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5 Statcast storylines for '17 Rangers

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 Rangers heading into the 2017 season.
1. Light-tower power
At the tender age of 21, right fielder Nomar Mazara showed flashes of power last season that rivaled the very best Major League sluggers. On May 25, Mazara blasted a 491-foot home run in to the very top deck in right field at Globe Life Park. That was right on par with Mazara's homers all season, whose average distance of 417 feet tied for fourth longest among all big league hitters with at least 15 round-trippers last season.
Longest home runs by projected distance, 2016

  1. Giancarlo Stanton: 504 feet (8/6/16)
  2. Nelson Cruz: 493 feet (9/24/16)
    3. Nomar Mazara: 491 feet (5/25/16)
  3. Mark Reynolds: 484 feet (7/21/16)
  4. Tom Murphy: 482 feet (9/4/16)
    Longest average home run distance, 2016 (min. 15 home runs)
  5. Carlos Gonzalez: 427 feet
    2-T. Giancarlo Stanton: 422 feet
    2-T. Trevor Story: 422 feet
    4-T. Nomar Mazara: 417 feet
    4-T. Matt Adams: 417 feet
  6. Nelson Cruz: 416 feet

2. The right stuff
Matt Bush showed the baseball world what he could do in his breakout 2016 campaign -- particularly with his electric fastball. Bush averaged 97.8 mph on his four-seam fastball last season, good for a tie of fifth highest among all pitchers who threw the pitch at least 500 times. What set Bush's fastball apart, however, was the combination of that velocity with an average spin rate of 2,551 RPM -- second only to the Tigers' Justin Verlander.
That combination of spin and velocity helped Bush record a 13.8 percent swing-and-miss rate with his four-seamer, which ranked among the top 15 in the big leagues.
Highest average spin rate on four-seam fastball, 2016 (min. 500 four-seamers thrown)

  1. Justin Verlander: 2,565 RPM
    2. Matt Bush: 2,551 RPM
  2. Max Scherzer: 2,550 RPM
  3. Albertin Chapman: 2,546 RPM
  4. Cody Allen: 2,517 RPM
    6. Yu Darvish: 2,511 RPM
    Highest average velocity on four-seam fastball, 2016 (min. 500 four-seamers thrown)
  5. Aroldis Chapman: 100.9 mph
  6. Noah Syndergaard: 98.2 mph
  7. Carlos Estevez: 98.0 mph
  8. Arquimedes Caminero, 97.9 mph
    5-T. Matt Bush: 97.8 mph
    5-T. Nathan Eovaldi: 97.8 mph
    5-T. Craig Kimbrel: 97.8 mph
    3. Simply unfair
    What makes Darvish such a nasty matchup for opposing hitters? Part of it could be that he pairs a mid-90s fastball with an arsenal of off-speed pitches that is nearly untouchable.
    Opposing hitters were only able to muster a .138 batting average off Darvish's off-speed offerings, which placed him right behind Clayton Kershaw for the lowest among all full-time Major League starters in 2016. From a Statcast™ perspective, opponents' average exit velocity of 82.6 mph of Darvish's off-speed pitches tied for the fourth lowest in baseball.
    Lowest batting average against off-speed pitches, 2016 (min. 1,500 pitches)
  9. Mike Montgomery: .092
  10. Clayton Kershaw: .133
    3. Yu Darvish: .138
  11. Kyle Hendricks: .144
  12. Aaron Sanchez: .151
    Lowest average exit velocity allowed on off-speed pitches, 2016 (min. 50 batted ball events)
    1-T. Blaine Boyer: 81.9 mph
    1-T. Trevor Cahill: 81.9 mph
  13. Collin McHugh: 82.3 mph
    4-T. Antonio Bastardo: 82.6 mph
    4-T. Yu Darvish: 82.6 mph
    4-T. Corey Kluber: 82.6 mph
    4. Change of scenery
    The Rangers are hoping catcher Jonathan Lucroy can maintain the same boost in hard contact that he enjoyed late last season after coming from Milwaukee to Texas at the Trade Deadline. In those final two months of the regular season, Lucroy saw his barrel rate, line-drive rate and extra-base hits all significantly increase with his new club.
    With Brewers (4/4-7/31/16)
    Barrels/PA: 4.3 percent
    LD/PA: 1.6 percent
    XBH/PA: 8.8 percent
    With Rangers (8/2-10/2)
    Barrels/PA: 6.5 percent
    LD/PA: 3.0 percent
    XBH/PA: 10.7 percent
    5. No change necessary
    Cole Hamels' bread-and-butter pitch continues to be his superb changeup, which still manages to fool hitters after 11 seasons in the big leagues. Hamels got hitters to swing and miss on 24 percent of the changeups he threw in 2016, the third-highest rate of anyone who threw the pitch at least 500 times.
    Highest whiff rate on changeups, 2016 (min. 500 changeups thrown)
  14. Jeremy Hellickson: 27.4 percent
  15. Kyle Hendricks: 24.3 percent
    3. Cole Hamels: 24.0 percent
  16. David Price: 23.4 percent
  17. Zach Davies: 23.0 percent

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