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  • Posted on
  • By Carl Lemelin
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From Luis Arraez to Giancarlo Stanton, and everyone in between, Bat Tracking will provide us with the missing tools to paint a more complete picture of a hitter's performance in the batter's box.


Before I get into the heart of the matter of this blog, let me introduce you to the new kid on the block in the Baseball Town family of MLB news sources. We now have a YouTube channel dedicated to MLB topics of all kinds.

This new podcast is called 3Up 3Down. Every weekday, our new MLB vlogger Peter Vryonis will address an MLB hot topic with in-depth analysis and hot takes.

Peter worked at TSN690 radio (Montreal) for a couple of years, where he was a baseball analyst. Our new collaborator also hosts a Blue Jays podcast called Jays Digest on YouTube.

Whenever a blog like this one is posted, we will make it a point to further discuss the topic on the channel. Who knows, maybe occasionally yours truly will make an appearance to weigh in.

Follow this link to find this great new feature!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog.


Have you heard the news? MLB has just launched its latest Statcast era jewel, and it’s a doozy!

Up to this point, all offensive Statcast features measured things that happen after the ball is hit – exit velocity, launch angle, distance, and sprint speed. Those gave us invaluable information about the hitter’s success rate on batted balls but did very little to give insight into the mechanical adjustments that could help improve those results – or explain why a player struggles.

Enter Bat Tracking, and the analytics it has spawned.

We can now make a deep dive into the path and speed of the bat’s trajectory before it contacts the ball. That means we can then combine this pre-contact data with the existing Statcast post-contact data, other advanced analytics data, and conventional stats to paint a clear and complete picture of a hitter’s strengths and flaws.

So, what exactly does Bat Tracking track? Swing speed and swing length.

Swing speed is so key to determining a player’s swing efficiency. Yes, we already had exit velocity to tell us how hard a ball was hit, but we couldn’t tell if a poorly hit ball was due to a lack of bat speed or to a poor contact (either poor timing or off-barrel contact).

Now, by correlating bat speed with exit velocity, we can make that determination.

As for swing length, it is more telling of the hitter’s style. A player with a longer swing usually generates more power, but less barrel control in the zone. It can give a player and his hitting instructor clues as to why a hitter is or isn’t efficient in creating contact that is conducive to success.

*StatCast stats are as of May 18th; Standard stats are as of May 23rd.



Yes, Statcast data offers cool insights into the mechanics of the game we love, but only when the data is put into context – by comparing and combining the right stats together – do interesting revelations emerge.

That’s what many media outlets have already started doing with this new just-out-of-the-wrapper tool from MLB. Baseball Savant, MLB’s advanced analytics website, has created new statistical categories based on Bat Tracking.

1. Fast-Swing Rate: On average, about one-quarter of an MLB ballplayer’s swings are considered ‘fast’ (producing a bat speed of 75 mph or greater). Faster swings tend to yield better results.

2. Squared-Up Rate: This metric differentiates between power hitters and contact hitters with power. A ‘squared-up’ swing occurs when the batter attains at least 80% of the maximum projected exit velocity based on swing and pitch speed. On average, MLB players square-up approximately a quarter (25%) of their swings.

3. Blasts: A swing that is both fast and squared-up. These swings often result in significantly higher batting averages. On average, roughly 14% of an MLB player’s contacts and 11% of competitive swings are considered blasts.

4. Swords: Swings that are considered non-competitive. These are swings that result in a hitter being completely overmatched by a pitch (when it looks like he is wielding a ‘sword’ rather than swinging a bat). Swing speed barely registers.

This brings in a whole new world of possibilities for observers and professionals alike to analyse players’ swings and performances at the plate. It also puts a definitive number on many questions we could previously only answer by guessing upon subjective observations.

Who swings the hardest? Who has the lowest swing speed? Who has the most efficient swing? Who has the longest/shortest swing? Who gets fooled most often?

Then, when we go to the next level, Bat Tracking helps better understand the source of a player’s – or a team’s – success or lack there of.

Why is the Toronto Blue Jays offense struggling so much this season? As it turns out, they are posting the lowest team average swing speed in the majors this season, at 70 mph. For reference, the Atlanta Braves top the list at 73 mph.

Both ends of the scale for player rankings are occupied by exactly who the old eye-test would have put there. Number one is former NL MVP and current Yankee Giancarlo Stanton with an astounding 80 mph average bat speed! Last on the list is 2023 NL batting champion Luis Arraez at 62.4 mph.

But guess who tops the squared-up swings rate rankings? That’s right, Luis Arraez. The diminutive Padres’ infielder may not swing a naturally powerful bat, but he gets the most out of his swings because he often makes contact, and because he centers the ball on the barrel more regularly than any other hitter.

Arraez’ squared-up swings rate is 43,7%. That’s more than 5% better than the next player on the list (Mookie Betts, at 38.4%). Considering that the separation between players on the rest of the list is within 1%, this reveals the incredible degree of domination Arraez displays in this category that is a true measure of barrel control.

What about when we combine swing speed and bat control? The Blasts rate on total swings ranking has produced a surprise leader. If your guess was Juan Soto, Shohei Ohtani or Aaron Judge, you got numbers 2, 3, and 4 on the list.

2024’s best slugger on the brand-new Blasts list is none other than Milwaukee Brewers’ catcher William Contreras, who crushes the ball on roughly one quarter (24%) of the swings he takes. That is a flabbergasting number that explains his unprecedented success at the plate this season, slashing .345/.411/.529.

What can swing length tell us? A lot about swing efficiency. We all know that players who are short to the ball have a better chance at making contact and finding barrel.

But analytics have also confirmed the importance of power in creating offense. The question is: does a powerful swing necessarily have to be a long swing?

Bat Tracking data reveals that although many players with longer swings do create high bat speeds, a few very successful hitters are able to create elite bat speed using a very compact swing.

Bobby Witt Jr, the Kansas City Royals young phenom many see as a perennial MVP candidate for years to come, is the prime example of swing efficiency. His swing path measures a very short 7.0 feet (MLB average is 7.3 ft), but his average swing speed of 75.1 mph ranks 21st.

Other such examples are last year’s NL Rookie of the Year Corbin Carrol of the Arizona D-Backs (7.1 ft swing length, 74.1 swing speed), Colton Cowser of the Baltimore Orioles (7.0, 74.3), and last year’s surprise all-star catcher Elias Dias of the Colorado Rockies (7.0, 73.6).

Once again, the eye-test is confirmed here, as we find out that the player with the longest swing is Javier Baez (8.6 ft), the Detroit Tigers’ failed free agent signing from 2022. Baez is the best proof we have that unless a player is supremely talented (i.e. Juan Soto), a long swing isn’t the ideal way to make consistent hard contact.

Guess who has the majors’ shortest swing at a puny 5.9 ft? That’s right, Luis Arraez, him again.



What about those star players who show up well in Bat Tracking metrics, but have struggled in this season’s first quarter? Since we are told that a good Blasts rate correlates to more success at the plate, how do we explain that some of the game’s big names have failed to produce up to their usual standards in 2024?

That’s when we must investigate the player’s statistical profile in more detail. Logically, if a player is regularly swinging fast (74 mph+) and attaining 80% of expected exit velocity or better (Blast) on many more swings than the average hitter, there can only be two possible reasons for below standard offensive production:

  • Plain bad luck due to a limited sample size
  • A significant drop in launch angle or barrel rate, which translates to more outs, regardless of bat speed or exit velocity

The first is impossible to verify statistically, since it can only be corrected by increasing the sample size (i.e. “Let’s let the rest of the season play out”).

However, the second investigative path is entirely verifiable. Let’s take a closer look at four cornerstone players who are struggling to produce up to the high standards they have set for themselves.

Keep in mind these MLB averages:

  • Swing Speed: around 72 mph
  • Blasts Rate/Swing: around 11%
  • Launch Angle: 12.2 degrees
  • OPS+: 100

Vladimir Guerrero Jr (75.5 avg Swing Speed/14.2 Blast%/swing): The Blue Jays’ offensive woes are well documented, and their perennial MVP candidate is getting the bulk of the blame. His 120 OPS+ proves that he is an above average offensive contributor, but MVP candidates should be above the 170 OPS+ mark. Vlad’s subpar 2024 can be attributed to a much higher ground-out to air-out ratio (1.36) than his career average (1.23), and to a very low average launch angle (7.4 degrees). He has been showing signs of a resurgence these past few weeks.

Ronald Acuna Jr (76.9/13.9): Last year’s NL MVP seems to have lost al of his considerable power this season, but his Bat Tracking numbers tell us that’s not the case at all. A deeper dive reveals that Acuna’s 99 OPS+ is due to his missing the barrel on way too many occasions (barrel % down to 7.8%, from the 15.3% he achieved in his MPV campaign of 2023), as opposed to diminishing bat speed. Beating the ball on the ground is also a huge factor, as his 1.36 GO/AO attests to (way up from 1.02 in 2023). And now, thanks to a recent season-ending knee injury, we will never know if the phenom would have figured things out.

Julio Rodriguez (76.0/15.0): Many experts were touting Rodriguez as the favorite to win AL MVP this season, citing his otherworldly second half of the 2023 campaign. But a ridiculously low 86 OPS+ has all but squashed that forecast. J-Rod’s GO/AO ratio is stable at an even 1.00, but his barrel % has fallen from 11.9% in 2023 to 8.0%. His 7.4-degree average launch angle does nothing to help matters, as Moneyball taught us that 15 degrees is needed to get the ball over infielders’ heads.

Eloy Jimenez (74.5/18.0): Early returns seem to suggest that Eloy’s 2023 downturn wasn’t just a blip on the radar, but rather a sign that his impressive 2022 numbers (although he played only 84 games due to injury) were the outlier. His 1.44 GO/AO ratio is identical to last season’s, but his low launch angle of 7.3 degrees is down from 8.5 in 2023. All this adds up to a disappointing 90 OPS+ and leaves us to conclude that Jimenez may have been overhyped by pundits upon his arrival in the MLB back in 2019.


I don’t claim to be a biomechanics expert, but these numbers suggest there must be a technical flaw in all these star players’ swings that must be investigated by their teams’ hitting instructors.

Perhaps adjustments were made considering the 4-seamer velocity and spin rate increase by pitchers over the past three years or so, where some players have started to move away from the higher launch angle philosophy that had been all the rage since the advent of the StatCast era.

To me, it seems that these four players have lost nothing of their considerable physical abilities – as proven by Bat Tracking – but do need a technical intervention to improve the lift in their motion. Surely, they generate enough exit velocity that hitting the ball higher more often could only help improve overall production.

This new Bat Tracking technology adds so much to this kind of analysis and can confirm or refute a link between performance and mechanical issues in the swing.

I can’t wait to find out what other analysts come up with using this exciting new tool the MLB has sprung on us.


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