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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Red Sox

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™ facts to know about the Red Sox heading into the 2017 season.
1. Outfield allies
The duo of Jackie Bradley Jr. and Mookie Betts patrolled a lot of turf for the Red Sox in 2016. That's reflected in Statcast™'s new Catch Probability metric, which grades each play on a scale of 1-to-5 stars, with 5 being the most difficult. And when it came to making 4- and 5-star catches in 2016 -- those with a Catch Probability of no greater than 50 percent -- Bradley (17) and Betts (14) both ranked among the top 16 outfielders in MLB. The Red Sox were one of six teams to have multiple outfielders make at least 14 such catches.

Multiple outfielders with at least 14 catches of 4-5 stars in 2016
Reds: Billy Hamilton (24) + Adam Duvall (15) = 39 total
Red Sox: Jackie Bradley Jr. (17) + Mookie Betts (14) = 31
Rays: Kevin Kiermaier (17) + Steven Souza Jr. (12) = 29
Royals: Paulo Orlando (14) + Lorenzo Cain (13 = 27
Orioles: Adam Jones (14) + Joey Rickard (12) = 26
Phillies: Peter Bourjos (14) + Odubel Herrera (12) = 26
2. High spin x 2
American League Cy Young Award winner Rick Porcello was among the best in MLB at generating high spin rates on both his four-seam fastball (2,443 rpm) and curveball (2,797 rpm) -- two pitches that show a correlation between high spin rates and success. Porcello ranked eighth of 97 pitchers who had at least 750 tracked four-seamers and ninth of 66 with at least 300 tracked curves or knuckle-curves. On at-bats ending with either pitch, opponents batted .224 and slugged .322 against Porcello.
Highest average 4-seamer spin rate in 2016
Minimum 750 tracked

  1. Justin Verlander: 2,565 rpm
  2. Max Scherzer: 2,550 rpm
  3. Blake Snell: 2,507 rpm
  4. Dylan Bundy: 2,489 rpm
  5. Thomas Pomeranz: 2,471 rpm
  6. Rich Hill: 2,458 rpm
  7. Jeff Samardzija: 2,444 rpm
    8. Rick Porcello: 2,443 rpm
  8. Jose Fernandez: 2,443 rpm
  9. Julio Urias: 2,432 rpm

3. New-look Hanley
Following a subpar 2015, Hanley Ramirez got off to a slow start in '16 before erupting in the second half. His 158 weighted runs created-plus (wRC+) from July 1 onward ranked sixth in MLB in that span. That burst coincided with Ramirez hitting the ball at a higher launch angle, creating more line drives, fly balls, and barrels -- a Statcast™ term for the type of contact that tends to do the most damage. When Ramirez hit a liner or fly ball in '16, he slugged 1.150.
Ramirez's batted ball breakdown
2015 season: 91.0 mph exit velocity / 6 degree launch angle / 40.4 percent line-drive/foul ball / 7.9 percent barrels per batted ball
April-June 2016: 91.7 mph exit velocity / 7 degree launch angle / 39.7 percent LD/FB / 6.8 percent barrels per batted ball
July-Oct. 2016: 90.9 mph exit velocity / 10 degree launch angle / 45.6 percent LD/FB / 12.4 percent barrels per batted ball

4. Putting the 'K' in Kimbrel
When Craig Kimbrel went to his knuckle-curve last year, hitters had a hard time adjusting. Among more than 100 pitchers who induced at least 100 swings on a curve or knuckle-curve, nobody matched Kimbrel's 56.5 percent missed-swing rate. In at-bats ending with that nasty offering, opponents hit just .097 with a .113 slugging percentage.
Highest missed-swing rate on curves/knuckle-curves in 2016
Minimum 100 swings
1. Craig Kimbrel: 56.5 percent

  1. Zack Godley: 52.6 percent
  2. Jonathan Lester: 52.5 percent
  3. Corey Kluber: 51.0 percent
  4. Cody Allen: 50.3 percent

5. Avoid the barrel
During a breakout 2016 season, Steven Wright used his fluttering knuckleball to post a 3.33 ERA across 24 starts despite a modest 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings. The key was generating lots of weak contact. Out of 128 pitchers who surrendered at least 300 batted balls, Wright posted the third-lowest rate of barrels per plate appearance.
Lowest rate of barrels per PA in 2016
Minimum 300 batted balls

  1. Jose Fernandez: 1.6 percent
  2. Noah Syndergaard: 1.9 percent
    3. Steven Wright: 2.0 percent
  3. Kyle Hendricks: 2.1 percent
  4. Tyler Anderson: 2.1 percent

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