On foot and with the bat, Acuña's speed leads Braves

May 17th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Bowman’s Braves Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ATLANTA -- The Braves have a higher average bat speed than any other MLB club, and has the fifth-highest average bat speed among all big leaguers.

Cool, right? You don’t know what this means? Well, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really have a strong understanding of this new Statcast metric until I read Mike Petriello’s detailed explanation.

My initial thought was that tracking the quality of contact is more important than knowing the velocity at impact. But while reading Mike’s story, I came to better understand the potential value of tracking swing velocities.

Or, I could have just remembered that force equals mass X acceleration. Or that Lawrence Taylor isn’t a Hall of Fame linebacker because he had great form at the point of impact.

You know how a pitcher who throws in the upper 90s has a little more room for error? The same is the case for the hitters who stand near the top of this Baseball Savant bat tracking leaderboard in the swing speed category.

Like a high-octane fastball that consistently lands outside the strike zone has little value, so too does a high velocity swing that consistently misses the target. But the high-velocity swing that might not be quite centered certainly has a chance to do more damage than a lower-velo swing that is just off the mark.

Acuña leads the Braves with an average bat speed of 76.7 mph. Austin Riley, Marcell Ozuna, Michael Harris II and Matt Olson all have an average speed between 74.1-74.9 mph. The MLB average is 72.4 mph. Jarred Kelenic sits at 72.5 mph. Ozzie Albies has a team-low 69.4 mph avg. swing speed.

Albies is just one of those who has proven swing speed isn’t everything. But on average, it can tell you something.

Here are the average outcomes from these swing speeds:

80+ mph bat speed
.321 BA / .665 SLG / .419 wOBA
52% hard-hit rate / +2 run value per 100

70-79 mph bat speed
.274 BA / .477 SLG / .322 wOBA
46% hard-hit rate / -1.5 run value per 100

0-69 mph bat speed
.202 BA / .254 SLG / .205 wOBA
29% hard-hit rate / -4 run value per 100

The fast swing rate that you will find on this same Baseball Savant leaderboard is any swing that is 75+ mph, because that’s the line where, on a per-swing basis, a swing goes from negative run value for a hitter to average, on its way to positive.

Acuña produces a fast swing 72.3% of the time. Riley (50.4%), Ozuna (47.7%), Harris (43.0%) and Olson (40.9%) are the only other Braves with a 40+ percent fast swing rate.

This new metric will also show you that, while Orlando Arcia has one of the Braves’ slowest average swing speeds, he squares the ball up more than any of his teammates.

But it’s more interesting to look at the category labeled "blasts," which is the most valuable swing. It’s one that tracks only the fast swings that generate squared-up contact. Only seven percent of swings qualify for this category.

Riley leads the Braves with a 22.2% blast rate. Ozuna (21.4), Olson (20.1) Travis d’Arnaud (19.6), Acuña (18.6) and Harris (18.3) are the only other Atlanta players with a blast rate above 16. This is just a reminder of how frequently Acuña has missed the sweet spot when swinging this season.

You can also use this new feature to look at how frequently hitters have been victimized by a sword, any non-competitive swing generated when a pitcher fools a hitter.

The leaderboard also allows you to look at all of these categories from a pitching perspective. Chris Sale is one of three pitchers with an MLB-high 10 swords this year.