5 Statcast storylines for '17 Dodgers

March 31st, 2017

As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play in every Major League ballpark since Opening Day 2015. And with two full seasons of data now collected, plus advances in applying that data, Statcast™ is better than ever. New metrics, such as Catch Probability and Hit Probability, will provide a deeper layer of analysis and further our understanding of the game.

With that in mind, here are five Statcast™ storylines to know about the Dodgers heading into the 2017 season.

1. No. 1 for a reason

No starting pitcher has dominated the first two seasons of the Statcast™ Era like , and we'll examine that here using two metrics.

First, Kershaw's average exit velocity allowed of 86.2 mph is tied with the Cubs' for the best among starters who have allowed at least 300 batted ball events in each season. Second, Kershaw allowed the lowest estimated OPS (.517) of any pitcher in 2016. What is estimated OPS? Statcast™ incorporates accumulated hit probabilities on batted balls over the course of a season to determine estimated outcomes for batting average and slugging percentage, then adds it to real-world walks and strikeouts to determine what a pitcher's OPS against should have been.

Last season, the gap in estimated OPS between first-place Kershaw and teammate Rich Hill in second was larger than the gap between Hill and 10th-place .

Lowest allowed average exit velocity in 2015-16 (minimum 250 batted ball events in each season)

1. (tie) Clayton Kershaw: 86.2 mph

  1. (tie) Jake Arrieta: 86.2 mph

  2. : 86.7 mph

  3. : 86.8 mph

  4. (tie) : 87.0 mph

  5. (tie) : 87.0 mph

  6. (tie) : 87.0 mph

    Lowest estimated OPS against for starting pitchers in 2016 (minimum 300 batters faced)

    1. Clayton Kershaw: .517

    2. Rich Hill: .580

  7. : .592

  8. : .595

  9. : .598

  10. Max Scherzer: .604

  11. : .612

  12. : .619

  13. : .628

  14. Jon Lester: .630

    2. Flipping the script

    At age 22, mastered what many left-handed batters struggle with their entire careers: Left-handed pitchers. The 2016 National League Rookie of the Year Award winner averaged 91.5 mph exit velocity against southpaws, trailing only for the highest of any batter from the left side.

    Highest average exit velocity by LHB vs. LHP in 2016 (minimum 100 balls in play)

  15. David Ortiz: 93.0 mph

    2. Corey Seager: 91.5 mph

  16. Freddie Freeman: 91.3 mph

  17. : 91.2 mph

  18. : 91.1 mph

    3. Public enemy No. 1

    Hill employed the curve on 49.7 percent of all his pitches, the highest usage rate of the curve registered by pitch tracking data since 2007. It's easy to see why: Hill's curve averaged the sixth-highest average spin rate (2,831) of any starter, which helped him allow the sixth-lowest isolated power of any pitcher who ended at least 100 at-bats with the hook.

Highest average spin rate on curveball in 2016 (minimum 200 curveballs thrown)

  1. : 2,970 rpm

  2. : 2,905 rpm

  3. Kyle Hendricks: 2,883 rpm

  4. : 2,842 rpm

  5. : 2,841 rpm

    6. Rich Hill: 2,831 rpm

    Lowest ISO allowed on curveball in 2016 (minimum 100 at-bats)

  6. : .034

  7. : .040

  8. : .060

  9. Mike Fiers: .061

  10. : .061

    6. Rich Hill: .063

    4. Crushing in the clutch

    posted a very good .846 OPS with runners in scoring position last season, but he might have deserved a higher OPS judging by how hard he was hitting the ball. Pederson's average exit velocity in all RISP situations was 93.7 mph last season, which tied several other sluggers for the third-highest average among all players who put at least 50 balls in play.

Highest average exit velocity with runners in scoring position in 2016 (minimum 50 BIP)

  1. : 94.5 mph

  2. : 94.2 mph

  3. (tie) : 93.7 mph

    3. (tie) Joc Pederson: 93.7 mph

  4. (tie) : 93.7 mph

  5. (tie) : 93.7 mph

    5. A cut above

    Similar to Kershaw, Jansen posted the lowest estimated OPS of any pitcher -- starter or reliever -- in 2016 (teammate placed just three spots behind). More impressive was the fact that he did it almost entirely with one pitch.

Even when hitters know that would throw his cutter, they remained nearly helpless all the same. That's due in part to the fact that Jansen recorded the second-highest average velocity (93.9 mph) and spin rate (2,582 rpm) of all pitchers who threw at least 300 cutters last year.

Highest average velocity for cut fastball in 2016 (minimum 300 pitches)

  1. : 94.3 mph

    2. Kenley Jansen: 93.9 mph

  2. Jeff Samardzija: 92.8 mph

    Highest average spin rate for cut fastball in 2016 (minimum 300 pitches)

  3. Josh Tomlin: 2,611 rpm

    2. Kenley Jansen: 2,582 rpm

  4. : 2,574 rpm

    Lowest estimated OPS against, based on quality of contact in 2016 (minimum 100 at-bats)

  5. Kenley Jansen: .438

  6. : .450

  7. Zach Britton: .456

    4. Grant Dayton: .471

  8. : .487