Saturday, June 13, 2009

Raw Power

I was checking out some of the new data released by MLB, hit f/x, which tracks the ball after it makes contact with the bat. I'm not going to be able to attend their conference in San Francisco, and I don't know how to do all the perl coding that downloads the games and parses the xml into databases, but on this thread at Inside the Book, Harry Pavlidis was kind enough to post the data in CSV format.

Anyway, I was looking at average speed off bat as an estimate of raw power, but that isn't clean enough. If a player has a low average speed off bat, it could be because he is swinging weakly, but it could also be that he is not making solid contact, making too many popups or weak grounders and not enough solid line drives.

It appears that the optimal angle of the ball off the bat for real solid contact is about 11 degrees, this represents a slight uppercut that will get you some extra bases. So for raw power, I looked at average speed off bat when the angle is between 6 and 16 degrees. This will tell us how hard a player hits it when he connects. The sample size is very small, it looks like the dataset only covers a portion of the 2009 season, so I'm looking at players with at least 8 of these "solid contacts"

The ones who hit the ball the hardest:

102.5 Scott Hairston
102.2 Albert Pujols
101.2 Miguel Cabrera
98.8 Mike Cameron
98.1 Robinson Cano
96.9 Jason Bay
96.8 Adam Dunn
96.6 Vernon Wells
96.3 Justin Morneau

Cano and Hairston are surprises, the others are legit long distance hitters.

Average seems to be around 90 MPH.

The lowest:
78.5 Geoff Blum
79.3 Ichiro! (So much for his supposed raw power)
80.9 David Eckstein
81.5 Jason Giambi (is his bat speed lost to age?)
82.0 Joe Thurston
82.4 Mike Aviles
82.8 Kelly Johnson
83.0 Magglio Ordonez
83.5 Nate McLouth
84.4 Dexter Fowler
84.9 Nyjer Morgan

David Ortiz is below average at 87.4, but he ranks right between Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria. This is not what I would expect since those two are hitting for tons of power. It makes me wonder how consistent the data are, and if there are some quirks in ballpark setups.

Torii Hunter didn't make the list as only 5 of his hits are included in the dataset and meet the angle off bat criteria. His average is 87.8, which seems strange to me as Torii has hit a bunch of homers this year (including one as I type). From watching just about all of his games, when Torii hits one, he crushes it.

The Angel Lineup, small samples be damned:
C Napoli 95.4 (one hit)
1B Kendry Morales 96.6 (4)
2B Howie Kendrick 89.5 (3)
SS Erick Aybar 89.1 (8)
3B Chone Figgins 91.5 (6)
RF Bob Abreu 89.7 (9)
CF Hunter 87.8 (5)
LF Juan Rivera 102.5 (6)
DH Vlad Guerrero (no hits qualify)

Without any minimum amount of hits, Lance Berkman takes the top spot (109.3, 4 hits). Manny Ramirez (103.6, 7) is up there too.

At the other end, Kevin Millar (71.6, 6 hits) and Alexei Ramirez (73.4, 6) are not making things happen. A few pitchers make the list with numbers in the 20's, these have to be bunts, I don't think it's possible to take a full swing, make solid contact, and get that result.

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