The start to the baseball season has been a frustrating one for Cleveland. They’ve earned just one game, got bossed around a bit by the lowly Tigers, and to top it all off the Royals ruined the home opener.
Everything seems just a beat or two off. Monday’s game against Kansas City was a perfect example of that. How many times did we see a Cleveland hitter absolutely blister a ball, only for it to find a glove? Actually, I can tell you that. Eight times. In one game alone, eight different times a Cleveland batter hit the ball over 95 mph — considered a hard-hit ball by Statcast standards — and found a glove. The hardest struck ball of the game was a grounder by José Ramírez, 111.8 mph, and that ended up an out.
I won’t go so far as to say this is a theme of the season so far; we’re only four games in. Some of the supposed regulars have seen fewer than 20 pitches. Ben Gamel has more at-bats than Jake Bauers. The first series of the game was in Comerica National Park. That place eats hard hit balls. That’s why Statcast has been such a revelation for us, and hopefully for the players, as well. We can celebrate the process as much as the result.
So for the fun of it, let’s take a look at the best balls in play, that didn’t end up being any help at all.
It’s a little funny that of all people Bauers is the one who has that loudest out for Cleveland so far. He’s still hitless — albeit having seen only 16 pitches coming into Wednesday — and he’s in kind of in a make or break situation in Cleveland. He needs to produce. The best way to produce is to hit the ball hard. In Detroit over the weekend, he absolutely unloaded on one, hitting 110.8 mph on this liner:
Unfortunately, as you see, that was merely a deep drive to the warning track. That is just some trash luck. With a 19-degree launch angle like he saw, this is what equivalent balls have done at 110 mph since Statcast started recording:
That is inauspicious company for young Jake, just one of about nine outs in that profile. It makes you hope that he’s just unlucky in the early goings, and we haven’t seen enough of the 2021 version, but we’re going to have to wait.
Next on our list, our two year mercenary, Cesar Hernandez. Comerica being what it is, this batted ball looks like a normal fly ball, really:
That’s 106 off the bat, at a 24-degree launch angle. That profile is actually a home run more than Bauers’s even — 85% of the time! Batters have hit .973 on that type of batted ball!
Detroit is quietly a really insane park. If you’re Cesar on that one, you must feel robbed to walk away with just “In play, out(s)” on the Gamefeed.
The third one I wanted to look at comes from one of the newest shortstops in Cleveland, Andres Gimenez. He came over being known for a great glove that could hit a little bit, but he hit this one a lot a bit:
This was 104 mph off the bat, but with a mere 17-degree launch angle, it’s not a hit as often as, say, Hernandez’s ill-fated ball. Batters have only hit .617 with that profile.
The new guy wants to get noticed, and you get that by hitting liners all over the park. Just not at gloves.
One more, why not? And let’s actually take one of the more frustrating ones from the game Monday. Franmil Reyes — we love him, don’t we? He’s a behemoth of a man, able to hit the ball over most any wall and probably through it. For a moment on Monday, this looked like it was going to do the former.
He has such accidental power, even when he doesn't run into one it could go a quarter mile. On this day though, the wind had shifted, and even 101 mph with a 21-degree launch angle was just an out in the scorebook. If you’re curious, on average hitters hold a .572 mark with that profile, it’s a homer 8.8% of the time and a double 42% of the time.
There are so many more like this. Ramírez alone has six batted balls over 100 mph, and half are outs. Over the long haul that’s impossible.
In short, the offense will come. The names we expect are doing it. The new guys are, too. They just need to start finding grass instead of weather, and get a little atmospheric luck, too. We can only hope the hitters know and see this, and don’t get too caught up in bad results, despite a good process.