Much has been said in this young season about a player’s hard hit percentage. What exactly does that mean and why does it matter?
St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Shildt was attempting to justify the team having Matt Carpenter in the lineup because he had the highest hard hit percentage on the team.
MLB.com explains that a hard hit is having one hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher. The percentage is the amount of batted balls hit over 95 mph. The reason the 95 mph matters is because that is deemed the exit velocity where the hit matters. When the batter hits at an exit velocity of 50 to 75 mph, it’s seen as merely a weak hit ball. A ball hit at 95 mph is seen as having the potential for “true production.”
Matt Carpenter does lead the team in hard-hit percentage with 60.9, according to Statcast on Baseball Savant. He does have an average exit velocity of 95.1 mph.
As Shildt noted, this sounds great. Carpenter should have amazing numbers. An actual batting average of .075, a wOBA of .182, one home run and a wRC+ of 16 is far from amazing though.
The next-highest Cardinal in terms of hard percentage is Paul Goldschmidt. Goldy’s hard-hit rate is 52.3 and he has an average exit velocity of 91.4 mph. He has a .230 batting average with a wOBA of .268 and a wRC+ of just 71. Even with his two home runs, Goldy has had a slow start. You may recall, Goldy did not play in the Cards home opener due to lower back tightness.
Tyler O’Neill and Justin Williams are next in hard-hit rate with 50 percent each. O’Neill’s exit velocity averages at 94.1 mph while Williams averages at 92.2 mph. O’Neill’s batting average is .158 while Williams has a batting average of .182. O’Neill has three homers and a wRC+ of 70. Williams has two homers and a wRC+ of 61.
One of Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak’s favorite adages in discussing what’s wrong with Carpenter has been to use the phrase, “Daddy always said to hit ’em where they ain’t.” In Carpenter’s case, this is so true. Having a high hard hit percentage means absolutely nothing if you are not able to hit the ball away from fielders.
Even with Goldy, O’Neill, and Williams, they are hitting the ball hard when they do get hits. In their cases, they have been a little luckier in getting substantial hits.
Yadier Molina has the highest batting average on the team. He has a batting average of .323 and a wOBA of .420. He has a hard hit percentage of 41.2% and an average exit velocity of 89.8. Molina’s +wRC is 169. He has five homers.
Molina has a real knack for hitting the balls “where they ain’t.” Molina’s batted ball profile shows that he pulls the ball 39.2 percent, he hits the ball straight 39.2 percent and he goes opposite filed 21.6 percent. He has had five instances this season where the opposing team has used the shift. With the shift on, Molina has a batting average of .315 and with no shift he’s hitting .428.
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Basically, it doesn’t matter for Yadi. He will hit. And that’s what makes him great.
Unfortunately, Molina landed on the injured list Tuesday due to a strain in the tendon of his right foot. While he will have some time to heal from this injury, teammates should take advantage and sit down with Molina to pick his brain a little.
I hope we see Carpenter, and teammates, try to get some guidance on how to better hit ’em where they ain’t. The deeper we go into the season, the more opportunities to get hits will be essential as other teams figure out trends.
Yadi is such a valuable member of the Cardinals. Getting a little bit of advice from a guy who has been so successful thus far is an easy solution.
Having a high hard hit rate means nothing if you can’t effectively hit the ball away from fielders. It can be a good descriptor for what should have happened for a player, but it isn’t true production. Molina proves that you don’t have to have the highest hard hit percentage on the team to be an effective hitter. Hopefully, Carpenter figures this out before it is too late for him and the Cardinals.