With the implementation of StatCast in every Major League ballpark in 2015, baseball fans finally had a concrete answer to an important question: how hard do players actually hit the ball?  We have known for many years now how fast a ball comes in; now thanks to new technology we also know how fast it goes back out.   One important question is: are the hardest hitters baseball’s best hitters? 

 

Yes, some of the game’s best hitters do in fact hit the ball harder than everyone else, but what really sets them apart? They hit the ball, a lot.

 

Below are the top 10 hitters in exit velocity from the 2016 season according to StatCast:

 

 

Player Name Exit Velocity 2016 (MPH)
Aaron Judge 96.8
Nelson Cruz 96.2
Giancarlo Stanton 95.9
Matt Holliday 95.3
Mark Trumbo 95.0
Miguel Cabrera 95.0
Keon Broxton 94.9
Pedro Alvarez 94.8
Gary Sanchez 94.6
David Ortiz 94.5

 

Now let’s reorganize our list by K% (how often a player strikes out) from the best to worst and also throw in their overall offensive value using FanGraph’s metric “Off” where “0” is an average player (the metric combines batting runs +base running runs):

 

Player Name K% (2016) Off
David Ortiz 13.7 37.1
Matt Holliday 16.7 1.6
Miguel Cabrera 17.1 32.8
Nelson Cruz 23.8 34.0
Gary Sanchez 24.9 18.5
Mark Trumbo 25.5 16.7
Pedro Alvarez 25.8 9.9
Giancarlo Stanton 29.8 8.3
Keon Broxton 36.1 6.4
Aaron Judge 44.2 -4.6

 

Most guys who hit the baseball really hard are typically not your fastest runners, so we’ll leave base running in our Offensive statistic for now (you’re welcome, Keon). As you can see, hitting the ball hard and putting it in play is a good recipe.  Three out of the top four guys in K% on our list also have a +30 Off value (anything over 30 is considered great).

 

Not only are Big Papi, Miguel Cabrera, and Nelson Cruz the best hitters in the group with a low K%, they are also older than most of the other players on our list.  With age comes experience, so look for guys like Stanton, Judge, Sanchez, and Broxton to improve their offensive skillset as they learn to put more balls in play and cut down on their strikeouts.  They clearly have the kind of explosive swing required to be an elite hitter, now they simply need to refine their approach and improve their contact.

 

So: are baseball’s hardest hitters always the best hitters?  Not always, but it definitely helps when you put the ball in play a lot.  Before someone tries to wow you with a player’s exit velocity, make sure you look at his K% before calling him an “elite” hitter.

 

For more baseball statistics from your favorite player’s in the game today, make sure you check out www.fangraphs.com

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