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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Giants

Advanced metrics confirm excellence of Bumgarner, Melancon
March 31, 2017

As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play 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

As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play 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 Giants heading into the 2017 season.
1. Extensive dominance
The average velocity on Madison Bumgarner's four-seam fastball hovered around 91 mph in 2016 -- not exactly the radar-gun reading of a dominant ace. But Bumgarner added a little extra to his pitches by using his lanky 6-foot-5 frame. The southpaw employed an extension -- or the distance between the pitching rubber and his release -- of 6.71 feet on his four-seamer, the third-largest of any qualified left-handed pitcher. In turn, that extension lent roughly two-thirds of a mile per hour to the perceived velocity of MadBum's fastball.
Bumgarner also put 6.47 feet of extension on his slider, helping him to boost that pitch's perceived velocity by .52 miles per hour over its actual velocity -- the highest difference of any pitcher who threw at least 250 sliders. Among the left-handed starters who threw at least 350 sliders in 2016, only Clayton Kershaw threw the pitch with a higher perceived velocity than Bumgarner.
Highest average perceived velocity on sliders by starting left-handers (minimum 350 sliders thrown)

  1. Kershaw: 88.2 mph
    2. Bumgarner: 87.1 mph
  2. Carlos Rodon: 86.9 mph
  3. Francisco Liriano: 85.7 mph
  4. Adam Conley: 85.6 mph
    2. Making the cut
    New Giants closer Mark Melancon combines pace and spin to employ one of baseball's most effective cutters. The closer averaged 91.4 mph on his cut fastball last season, the sixth fastest of any pitcher who threw at least 300 cutters. Additionally, Melancon's average spin rate of 2,385 rpm ranked 16th in that group.
    While that cutter doesn't generate a ton of swings-and-misses, it does yield extremely soft contact. Opposing batters averaged an exit velocity of just 83.8 mph against Melancon's cutter last season, the lowest against any pitcher with at least 100 batted balls in play, and slugged just .314 (sixth lowest).
    Lowest average exit velocity against cut fastball in 2016 (minimum 100 Batted Ball Events)
    1. Melancon: 83.8 mph
  5. Jonathan Lester: 85.1 mph
  6. Adam Wainwright: 85.2 mph
  7. Josh Tomlin: 86.4 mph
  8. Mike Leake: 86.8 mph

3. Lift me up
Brandon Belt enjoyed a career year in 2016, pacing the Giants in home runs, doubles, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. One reason for Belt's added power is that he's lifting his batted balls more than ever before.
In 2016, Belt raised his average launch angle from 15.8 to 20.4 -- the highest of 150 Major League players with a minimum of 300 batted balls. That 4.6 degree increase in launch angle for Belt tied for fifth largest among players who had at least 250 batted balls in each of the past two seasons.
Highest launch angle in 2016 (minimum 300 Balls in Play)
1. Belt: 20.2 degrees

  1. Kristopher Bryant: 19.8 degrees
  2. Chris Carter: 18.8 degrees
  3. Todd Frazier: 18.7 degrees
  4. Matt Carpenter: 18.2 degrees
    Largest increase in launch angle in 2015-16 (minimum 250 BIP both years)
  5. Robinson Cano: 6.4 degrees (5.4 to 11.8)
  6. Rougned Odor: 6.3 degrees (8.2 to 14.5)
  7. Daniel Murphy: 6.1 degrees (10.7 to 16.8)
  8. Jean Segura: 5.6 degrees (6.1 to 11.7)
    5. (tie) Belt: 4.6 degrees (15.8 to 20.4)
  9. (tie) Brad Miller: 4.6 degrees (8.4 to 13.0)
    4. Can't stand the heat
    The Giants were the only one of the 10 playoff teams in 2016 who did not feature a 20-homer hitter, and that exemplified their general inability to consistently make hard contact. San Francisco averaged an 88 mph exit velocity on all batted balls last season -- third worst in baseball, ahead of only the Reds and Padres.
    The Giants particularly struggled against four-seam fastballs, generating an average 88.7 mph exit velocity that tied the Reds for the lowest among all 30 Major League clubs.
    Average exit velocity vs. four-seam fastballs in 2016
    30. (tie) Giants: 88.7 mph
  10. (tie) Reds: 88.7 mph
  11. Padres: 88.9 mph
  12. Yankees: 89.4 mph
  13. Indians: 89.7 mph
    5. Fire the cannon
    Shortstop Brandon Crawford's arm is viewed as one of the strongest in the game at his position, and Statcast™ backs that distinction.
    Crawford's average "competitive" throw -- in other words, the average of his throws that measured among his 90th percentile and higher -- was clocked at 86.5 mph. That ranked Crawford fifth out of 31 shortstops who had at least 150 throws tracked in 2016.
    Highest average "competitive" arm strength (minimum 150 throws from shortstop)
  14. Danny Espinosa: 90.7 mph
  15. Didi Gregorius: 88.3 mph
  16. Jonathan Villar: 88.2 mph
  17. Carlos Correa: 87.5 mph
    5. Crawford: 86.5 mph

Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.