Monday, August 7, 2017

A Quick Look at Something Cool Ronald Acuna Did

Ronald Acuña is quite good at baseball. If you’re unfamiliar, Acuña is a 19-year old phenom destroying competition 5+ years older than him and making his case for being the best prospect in all of baseball. I could fill several post on the greatness of Ronald Acuna but for today we’re going to get a little more specific. Actually, very specific. One pitch to be exact.

Recently he did this:

That’s a very impressive HR but after it was hit, it was followed by this tweet from the Gwinnett Braves official account:

Acuña hit that ball 114 mph. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you 114 mph is an absolutely destroyed batted ball. The average exit velocity in MLB for all batted balls is around 87 mph. But that number includes all the broken bats, bleeders, bloopers, and generally weak contact that happen in a season. If he we look at just home runs, the balls that were hit really well by the best hitters in the world, the major league average goes to 103 mph. That’s a significant jump from 87 mph and yet, still good ways away from Acuña’s blast.

How rare a feat is a 114 mph? Here’s a list a of the hardest batted balls by a Braves player this year:

All exit velocity data is via Baseball Savant

Despite having some rather large men who can hit the ball a long ways, the Braves haven’t had a single batted ball reach 114 mph this year. Or 113 for that matter. It’s just not that common.

In fact, in all of major league baseball this year only 119 of the balls put in play left the bat at 114 mph or greater. For context, Statcast tells us there’s been 87,483 batted ball events in 2017. That means .001% of all the balls in play this year have been hit as hard as Acuña hit this HR. It’s even crazier when consider of that 119,Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton account for 43 of them. That means the rest of baseball combined has only done it 76 times, or .0001%. And none of them were 19.

Unsurprisingly, the damage done on balls hit this hard is off the charts. Here are the numbers of the 119 balls hit a 114 mph or better:

  • BA .778
  • wOBA 1.086
  • SLG% 1.843
  • ISO 1.066

All of this is important because we’ve learned that hitting the ball hard is a skill. You don’t fluke your way to 114 mph. Most guys can’t physically hit a ball that hard. So showing the ability to do it, even once, puts Acuna is rarefied air in terms if skill set.

And the fact that he’s 19 can’t be overstated. He’s not fully physically mature yet. Guys like Stanton and Judge are in their mid-20s. Acuña is going to get bigger and stronger. This is the tip of the iceberg.

Yeah it’s one pitch. One AB. One HR. But it tells a much bigger story.

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