All weekend long we heard the Giants make some of the softest contact ever recorded by microphones at a baseball game, and while our brains would like to tell us our ears are infallible, the beauty of radar-tracked physics data is that it is more infallible than our brains.
Can four games’ worth of data tell us anything about the long road ahead? Probably not. But also, maybe? Were the Giants’ bats as feeble, feckless, and inoffensive as we think we heard and saw? Thankfully, we have MLB’s Statcast data to help better describe what transpired over the weekend.
A reminder of the Giants’ hitters on the roster:
CF Steven Duggar
1B Brandon Belt
C Buster Posey
3B Evan Longoria
SS Brandon Crawford
LF Connor Joe
RF Michael Reed
2B Joe Panik
IF Yangervis Solarte
OF Gerardo Parra
IF Pablo Sandoval
C Erik Kratz
Important Statcast Terms
The Giants struck out in 26.5% of their 136 plate appearances over the weekend (sixth-worst in MLB), so let’s start with the stat that forms all Statcast measures: the Batted Ball Event (BBE):
A Batted Ball Event represents any batted ball that produces a result. This includes outs, hits and errors. Any fair ball is a Batted Ball Event. So, too, are foul balls that result in an out or an error.
The sweet spot classification quantifies that as a batted-ball event with a launch angle between eight and 32 degrees. [...]
While the sweet spot classification does not include exit velocity and thus doesn’t tell the complete story of a batted-ball event, players with a high sweet spot percentage are putting themselves in greater position to succeed. [...]
Sweet spot percentage can be used in concert with hard-hit rate -- the percentage of a player’s batted balls that have an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher
Hard hit (and hard hit rate):
A ball hit 95 mph+.
Barreled (and barreled per PA):
The Barrel classification is assigned to batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015.
To be Barreled, a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner Barreled classification. For every mph over 98, the range of launch angles expands.
Joe Panik & Yangervis Solarte
Both players had 11 BBEs, as many as Kris Bryant, Christian Yelich, Nicholas Castellanos, Justin Turner, Alex Bregman, and some others.
On the Sweet Spot
Evan Longoria & Yangervis Solarte
Longoria just missed having the most contact over the weekend with 10 BBEs, but our eyes did not deceive us — he got good wood on the ball when he made contact. His 50% Sweet Spot rate put him in an eight-man tie for 10th:
You’ll note that Longoria was very efficient in that rate and his launch angle was the best of the bunch.
Meanwhile, Yangervis Solarte was 20th on Sweet Spot rate, tied with Justin Turner with 45.5% in their 11 BBEs.
For context: Rafael Dever, Mitch Haniger, A.J. Pollock, and Yandy Diaz are all tied for first in MLB with 10 balls hit at 95 mph+ and a combined 12 extra base hits, so, as you can see, hitting the ball hard doesn’t always lead to pure statistical success, but it’s certainly a precursor to power, and that’s all Statcast is attempting to measure.
Still, it takes until Steven Duggar in 76th place for a Giant to appear on the ranking, his 4 balls hit at 95 mph+ out of 8 BBEs gives him a decent 50.0% rate. Padres catcher Austin Hedges had just as many, as did D.J. LeMahieu and Freddie Freeman. So, the legend of Stevie Doubles grows.
We’ve been building up to this moment: who barreled the most balls. Absolutely crushed it. First, again, perspective: There’s a three-way tie for first after MLB’s opening weekend — Christian Yelich, Paul Goldschmidt, and Mike trout are all tied with 4 barreled balls, and respective Barrels per PA rates of 22.2%, 22.2%, and 23.5%.
Longoria hit two barreled balls in the opening series, putting him in a nice big tie with a good chunk of the league. His 16.7% barrel rate, though, puts him in a three-way tie for 22nd, with Maikel Franco and Harrison Bader,
From Opening Day:
Finally, and in conclusion
Evan Longoria looks healthy and ready to contribute the power potential the Giants so desperately need, as was obvious to our eyes and ears all weekend. Does this mean we don’t need the data to confirm what our natural human senses already tell us? No. The data is still good.