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Rating Mets hitters by exit velocity and batted ball angles: end of season edition

Using MLB's Statcast tracking system is a good way to get some more peripheral statistics on Mets hitters.

Kansas City Royals v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Batted ball exit velocities and angles are not everything, but as we examined back in May, there is value in looking at them. For a thorough recap of why, click on the link above. We also broke down categories of good contact using exit velocity and angle in an effort to create a Statcast derived good contact peripheral statistic. Here is a recap of those categories, with some tweaks:

  • Exit velocities of 95+ mph hit between a 0 and 10-degree launch angle (hard ground balls/low line drives)
  • Launch angles between 10 degree and 20 degrees with an exit velocity under 100 mph, but no less than 75 mph (soft line drives)
  • Launch angles between 10 and 20 degrees with an exit velocity of 100+ mph (hard line drives)
  • Exit velocities of 100+ mph hit between a 20 degree and 40-degree launch angle (hard fly balls)
  • Exit velocities of 95-100 mph hit between a 20 degree and 40-degree launch angle with a horizontal angle within 20 degrees of the lines (well-struck fly balls to LF or RF)

Hard ground balls/low line drives: The league has hit .630 with a 1.300 OPS on batted balls that left the bat with exit velocities of 95+ mph and a launch angle between 0 and 10 degrees since Statcast was introduced. A lot of singles fall into this category. The breakdown for batted balls hit in this range is 55% singles, 7% doubles, 1% triples and 0% home runs.

Example: Yoenis Cespedes singles with an exit velocity of 102 mph and a launch angle of 0.5 degrees.

Soft line drives: The league hit .700 with a 1.600 OPS on batted balls that were vertically launched between 10 and 20 degrees with an exit velocity between 75 mph and 100 mph. Even softly hit balls go for hits here; the league hit .775 on batted balls that left the bat at 75-79 mph between 10 and 20-degree launch angles. The breakdown is 55% singles, 14% doubles, and 1% triples.

Example: Asdrubal Cabrera singles on a line drive that leaves the bat at 90 mph with a launch angle of 14 degrees.

Hard line drives: The league hit .730 with a 2.000 OPS here on batted balls with exit velocities of 100+ mph launched vertically between 10-20 degrees. Once line drives cross past 100 mph in exit velocity, they become more likely to carry enough speed to split the gaps and go for extra bases or go over the wall for a home run. The extra-base hit rate on hard line drives jumps to 43%, up from 15% on soft line drives. The breakdown is 30% singles, 36% doubles, 3% triples, and 4% home runs.

Example: Yoenis Cespedes doubles on a line drive that leaves the bat at 107 mph with a launch angle of 13 degrees.

Hard fly balls: Batted balls that left the bat at 100+ mph with a launch angle between 20 and 40 degrees have a batting average of .800 with a 3.600 OPS. Tons of extra-base hits come here. The breakdown here is 1% singles, 15% doubles, 3% triples, and 61% home runs. This is the highest value contact range.

Example: David Wright homers on a fly ball with an exit velocity of 103 mph and a launch angle of 32 degrees.

Well-hit fly balls to LF or RF: Horizontal angle can be important, too. The league has hit .550 with a 2.500 OPS on batted balls hit 95-100 mph with a launch angle of 20-40 degrees and a horizontal angle within 20 degrees of the left field line. It comes with a 37% home run rate. The league hit .400 with a 1.600 OPS and a 22% home run rate under these conditions to right field. The horizontal angle is important for fly balls under 100 mph because a ball that leaves the bat at 98 mph with a 35-degree launch angle to CF is usually a fly out, but if it's hit to LF or RF, it has a decent chance to go for a home run.

Example: Michael Conforto homers on a fly ball with an exit velocity of 98 mph and a launch angle of 27 degrees, and it’s within 20 degrees of the right field line.

Here is a breakdown of each individual category and the number of batted balls Mets hitters recorded in each one. Keep in mind that the highest value category is category 3, hard-hit fly balls. The table is sorted in descending order from most amount of hard fly balls to lowest amount.

PLAYER HARD GROUND BALLS (1.300 OPS) Soft line drives (1.600 OPS) Hard line drives (2.000 OPS) HARD FLY BALLS (3.600 OPS) WELL HIT FLY BALLS TO LF/RF (2.000 OPS)
Yoenis Cespedes 29 32 31 32 5
Curtis Granderson 28 38 17 29 4
Neil Walker 26 27 17 25 8
Michael Conforto 17 14 11 18 4
Asdrubal Cabrera 28 45 18 14 6
Wilmer Flores 11 25 8 11 5
David Wright 5 7 6 11 3
Lucas Duda 11 6 9 9 2
Kelly Johnson 11 16 8 8 2
Jose Reyes 14 16 5 7 4
Jay Bruce 14 11 5 7 2
James Loney 26 27 12 7 1
Travis d'Arnaud 20 15 4 6 4
Matt Reynolds 5 5 4 6 1
Rene Rivera 14 13 2 4 -
Juan Lagares 5 13 7 3 1
T.J. Rivera 6 10 4 1 1
Brandon Nimmo 6 4 4 1 -
Kevin Plawecki 1 7 7 - 1

As a team, the Mets recorded one of those types of batted balls in 20.9% of their at bats, slightly above the major league average of 20.4%. They ranked 20th in hard ground balls, 7th in soft line drives, 24th in hard line drives, 17th in hard fly balls, and 3rd in well-hit balls to LF and RF. Mets hitters were shifted on during 28% of their at bats, the fifth highest amount in baseball, which probably explains some of the disparity between their above average good contact and below average team batting average (.246). They were also a below average team in hard contact, ranking 20th, with a lot of their good contact coming at exit velocities under 100 mph.

Yoenis Cespedes unsurprisingly led the way in the best type of contact among Mets hitters. Cespedes led Mets hitters in hard grounders, line drives and hard fly balls despite missing time on the DL and playing the entire second half compromised with a nagging quad injury.

Neil Walker went on a rampage after the All-Star break, with a 169 wRC+ over his final 133 PA, before getting shut down with a back injury. Walker’s post-ASB production was supported by an increase in hitting the ball well, with 31% of his at-bats ending with good contact after the ASB. It’s not clear whether that post-break jump in production can be attributed to improvements in skill working with Kevin Long or if it was just some randomness, as Walker also had a huge April with a similar good-contact rate before slumping. His back surgery makes his 2017 less certain, but the procedure apparently has a high success rate.

Asdrubal Cabrera, like Walker, had a late season surge, starting once he came off the disabled list on August 19. Before his DL trip, Cabrera was below average in generating good contact, but after he came back, he did it in a strong 26% of his at bats. It came with a massive increase in production, with his wRC+ jumping from 94 pre-DL to an incredible 179 post-DL. He also cut his swings and misses down significantly after coming back.

I very loosely estimate that Curtis Granderson lost about 10 hits on good contact into the shift, which would have put his BA in the .250s rather than .230s if shifting didn’t exist. Despite only hitting .237, Granderson had an above average 114 wRC+ on the back of a 12% walk rate and strong power hitting. He had a solid year for the Mets.

Most of James Loney’s good contact was of the lower value ground ball and soft line drive type. Loney only had 7 hard-hit fly balls in 343 at bats, 2 less than Lucas Duda had in just 153 at bats. Combine Loney’s lack of power into the fact that he doesn’t walk very often and plays below average defense, Loney is a poor major league first baseman at this point in his career despite the above average batting average. A healthy Lucas Duda would be a massive upgrade in 2017.

David Wright had an alarming spike in strikeouts and a huge drop in batting average, but he was still a productive player on the back of a 16% walk rate and above average power. Wright was 11% more productive than the league average third baseman by wRC+ in 2016 despite the .226 BA.

Michael Conforto and Travis d’Arnaud both finished as below-average hitters. d’Arnaud buried a lot of his batted balls into the ground and didn’t seem to have the same electric bat speed this year. Conforto had a wrist injury go public around June which was probably a contributor to his production dive, although his approach and pitch selection badly regressed around May.

Kelly Johnson worked to improve his swing mechanics with Kevin Long and produced a solid 112 wRC+ with the Mets, with his production backed by Statcast. Johnson ended 24.6% of his at bats with good contact, the third-best rate on the team. The Mets should strongly consider bringing Johnson back in a reserve role to boost their major league depth.