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The keys to Trey Mancini’s hot start for the Orioles

Trey Mancini has been one the best Orioles at the plate in 2017. There are three reasons why: He hits the ball really hard, he can hit the fastball, and he can hit right-handed pitching.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Baltimore Orioles Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Trey Mancini has been one of the most productive hitters on the Orioles in 2017. Mancini is hitting .301/339/.563 so far (stats in this post are prior to last night’s game), good for a .902 OPS and a 139 wRC+, you can pick which number you like best. Even if he does not have a true position in the field he has accumulated 0.6 fWAR on the season, which is good for fourth on the team.

Mancini has earned a spot in the everyday lineup, pushing Hyun Soo Kim to the bench. What’s behind Mancini’s start? Is it something he can keep up?

He hits the ball really hard.

The goal of the hitter at the most base level is to hit the ball as hard as possible. Well Mancini hits the ball really hard. In terms of raw numbers, now available through the lovely Statcast, he has averaged an exit velocity of 90.3 mph on his batted balls which ranks 32nd in the majors in that category among hitters with at least 70 batted balls. His maximum exit velocity in 2017 was 115.6 mph, the 12th-hardest hit ball.

Diving a little deeper into some Fangraphs numbers, Mancini has a hard hit rate of 38 percent, good for 53rd out of 249 batters with at least 100 plate appearances. Perhaps more importantly he has a soft hit rate of only 12.7 percent which ranks 37th lowest in the majors. He hits the ball hard and avoids making soft contact. This is a good way to rack up some hits.

It needs to be said here that Mancini’s BABIP of .375 is very high and will, in all likelihood, come down, though it’s worth noting he carried a BABIP of .351 at Triple-A Norfolk last year. If he keeps his hard hit rate up, his BABIP should remain above average, if maybe not that far above average.

He can hit the fastball

If a hitter is going to be able good against only one pitch, the fastball is not a bad one to pick. Mancini has punished fastballs in 2017 to the tune of a .353 batting average and a .647 slugging percentage. He has 12 hits on fastballs in 2017 and six of them have gone for extra bases (four doubles, two home runs).

To put this in some more context I am going to use some stats that I have used before, pitch values. You can read more about pitch values here, but here is a little primer.

Pitch values measure how effective a hitter has been against a particular pitch. A positive event against the pitch leads to a positive number for the pitch value. A negative leads to the inverse. These numbers are descriptive in nature rather than predictive. Now lets get into it.

Mancini has a wFB/c (the c stands for per 100 pitches, this makes the numbers easier to compare to each other because hitters see different amounts of the same pitches) of 2.60 in 2017 which is good for 22nd out of 249 batters with at least 100 PA.

He has been terrific against fastballs and the league is adjusting. Again, out of hitters with at least 100 plate appearances he has seen the 5th lowest percentage with just 46.0 percent of his pitches seen as fastball.

If you’re interested Mancini has really struggled against the changeup so far in 2017. He has a wCH/c of -3.56 which is the 29th worst number so far in 2017 and he has seen the 13th highest rate of change ups in 2017, 17 percent. The league has noticed his weakness.

He has hit right handed pitching really well

Somewhat surprisingly, Mancini is absolutely crushing right-handed pitching so far in 2017. As a right-handed hitter he would traditionally be much better against left-handed pitching, but he has merely held his own against lefties. Against lefties Mancini is hitting .283/.309/.434 good for a 99 wRC+, acceptable, but not what you’d expect for a righty slugger.

However, against right-handed pitching Mancini is batting .320/.368/.700, good for a 178 wRC+.

Out of all right handed hitters with at least 50 plate appearances against right-handed pitching Mancini has the seventh best wRC+. He has been really good against righties. His “struggles’ against left-handed pitching could be from his struggles against the change up.

Reverse splits (hitters being good against same handed pitching) tend to not stand up over time, but there are a couple of examples on the Orioles roster alone that have reverse splits in their much longer careers. It is not unheard of.

Only time will tell if Mancini can keep up anything like this level production. Even a poor facsimile of it would be good for the Orioles. He has held his own in the field, much better than I had assumed, and his hitting has been consistently good. Mancini has been one of the big reasons for the Orioles solid start and if they are going to make the playoffs they will likely need him to keep his production high.