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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Padres

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 Padres heading into the 2017 season.
1. Blink and you'll miss it
It remains uncertain when Carter Capps will return to the big league mound as he recovers from the Tommy John surgery he underwent in March 2016. Whenever Capps does return, he will bring one of the fastest arms in baseball with him. On July 19, 2015, Capps (then with the Marlins) fired a fastball to the Phillies' Cody Asche. The pitch was measured by Statcast™ to have a perceived velocity (which is how fast a pitch appears to the batter) of 105.92 mph, making it the fastest pitch by perceived velocity in the Statcast™ Era dating back to 2015.

In fact, Capps and Yankees closer Albertin Chapman share the 55 fastest pitches by perceived velocity since Statcast™ began tracking pitches in earnest two seasons ago.
Fastest pitches by perceived velocity in Statcast™ Era (2015-present)
1. Capps: 105.92 mph (July 19, 2015)

  1. Chapman: 105.91 mph (Sept.19, 2016)
  2. Chapman: 105.88 mph (Sept. 19, 2016)
  3. Chapman: 105.79 mph (July 18, 2016)
    5. Capps: 105.55 mph (July 7, 2015)
    Run at your own risk
    Padres super-utility man Christian Bethancourt figures to play all over the diamond in 2017 including, perhaps, the pitcher's mound. But whenever Bethancourt is catching, San Diego will feature one of the game's strongest arms behind the plate.
    Bethancourt's average "max effort" throws -- or throws at or above his 90th percentile -- from the catcher position clocked in at 87.4 mph last year. That tied the Yankees' Gary Sanchez for the highest average arm strength of any backstop who had at least five tracked "max effort" throws to anywhere on the diamond. On Aug. 13 of last year at Citi Field, Bethancourt fired a 90.4 mph throw that ranks as the fourth-fastest throw made by any catcher in 2016.

Fastest average 'max effort' arm strength for catchers in 2016 (min. 5 'max effort' throws)
1. (tie) Bethancourt, 87.4 mph

  1. (tie) Sanchez, 87.4 mph
  2. Willson Contreras, 86.0 mph
  3. J.T. Realmuto, 85.8 mph
  4. (tie) Andrew Butera, 85.4 mph
  5. (tie) Martin Maldonado, 85.4 mph
    3. Speed demon
    Travis Jankowski served as a leader for San Diego both in the field and on the basepaths, pacing the Padres with 30 steals. Playing in his first full Major League season, Jankowski ranked among the fastest big league players in terms of getting down the line. Jankowski averaged 4.01 seconds on "max effort" runs -- or runs at or above his 90th percentile -- from home plate to first base, tied for 14th-fastest among left-handed batters.
    Fastest "max effort" home-to-first average time by LHB in 2016 (minimum 75 runs, non-bunt plays)
  6. Billy Burns: 3.82 seconds
  7. Dee Gordon: 3.86 seconds
  8. Billy Hamilton: 3.88 seconds
  9. (tie) Kevin Kiermaier: 3.94 seconds
  10. (tie) Ichiro Suzuki: 3.94 seconds
  11. Norichika Aoki: 3.95 seconds
  12. Mallex Smith: 3.97 seconds
  13. Three tied at 3.98 seconds
    14. (tie) Jankowski, 4.01 seconds
  14. (tie) Jarrod Dyson: 4.01 seconds
    4. Five-star review
    Catch probability, a new metric from Statcast™, measures the likelihood that a ball will be caught based upon how far a fielder had to travel and how much time he had to do so. MLB.com assigned star ratings to five different percentage buckets in order to rate the degree of difficulty catches made over the first two seasons of the Statcast™ Era, with a "Five-Star Play" representing the hardest catches with a probability between 0 and 25 percent.

Jankowski proved as adept as almost anyone at pulling off these highly improbable catches last season. The speedy center fielder converted five of 14 "five-star play" opportunities in 2016, for a 35.7 percent success rate that ranked second in baseball to the Reds' Hamilton.
Highest pct. success rate on 'Five-Star Plays' in outfielders in 2016

  1. Hamilton: 37.5 percent
    2. Jankowski: 35.7 percent
  2. Keon Broxton: 33.3 percent
  3. Kiermaier: 30.0 percent
  4. Desmond Jennings: 28.6 percent
    5. 'Top' that
    Luis Perdomo went through some learning curves during his rookie season, but he did show an elite ability. Perdomo compiled a stellar 59 percent ground-ball rate in 2016, second only to the Blue Jays' Marcus Stroman among Major League pitchers who recorded at least 140 innings. But Perdomo bested even Stroman -- and everyone else in baseball -- in getting opposing hitters to "top" the ball, or pound it into the ground where little damage could be done. Perdomo induced "topped" contact on an even 50 percent of the balls that were put in play against him, "tops" among all pitchers who faced a minimum of 500 batters last season.
    Highest "topped" ball rate for pitchers (min. 500 batters faced)
    1. Perdomo: 50 percent
  5. Stroman: 49 percent
  6. Aaron Sanchez: 45 percent
  7. Jaime Garcia: 45 percent
  8. Carlos Martinez: 44 percent

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