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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Tigers

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 Tigers heading into the 2017 season.
1. Miggy's mashing
Jose Cabrera is one of the best hitters of this generation, and as usual, the two-time American League MVP crushed the ball in 2016. His 72 barrels were the most in the Major Leagues, and 5.9 percent of his swings produced a barreled ball, the highest rate in the Majors. Furthermore, 10.6 percent of Cabrera's plate appearances ended with a barreled ball, the second-most in the Majors behind only Khris Davis. And his 94.5 mph average exit velocity ranked fourth among hitters with at least 100 batted balls tracked by Statcast™.

Most barrels in MLB, 2016
1. Miguel Cabrera: 72

  1. Nelson Cruz: 68
  2. Mark Trumbo: 67
  3. Khris Davis: 65
  4. David Ortiz: 62
    2. Cabrera's great expectations
    Cabrera's 2016 was stellar: He hit .316/.393/.563 with 38 home runs, posting a .409 wOBA. But based on his Hit Probabilities last season, Statcast™ projects Cabrera's numbers could have been even better. According to Statcast™, Miggy's expected wOBA for 2016 would have been a whopping .459, which would have led MLB by a wide margin. The 50-point gap between Cabrera's estimated and actual wOBA was the third-largest in baseball. Hitting into Detroit's cavernous center field likely accounts for some of that gap, as does Cabrera's slow footspeed. But it's interesting to think about what Miggy's numbers might have looked like.
    Highest estimated wOBA, 2016
    1. Miguel Cabrera: .459 (actual wOBA -- .409)
  5. David Ortiz: .437 (actual wOBA -- .429)
  6. Michael Trout: .428 (actual wOBA -- .428)
  7. Joey Votto: .413 (actual wOBA -- .424)
  8. Josh Donaldson: .410 (actual wOBA -- .408)
    3. Justin Verlander, king of fastball spin
    For four-seam fastballs, high spin correlates to more swinging strikes -- and that's exactly what a strikeout pitcher like Verlander, who loves to pitch up in the zone, wants. The longtime Tigers ace used his high-spin fastball to great effect in 2016, when he led the AL with 254 K's and finished second in American League Cy Young voting. Verlander's average four-seam spin rate of 2,565 rpm last season led all pitchers who threw at least 500 four-seamers.

Highest average four-seam spin rate, 2016 (min. 500 four-seamers)
1. Justin Verlander: 2,565 rpm

  1. Matt Bush: 2,551 rpm
  2. Max Scherzer: 2,550 rpm
  3. Albertin Chapman: 2,546 rpm
  4. Cody Allen: 2,517 rpm
    4. Big gains for Victor Martinez
    In 2016, Martinez bounced back from a down season, taking his OPS from .667 to .826. He more than doubled his home run total, from 11 to 27, and nearly tripled his number of barrels, from 12 to 34. Simply put, V-Mart made much better contact, and that's backed up by his increase in exit velocity from 2015 to '16, which was the third-largest in baseball.

Largest increase in exit velocity, 2015 to '16 (min. 250 BIP both years)

  1. Kole Calhoun: 3.4 mph (86.2 to 89.6)
  2. J.J. Hardy: 2.9 mph (87.2 to 90.1)
    3. Victor Martinez: 2.4 mph (87.6 to 90.0)
  3. Nick Markakis: 2.3 mph (88.3 to 90.6)
  4. Starlin Castro: 2.2 mph (86.3 to 88.5)
    5. Ian Kinsler's lofty launch angle
    In the Statcast™ Era (2015-16), few players have been more adept than Kinsler at lifting the ball. Out of 141 hitters who have put at least 600 balls in play during that span, the veteran second baseman's 17.8-degree average launch angle ranks fourth. His 39 home runs over that span have averaged a 31-degree angle, and his 114 extra-base hits have averaged a 22-degree launch angle. (Teammate Nick Castellanos also ranks highly on the list -- his average launch angle of 17 degrees places him eighth.)

Highest average launch angle, 2015-16 (min. 600 balls in play)

  1. Kristopher Bryant: 19.5 degrees
  2. Brandon Belt: 18.3 degrees
  3. Chris Davis: 18.1 degrees
    4. Ian Kinsler: 17.8 degrees
  4. Matt Carpenter: 17.7 degrees

David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.