The Baseball Savant statcast leaderboards have finally been updated, and with it comes many great insights about the San Diego Padres. For this week’s Five Stat Friday, the focus will be on the statcast leaderboards and some interesting early season stats.
Jose Pirela Continues to Make Hard Contact
If you rank all players in baseball by the number of balls hit above 95 mph, Padres’ outfielder Jose Pirela sits second in all baseball with 32 batted balls, trailing only DJ LeMahieu (with 39). That is a lot of hard contact for a player vying for playing time in what has become an even more crowded outfield with the offseason addition of Eric Hosmer that shifted Wil Myers back to the outfield. Pirela sports a 90.7 mph average exit velocity overall with a 94.9 mph average exit velocity on fly balls and line drives and a 90.3 mph average exit velocity on groundballs.
However, things get a little weird when looking at Pirela’s overall barrel numbers. For the uninitiated, a barrel is a batted ball of at least 98 mph with a launch angle of at least 26-30 degrees. The harder a ball is hit, the wider the possible launch angle range on the ball to still classify it as a barrel. So as a player clears 100 mph on a batted ball, the launch angle can exceed 30 degrees or fall below 26 degrees and still be classified as a barrel. With every additional mph past 100 mph, the launch angle range grows by two to three degrees until the exit velocity reaches 116 mph. At that highest threshold of exit velocity, a batted ball is considered a barrel between a launch angle of eight and 50 degrees.
This takes us back to Jose Pirela, who has barreled only three balls so far this season despite hitting 32 balls over 95 mph. Despite having 20 of those 32 batted balls exceeding 100 mph, Pirela has been unable to accumulate barrels. More glaringly, Pirela has yet to hit a home run on the season. The problem is that of those 20 balls, not a single one has a launch angle over 20 degrees. Add to that the fact that half of those balls have negative launch angles, and it’s pretty easy to see why Pirela has not had his hard contact translate into more barrel success. With a launch angle of just 12 degrees, it’s clear Pirela is not utilizing his hard contact to its full potential. If Pirela can add more lift to his swing, he should see his power normalize as the season progresses.
Padres’ Have Some Speed
Next up on the Baseball Savant Statcast leaderboard is sprint speed, which measures a player’s feet per second covered in their fastest one-second window on individual plays. Sprint speed uses plays involving players running home to first as well as opportunities where players had a chance to run at least two bases on the same play. The range is from roughly 23 ft/sec to 30 ft/sec. Among players with at least five baserunning opportunities as measured by sprint speed, the Padres have three players in the top-50 in the league: Manuel Margot (12th at 29.2 ft/sec), Jose Pirela (25th at 29 ft/sec), and Franchy Cordero (38th at 28.7). Matt Szczur, Cory Spangenberg, Carlos Asuaje, and Hunter Renfroe all find themselves in the top 100 and all have sprint speeds of 27.8 ft/sec or higher. Among Padres regulars, Hunter Renfroe, Franchy Cordero, Manuel Margot, Matt Szczur, Cory Spangenberg, Jose Pirela, and Carlos Asuaje all are above the league average sprint speed of 27 ft/sec. By contrast, Freddy Galvis, Christian Villanueva, Austin Hedges, AJ Ellis, Chase Headley, and Eric Hosmer are all under the 27 ft/sec average.
Catch Probability and Outs Above Average
Padres Defense Surprising Early
From speed on the bases to speed in the field, the statcast leaderboard turns to catch probability and outs above average. For catch probability, a ball is given a percentage chance of being caught, from 0-100 percent based on opportunity time, distance needed, and direction. From 91-95% are one-star catches, from 76-90% are two-star catches, from 51-75% are three-star catches, from 26-50% are four-star catches, and from 1-25% are five-star catches. From there, a player’s outs above average is calculated by adding up all their catches and credits players for the difficulty of catch. For example, if a player catches a ball with a 40% catch probability, he is credited +.60, and if the player drops that ball he is debited -.40.
Among Padres, Manuel Margot sits in the top ten in all of baseball with two outs above average, as Margot has made 2-2 four-star catches, 3-3 three-star catches, 1-2 two-star catches, and one one-star catch. From there, you don’t find another Padre until Hunter Renfroe at 54 with zero outs above average. Franchy Cordero, Jose Pirela, Matt Szczur, Wil Myers, and Cory Spangenberg also sit at exactly zero outs above average. In total, the Padres as a team are fourth in baseball with three outs above average, trailing only the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Pirates. As a team, the Padres are 0-7 on five-star catches, 2-2 on four-star catches, 8-9 on both three-star and two-star catches, and 6-6 on one-star catches. Those are solid numbers, and that strong outfield defense has definitely helped out the pitching staff.
Austin Hedges is One of the Best Catchers in Baseball… On Defense
We all know that Austin Hedges is one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball, and the pop time leaderboards once again show that. Hedges currently sits at fourth place on the pop time leaderboard at 1.92 seconds on average. It’s only a sample of five throws, but Hedges has once again shown himself to be one of the quickest catchers in all of baseball. Add that to his long list of defensive accolades, and Hedges should continue to be one of the best defensive catchers in all of baseball for the foreseeable future. If only he could hit just a little bit.
Padres’ Pitching Staff Exceeding Expectations
It’s only 20 games into the 2018 regular season, but the Padres’ pitching staff has been good. Really good. The Padres currently have eight pitchers with wOBAs under .300, with Craig Stammen leading the way at .134. Outside of Stammen, Jordan Lyles has looked rejuvenated in the pen, Phil Maton has looked like a new pitcher, Adam Cimber has been a revelation, Brad Hand has been his usual self, Tyson Ross has looked like a new pitcher, and Joey Lucchesi has been downright impressive. There are a few rough spots for the Padres’ rotation, but overall their pitching staff has a unit has been one of the best in the game. The Padres currently rank 14th in baseball by wOBA. Strip out the poor performances of a few starters, and they look even better. Look at just the bullpen by itself and the Padres have had one of the best bullpens in the game. While the offense has struggled mightily, the pitching has kept the Padres in many games this year. Look for that to continue as long as they have the gas.