How Cruz, other Pirates rank in Statcast tools

May 15th, 2024

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

PITTSBURGH -- There are a lot of things that have gone into ’s hot stretch at the plate the last few weeks. He had to regain some confidence after a slow start to the season. He tweaked some things with his swing to help him be more free in the box. Not to mention he had to rebound from his ankle injury last year.

But overall, Cruz has a handful of elite tools that have helped him become a promising young player. Among those skills is his elite bat speed.

Statcast unveiled new bat tracking data earlier this week, which you can read about here. Bat speed isn’t everything -- no one stat or peripheral is everything -- but it’s like fastball velocity. Bailey Falter and Jared Jones have two of the most effective fastballs in the big leagues this season. Falter’s is in the low-90s, Jones’ flirts with triple digits. Both can be effective, but if you have that elite velocity, it’s a great tool to build around.

That’s what Cruz has. He is averaging 77.9 mph on his swings, the second-highest mark in the Majors behind the Yankees' Giancarlo Stanton. As’s Mike Petriello notes in his article describing the new bat tracking stats, Stanton’s bat speed is more consistently high (though Cruz still is second in the Major Leagues in fast swing rate at 74.9% of his swings), but that tracks with Cruz saying earlier this year that he wants to go to the opposite field more. That takes a little more bat control, which can result in a shorter stroke or being longer through the zone.

All the way on the right, you'll find Oneil Cruz with the second-highest average bat speed

Bat speed isn’t an be-all, end-all stat, but on a macro scale, a quicker bat speed generates more power. Cruz obviously has as much raw power as anyone in baseball (he does have the hardest-hit ball in the Statcast era at a 122.4 mph exit velocity), and his bat speed is a big reason why.

The Pirates are generally swinging very quick bats this year. Nine hitters qualify for Statcast’s leaderboard, and the lowest is Jared Triolo, who is averaging 71 mph, just one mph lower than the league average. The average speed of each of those nine players is:

  • Cruz: 77.9 mph
  • Rowdy Tellez: 74.3 mph
  • Jack Suwinski: 73.4 mph
  • Andrew McCutchen: 73.3 mph
  • Michael A. Taylor: 72.6 mph
  • Connor Joe: 72.5 mph
  • Bryan Reynolds: 72 mph
  • Ke’Bryan Hayes: 71.7 mph
  • Triolo: 71 mph

Here is how other Pirates stack up with the new stats:

Swing length: This is pretty self-explanatory. Generally speaking, a shorter swing will likely yield a higher batting average and a lower whiff rate, while a longer swing will yield more whiffs but a higher slugging percentage.

Players with long swings: Tellez (8.1 feet, seventh longest in MLB), Triolo (7.9 feet, 15th), Cruz (7.7 feet, 36th)

Players with short swings: Hayes (6.8 feet, 18th shortest in MLB), Reynolds (6.9 feet, 32nd in MLB)

Squared up rate: This is how much exit velocity a batter produced compared to what exit velocity was possible based on the swing speed and the speed of the pitch. A player with a slower bat speed can still square up a ball.

Players who are squaring up a lot of pitches: Reynolds (27.8% of swings), Hayes (26.6%)

Players who are not squaring up many pitches: Taylor (16.7% of swings), Suwinski (20.3%)

Blasts: A blasted swing is one that is squared up and has a fast swing.

Players with a lot of Blasts: Cruz (17.7% of swings, 10th in MLB), Tellez (15.3%, 24th)

Players without a lot Blasts: Taylor (6.7% of swings, 23rd lowest in MLB), Triolo (7.6%, 37th)

The old adage is that a swinging bat is a dangerous bat. Now we are learning more about those swings, so we should continue to glean more as the year progresses.