Who Hit It Harder? Round 1

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before; Aaron Judge hits the ball hard.

On June 6th, 2022 Dylan Bundy left a changeup right over the heart of the plate for none other than current 2022 MVP candidate Aaron Judge. If you’ve never seen Aaron Judge before, he’s big. He’s not the type of guy you want to leave one over the heart of the plate for. Can you guess what happened? It was smoked. The ball was scorched 116 MPH to left field and while it doesn’t look like much of an issue for the left fielder in the video below, I can guarantee that if it were me (and probably you too) in left field, there would be more avoidance of the ball than intentionally getting in front of it.

Let’s take a look:

If I gave you this situation, a changeup left for feasting in statcast’s Gameday Zone 5, and asked you to pick who hit the ball the hardest among three big-league sluggers and Aaron Judge was on the list, you’d likely just choose Aaron Judge. But, what if the list was a little less assumptive? You might need to dig into the data points a little further in order to make a more informed decision and you might actually have fun. So, let’s make a game of it! I’ll give you three hitters, one very specific pitch, and some statcast batted ball data points to analyze. Aaron Judge won’t be on the list. Your task is to choose which of the three batters hit the ball the hardest according to exit velocity. Let’s play!

Who Hit It The Hardest? – Round 1

Barreled balls, 0-0 count, four-seam fastballs in zone 2 gameday statcast.

0-0 count, 4-seamer, middle-up

Gameday zone 2 according to Baseball Savant is middle-up and meatball-esque. Enrique Hernández has placed this particular pitch in play the most this season on a barreled ball, three times. He’s hit one for a single, one for a double, and one for a home run. Remember, that’s specific to 0-0 counts and Enrique is a career 59% F-Strike batter. Those are good outcomes, but I haven’t given you any other information about them besides the location and count. Certainly, not all middle-up four-seam fastballs are created equal, and that’s why I’ll give you some more data to make your guess. Meet our contestants:

Batted Ball Date: Round 1

Battery Pitch Type Pitch Velocity Batter Stands Pitcher Throws Spin Rate
Kyle Garlick FF 97.5 R L 2298
Nick Solak FF 92.2 R R 2443
Wander Franco FF 91.3 L R 2321

SOURCE: Statcast

So, what do you say? Upon first look you might think a meatball at 91.3 mph for Wander Franco seems like a safe bet. Maybe you’re more inclined to take the pitch that’s coming in faster, maybe because a faster pitch could generate quicker bat speed. Do you look at righty/righty versus righty/lefty matchups? How about a little background information on each hitter to get you started:

2022 Averages: Round 1

Battery without maxEV 2022 Average EV HardHit% Barrel%
Kyle Garlick 91 110.2 92.9 54.1% 13.1%
Nick Solak 75 111.1 88.4 36% 6%
Wander Franco 247 112.4 88.1 37.7% 4.4%
MLB Averages 119.8 88.7 38.5% 7.8%

SOURCE: Statcast

You could simply look at Wander Franco’s pure power and go from there. His 112.4 2022 maxEV is impressive and ranks in the 86th percentile according to his Pay Savant. Or, perhaps you think Kyle Garlick’s above-average Barrel% is something to sway your pick. Maybe you think Nick Solak just hasn’t been given enough opportunity and he’s really the one with the raw power here. h face hit the ball hard before. Well, how about a hint? Don’t care for a hint? Scroll down and don’t look! Here’s each batted ball event’s launch angle:

Hint 1: Round 1

Battery Launch Angle
Kyle Garlick 27
Nick Solak 21
Wander Franco 23

SOURCE: Statcast

Ok, does that help? Probably swimming. These launch angles are certainly in the sweet spot range, but I’ve already told you that all three of these batted ball events are labeled as barreled balls. Does a six-degree launch angle range change much? How about I tell you the pitcher who threw this meatball on display and some of their 2022 statcast measurements? Will that be enough? Maybe. Let’s try:

Hint 2: Round 1

Battery Pitcher IP EV maxEV Barrel% HardHit% wind xERA
Kyle Garlick Shane McClanahan 110.2 87.0 116.2 7.8% 30.2% 1.71 2.28
Nick Solak Nick Pivetta 103.2 91.1 115.7 8.6% 46.2% 4.08 4.31
Wander Franco Michael Wacha 70.1 89.1 112.4 7.1% 36.5% 2.69 4.61

SOURCE: Statcast

Cy Young hopeful Shane McClanahan doesn’t give up hard contact all that often, but one really hard-hit ball (maxEV) sneaked in at one point this season. Nick Pivetta does give up hard contact and his ERA is expected to be higher as a result. Michael Wacha is a seasoned veteran and knows how to pitch to young up-and-comers like Wander Franco.

Now it’s time to guess. Make your guess now. Don’t scroll down until you’ve decided.

Want to see for yourself? Here are the links to each individual at-bat.

Kyle Garlick video

Nick Solak video

Wander Franco video

ANSWER:

Round 1: Answer

Battery Events Hit Distance Launch Speed
Kyle Garlick home_run 416 110.2
Nick Solak field_out 349 106.9
Wander Franco home_run 389 109.7

SOURCE: Statcast

Kyle Garlick’s 416-foot bomb off of Shane McClanahan takes the cake. His ball was hit for a home run to dead center and it was hit hard. While Garlick’s maxEV is the lowest among these three hitters, his average exit velocity is the highest and he hits the ball hard on a more consistent basis. You could argue that his rates haven’t stabilized with a low plate appearance count and this blast on display was Garlick’s max on the year so far. But, I have a feeling he’s got more juice to add to his swing. If you lower the Baseball Savant Expected Stats leaderboard down to 50 batted ball events, Garlick’s .394 xwOBA ranks 24th among these low BBE players. In addition, he was facing the most difficult pitcher of the three to make hard contact on. You may have seen Shane McClanahan’s 30.2% HardHit% in 2022 and crossed Garlick off the list. But the 30-year-old has seen his share of middle-up fastballs and he’s clearly not afraid. Solak got robbed out of a double and Franco turned on one, pulling the ball out with such smooth, yet alarming power. Sorry Wander, Kyle had you beat by a clear half mph. Unfortunately, Garlick is only projected by FanGraphs Depth Charts ROS to make 68 more plate appearances. But, keep an eye out for more power. I’m willing to bet he could reach 112 mph by season’s end.

Baseball is data-driven yet hard to predict. Whether you came for the statcast metrics, the fantasy advice, or the fun baseball analytics game, I hope you will return for Round 2, coming soon!

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