What Does MLB’s New Statcast Bat Tracking Say About the Minnesota Twins?

Max Kepler, Minnesota Twins
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Over the past handful of years Major League Baseball has become more of an exercise in understanding than anything else. MLB managers, like the Minnesota Twins’ Rocco Baldelli, don’t constantly pour over the treasure troves of data available to them.

Teams now employ individuals with eyes for the metrics, to do that. Then, each organization has a different process in how they disseminate that information in a usable way to coaches and players alike. Most of this data is actually available to the public. And now, there’s another set of data points available to fans who might be interested.

As MLB’s Statcast continues to be among the most valuable resources for fans and media members to assess the game of baseball, major league front offices are also well aware of these numbers (and more).

For the rest of us, who have long had information to evaluate outs above average, sprint speed, wins above replacement, and multiple other categories bat tracking going live was an exciting moment in baseball time.

New Bat Tracking metrics unveiled by Statcast, MLB

MLB: Minnesota Twins, Statcast bat tracking
Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The name of the game on Monday was all about bat tracking. BaseballSavant.com now includes information on hitters like bat speed, swing length and competitive swings. They’re all trying to measure what happens at the point of contact. What makes the ball go boom.

With these new metrics, Statcast has introduced new categories they’ve coined as “Squared-Up” and “Blasts” in an effort to quantify what players are producing the best of both of those outcomes.

“Here are the basics. The average major league swing is 71.5 mph. The average length of the bat’s path on a swing, start to finish, is 7.3 feet. Hitters square up the ball on one-third of batted balls. The fastest swings typically belong to the most productive players — but not always. The average bat speed for the best hitter in the major leagues this season, Shohei Ohtani: 75.4 mph. The average bat speed for the worst hitter in the major leagues this season, Javier Baez: 75.4 mph.”

Evaluating which players can generate the quickest whip with the lumber often coincides with exit velocities. Finding out who can get to pitches in the most direct swing plane often coincides with contact rates.

There is very clearly an opportunity to be successful on either end of the spectrum. When considering bat speed, it’s not surprising that the Yankees Giancarlo Stanton would be in a league of his own given the ridiculous exit velocities he often produces.

On the flip side, the modern day Tony Gwynn or Rod Carew comes in the form of Luis Arraez, and his ability to put the ball in play has helped him to thrive.

Related: Minnesota Twins Have Become a Strikeout Team, the Good Kind

Bat tracking isn’t something new for Major League Baseball even if it’s just being released on the Statcast platform. The model has been tested for more than two years, and it utilizes the Hawk-eye tracking system which includes 12 cameras positioned around each stadium, five of which can run at 300 frames per second. ESPN’s Jeff Passan described the intent in the simplest terms on Monday,

What does Statcast say about the Minnesota Twins?

While Arraez and his unique approach are no longer on the Twins, they also don’t employ a Stanton-type of hitter. It’s a good thing to have all players avoiding the negative side of the equation, even if there isn’t anyone at the top of the leaderboard either.

Right now only six Twins players have enough swings to qualify for data tracking. Of those with a minimum 25 competitive swings this season, Byron Buxton (26) leads the team with an average bat speed of 74.7 MPH. Carlos correa comes in right behind him at 74.3 MPH.

Technically though, they do not have enough competitive swings to qualify for the official MLB leaderboard, which requires at least 30 competitive swings. Of the qualified Twins, Ryan Jeffers leads the team. Alex Kirilloff and Max Kepler both have above-average bat speeds too.

Related: Twins’ Trade Haul for Luis Arraez Looks Even Better After Marlins Gave Him Away to Padres

How this continues to track throughout the rest of the season will be interesting. The game isn’t played by spreadsheets at any level, but being able to evaluate and tweak processes based on outcomes is something that separates the good players from the great ones.

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