Here are Twins' Statcast batting superlatives

November 13th, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- Whenever a slugger crushes a prodigious homer deep into the night these days, social media-savvy fans know to brace themselves for the inevitable flurry of statistical context that will soon rain down on their feeds.

Thanks to Statcast, we can now say that a blast was a player’s longest in three years, or that it was his hardest-hit blast of the season, or appreciate whatever context the data otherwise reveals. Instead of just marveling at how a homer was a “frozen rope” or that a hitter “got unlucky” on a screaming liner, we can now put numbers behind those claims to better appreciate the context of the plays that happen before our eyes.

It’s easy to lose sight of that context as it flies by on a Twitter feed during a game in the middle of August, so let’s have some fun in remembering what kinds of superlative Statcast feats we can highlight from the 2020 campaign, in which the Twins claimed their second straight American League Central title.

Stay tuned for pitching extremes, coming soon.

Longest homer:
458 feet

Hardest base hit: Sanó
115.8 mph
Aug. 22 at KC (off Brady Singer)

Though the big man often struggles with strikeouts, few players in the Majors can make harder contact than Sanó when bat meets ball. There’s a reason Sanó finished second in MLB in average exit velocity this season, second last year and fourth in 2017. This blast went off the Royals Hall of Fame -- an unheard-of sight in Kansas City. Sanó owns three of Minnesota’s 10 longest homers in the Statcast era (since 2015).

Shortest homer:
349 feet

Highest launch homer: Rosario
41 degrees
Aug. 11 at MIL (off Josh Lindblom)

As expected, the longest homer leaderboard offers a large helping of Sanó and Nelson Cruz, and a few cameos from others. The shortest homer “leaderboard” is much more of a mixed bag. This honor goes to Rosario, whose high-arcing shot barely cleared the short right-field wall at Miller Park, out of reach of a leaping Ben Gamel. It also takes the honor of the highest launch angle for a Twins homer in 2020.

Lowest launch homer:
16 degrees
Sept. 12 vs. CLE (off Zach Plesac)

It classifies as a very “La Tortuga” thing that Astudillo hit only one homer in 2020, but it was still noteworthy enough to be included on a list. These were the shots that C.J. Cron showed off so often last season -- the low line drives that barely got off the ground before they clanged into the left-field bleachers. This one is the second-lowest Twins homer in the Statcast era.

Fastest pitch hit for a homer:
99.7 mph
Aug. 23 at KC (off Trevor Rosenthal)

The Twins didn’t do anywhere near as much damage to hittable fastballs in 2020 as they did in '19, when they set the MLB record for homers in a season by teeing off on heaters at an elite rate. Cruz was one of few bright spots on a Minnesota offense that mostly regressed from its record-breaking heights, and even at age 40 he showed he can still catch up to elite velocity.

Most extreme pitch hit for a homer: Eddie Rosario
0.97 feet off center of plate
July 29 vs. STL (off Daniel Ponce de Leon)

Well, of course this is Rosario, bad-ball hitter extraordinaire. Who else would it be? Even in a season in which the slugger vowed to walk more -- and did, in fact, post the highest walk rate of his career -- he still showed off some of those old reaching skills. (This one isn’t even as egregious as many of his career highlights.)

Hit with lowest expected batting average:
.007 xBA
Sept. 7 vs. DET

One fun thing we can do with launch angles and exit velocities is to use data on how often similarly hit balls have fallen in for base hits to compute an estimate of an “expected batting average” on any batted ball. Here’s an example of an outlier: This ball hit by Wade is almost always caught for an out but happened to fall in for a very unlikely hit.

Out with highest expected batting average:
.964 xBA
Aug. 12 at MIL

Here’s the other side of that. Though it looks at first glance to be a reasonably harmless line drive caught on a leap by Keston Hiura, the historic data reveals that balls like this one Avila hit off position player Jedd Gyorko almost always end up falling in for a hit. Just not this time.