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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Dodgers

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 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 Clayton Kershaw, 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' Jacob Arrieta 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 Jonathan Lester.
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. Collin McHugh: 86.7 mph
  3. Carsten Sabathia: 86.8 mph
  4. (tie) Scott Kazmir: 87.0 mph
  5. (tie) Eduardo Rodriguez: 87.0 mph
  6. (tie) Adam Wainwright: 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. Noah Syndergaard: .592
  8. Kyle Hendricks: .595
  9. Yu Darvish: .598
  10. Max Scherzer: .604
  11. Jose Fernandez: .612
  12. Stephen Strasburg: .619
  13. Tyler Anderson: .628
  14. Jon Lester: .630
    2. Flipping the script
    At age 22, Corey Seager 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 David Ortiz 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. Eric Hosmer: 91.2 mph
  18. Rougned Odor: 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. Jeremy Hellickson: 2,970 rpm
  2. Tyler Skaggs: 2,905 rpm
  3. Kyle Hendricks: 2,883 rpm
  4. Giovany Gonzalez: 2,842 rpm
  5. Aaron Sanchez: 2,841 rpm
    6. Rich Hill: 2,831 rpm
    Lowest ISO allowed on curveball in 2016 (minimum 100 at-bats)
  6. Madison Bumgarner: .034
  7. Justin Grimm: .040
  8. Christian Friedrich: .060
  9. Mike Fiers: .061
  10. Carlos Martinez: .061
    6. Rich Hill: .063
    4. Crushing in the clutch
    Joc Pederson 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. Matthew Holliday: 94.5 mph
  2. Nelson Cruz: 94.2 mph
  3. (tie) Khris Davis: 93.7 mph
    3. (tie) Joc Pederson: 93.7 mph
  4. (tie) Mark Trumbo: 93.7 mph
  5. (tie) Ryan Zimmerman: 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 Grant Dayton placed just three spots behind). More impressive was the fact that he did it almost entirely with one pitch.

Even when hitters know that Kenley Jansen 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. Bryan Shaw: 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. Jacob Peavy: 2,574 rpm
    Lowest estimated OPS against, based on quality of contact in 2016 (minimum 100 at-bats)
  5. Kenley Jansen: .438
  6. Andrew Miller: .450
  7. Zach Britton: .456
    4. Grant Dayton: .471
  8. Albertin Chapman: .487

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