an exit velocity over 95 MPH, has elevated 4 p.c this yr to 40.5 p.c this yr from 37 p.c final yr. But once more, percentages can fluctuate for 4 days for any motive and any route. It’s the sheer quantity that’s the main target right here.
And followers like large numbers, whether or not it’s fastballs or exit velocities. Infielders can take a step or two deeper to regulate. The solely hazard, so far as I can inform, is the pitchers who can not play deeper and are prone to pitches coming again at them at speeds nobody can deal with. But that was a difficulty earlier than an uptick in exit velocity anyway.
There aren’t any conclusions to be drawn but from the abundance of lightning bolts screaming by way of infields and out towards the warning tracks to date this season. But it’s a development price maintaining a tally of.