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Orioles batted ball data and what, if anything, it tells us about the team so far

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Taking a quick and early look at the newly available batted ball data for the Orioles.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

I don't know if many of you are aware of this, but MLB has been secretly releasing some new data since the beginning of the season. The new information available includes batted ball speed and batted ball distance. The data are not available for every batted ball, and there is no consistent pattern as to which batted balls would have data available. However, there have been more 6800 data points so far this season, which represents just more than half of the batted balls this season, for us to take an early look at the data and what we can learn from them.

First, all the data for batted ball are collected from baseballsavant.com. Before we get into how batted ball speed relates to the result of a batted ball, we need to be able to measure the performance of batted balls accurately. Traditional measures like batting average and slugging percentage use at-bats as the denominator, which includes non-batted-balls like strikeouts. I am using H/Contact, which is similar to BABIP including HR, and ISO/Contact, similar to ISO but ignoring the strikeouts, as measures of batted ball production.

For all batters with at least 10 batted balls recorded with data, the correlation between average batted ball speed and H/Contact is 0.22. The correlation between batted ball speed and ISO/Contact is 0.30. This should not be surprising. The hardest hit balls give the fielders the least amount of time to react, so they would fall for hits more often. The hardest hit balls also travel the furthest, hence the positive relationship with ISO/Contact.

Let's take a look at how hard and far the Orioles have hit the ball this season. The average batted ball speed of the league is 88.4 mph, and the average batted ball distance is 144 ft.

Name

ABs With Data

Avg Speed (mph)

Avg Distance (ft)

H/Contact

ISO/Contact

Ryan Lavarnway

5

98.2

207

0.143

0.143

Adam Jones

32

95.1

184

0.479

0.396

Everth Cabrera

18

91.4

76

0.343

0.000

Jimmy Paredes

8

91.3

224

0.500

0.167

Manny Machado

28

90.4

135

0.205

0.103

Caleb Joseph

13

88.4

221

0.448

0.241

Jonathan Schoop

12

88.3

162

0.333

0.476

Steve Pearce

19

87.4

138

0.219

0.188

Chris Davis

19

86.8

138

0.429

0.357

Alejandro De Aza

18

85.6

212

0.367

0.300

Travis Snider

15

85.5

174

0.448

0.241

Ryan Flaherty

15

84.6

108

0.429

0.429

Delmon Young

7

82.4

87

0.333

0.048

David Lough

1

64.0

0

0.000

0.000

Other than the few batted balls by Lavarnway, Jones has hit the ball much harder than any other Oriole. This should not be unexpected given Jones's hot start with the bat. Surprisingly, Cabrera has also hit the ball hard, though they are mostly of the groundball variety, as can be seen from his average batted ball distance of 76 ft. Pearce, who has struggled to the point of being benched for Paredes (inexplicably I would add), has actually hit the ball harder than Snider who has also had a hot start.

It's too early to tell whether batted ball speed and batted ball distance have any value in predicting the batting performance of players. We only have less than one month of data at this point. Nevertheless, it's great to have objective measures that can validate or rebuff our notion of whether a batter has run into a stretch of bad luck or not.