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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Rays

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 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

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 Rays heading into the 2017 season.
1. Fly ball magnet
There's a good reason why Kevin Kiermaier has won two straight American League Gold Glove Awards for his work in center field, and Statcast™ can help provide insight in that regard. The new Catch Probability metric shows the likelihood of an outfielder catching a fly ball based on how far he has to travel and how much time he has to do so. Opportunities are broken down into a scale of 1-5 stars, from the least to most difficult. In 2016, there were 128 outfielders who had at least 100 chances at potentially catchable fly balls, and none was better than Kiermaier at turning 4- and 5-star plays -- those with a Catch Probability of 50 percent or less -- into outs.
Highest conversion rate on balls with Catch Probability of 0-50 percent in 2016

  1. Kevin Kiermaier: 65 percent
  2. Desmond Jennings: 58 percent
  3. Billy Hamilton: 55 percent
  4. Jarrod Dyson: 48 percent
  5. Keon Broxton: 47 percent

2. Speed boost
Baserunning is another tool Kiermaier brings to the table, and with the Rays trading for Mallex Smith in January, the club could have the pair of speedsters together in their outfield this season. Both Kiermaier and Smith averaged better than 4.0 seconds this season on "max-effort" runs from home to first -- those faster than the player's 90th percentile (bunts excluded). That put them among the swiftest runners in the Majors.
Fastest average max-effort, non-bunt home-to-first time in 2016 (minimum 75 total tracked times)

  1. Billy Burns: 3.83 seconds
  2. Dee Gordon: 3.86 seconds
  3. Billy Hamilton: 3.89 seconds
    4. Kevin Kiermaier: 3.94 seconds
  4. Ichiro Suzuki: 3.94 seconds
  5. Norichika Aoki: 3.95 seconds
  6. Jose Iglesias: 3.96 seconds
    8. Mallex Smith: 3.97 seconds
  7. Jeremy Hazelbaker: 3.98 seconds
  8. Byron Buxton: 3.98 seconds
    3. Cut it out
    What was behind Alex Colome's breakout 2016 season? His cut fastball was almost untouchable, yielding only two extra-base hits all year, even though Colome used it about 45 percent of the time. In at-bats ending with the cutter, opponents slugged just .182 off Colome, second-best in the Majors. Part of that success was that almost half the time a batter swung at the pitch, he came up empty.
    Highest missed-swing rate on cutters in 2016 (minimum 50 swings)
    1. Alex Colome: 44.0 percent
  9. Dennis Tepera: 42.2 percent
  10. John Lackey: 42.0 percent
  11. Enny Romero: 41.6 percent
  12. Fernando Rodriguez: 39.6 percent

4. Raise it up
Even considering the power surge that took place across the Majors last season, Brad Miller's was notable. After hitting 29 total homers in his first three MLB seasons with Seattle, including 11 in 2015, Miller whacked 30 in his first year in Tampa Bay. The left-handed hitter did increase his average exit velocity from 90.1 to 91.7 mph, but also important was a 4.6-degree jump in average launch angle -- among the biggest in MLB. Each of Miller's homers had a launch angle of at least 17 degrees, with an average of 26.
Largest increase in launch angle in 2015 and '16 (minimum 250 balls in play in both years)

  1. Robinson Cano: 6.4 degrees (5.4 to 11.8)
  2. Rougned Odor: 6.3 degrees (8.2 to 14.5)
  3. Daniel Murphy: 6.1 degrees (10.7 to 16.8)
  4. Jean Segura: 5.6 degrees (6.1 to 11.7)
    5-T. Brad Miller: 4.6 degrees (8.4 to 13.0)
    5-T. Brandon Belt: 4.6 degrees (15.8 to 20.4)

5. Electric slide
In the Statcast™ Era (2015-16), Chris Archer has leaned heavily on his slider, throwing it a total of 2,724 times -- 544 more than anyone else. The pitch accounts for nearly 40 percent of his total, also tops among 77 pitchers with at least 4,000 total pitches in that span. The slider has been effective for Archer, with opponents hitting only .193 and slugging .287 when it ends an at-bat.
Highest slider rate, Statcast™ Era (minimum 4,000 total pitches)

  1. Chris Archer: 39.7 percent
  2. Ervin Santana: 38.2 percent
  3. Michael Pineda: 37.2 percent
  4. Jason Hammel: 34.9 percent
  5. Colby Lewis: 33.5 percent

Andrew Simon is a research analyst for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB.