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Least surprising Guardian tops Statcast’s newest bat speed measurements

A new wave of bat-based measurements are coming from Statcast, and the results are already pretty fun

Boston Red Sox v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

Mike Petriello has revealed the first set of public data gathered from Hawk-Eye’s bat-tracking, and a certain Very Large Guardian is already a standout in the measurement.

There is a whole post on MLB.com about Statcast’s newest toy that is well worth the read, but the TL;DR is pretty simple — we are about to get for batters the same kind of exciting, precise measurements we get for pitchers. Where Statcast and Hawk-Eye can tell you precise ball movement and spin rates in an instant, soon it will be able to tell you how and when a batter hits the “sweet spot” on his bat, and how much it actually matters (and it matters a lot, as it turns out).

As it stands now, we can assume that a guy has swung the bat pretty hard when he hits a ball 104 mph off the bat, as a random example. That is an evolution of visually seeing a piss missile hit to the outfield, which in itself is an evolution of hearing a crackling old-timey radio voice say “he really pickled that one” or whatever other cutesy saying they had. But when these new bat measurements are fully operational and public, we’ll be able to straight-up see the bat speed as we can pitch velocity, exit velocity, outfielder jump, and just about everything else on a baseball field.

The new systems have only been tested in Los Angeles and Houston over a limited time, so this is hardly a finalized sample. But already, Franmil Reyes stands out as having a pretty impressive bat speed, on average.

Petriello didn’t go in-depth on which Reyes at-bats were measured for the data set, but the big Guardians slugger played two games in Houston — on May 23 and 24. Coincidentally, these were the last two games he played before he was placed on the injured list for almost a month, so it was also when his pitch recognition was arguably at his worst.

Still, Reyes ranked fourth with an average swing speed of 91.4 mph, trailing only Giancarlo Stanton (92.0 mph), Luis Robert (95.2), and Julio Rodriguez (96.2) for the lead. For whatever faults he has — and those faults were at their worst when this data was recorded — he can swing the heck out of a bat.

Keep in mind, again, this only includes players that played in Houston and LA and had at least three batted ball contacts. There are probably harder hitters out there, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Reyes near the top of the full lists whenever they become available.

Here are, presumably, the at-bats that Statcast is factoring into the average bat speed for Reyes. Five foul balls and a double off the outfield wall.

One other particularly interesting thing about the data laid out by Petriello and the team at Statcast — so many of these names were remarkably young. It’s not all big hulking sluggers like Reyes and Stanton (although, of course, they are there), but Rodríguez is hardly a behemoth, and Trayce Thompson and Bobby Witt Jr. also made the list.

In looking at only the Dodgers and Astros (the two teams that were recorded the most), veteran players like Justin Turner (74.8 mph), Cody Bellinger (78.4), Michael Brantley (76.4), José Altuve (78.1), and Freddie Freeman (78.7) came out as particularly unimpressive in this one specific aspect of hitting. Yet most of these guys still remain elite hitters.

Maybe it’s just obvious that the older you get, the slower you swing the bat, but it will be fascinating to see how this combines with older players able to hit the sweet spot on the bat more effectively. Is there some kind of connection between pitch recognition and how fast a batter swings? Which players specialize in swinging slower but also nailing that sweet spot every time? Early returns already indicate that, on average, around 80 mph is where you want to be to hit that sweet spot most often. Does that change with more data? Are some players better at routinely hitting the sweet spot at higher or lower speeds? It’s far too early to glean more than interesting tidbits, but the bits sure are tiddilating already.

As with most Statcast things, if you don’t care, ignore it. Your enjoyment of baseball won’t be affected much. But if you are into these kinds of things, I highly suggest reading the entire original article as I am just some doofus who found it neat and was able to find a Guardian mentioned as an excuse to write about it.