Yesterday saw the release of a new metric in Major League Baseball. Well, it was actually quite a few new metrics, but all are related to the tracking data of a hitters bat. Bat speed, swing length, and more can now be viewed over at Baseball Savant. The good news is that Elly De La Cruz has fairly elite bat speed. You probably aren’t surprised by that. The bad news is that as of today, the Cincinnati Reds as a team do not.

Let’s start off by talking a little bit about what bat speed tells us. Like just about every other stat out there – it does provide us with some good information that can be quite useful. But like every other stat out there, on it’s own it simply doesn’t have enough information in order to give us a full picture. We need a lot of outside information to give that stat fuller meaning. It’s a piece to the puzzle, perhaps even a big piece, but it’s not the full picture.

To put that point into perspective, let’s talk about the two players who are the biggest outliers among the players there’s enough bat speed data on to be included in the leaderboards. The player with the slowest average bat speed in baseball is Luis Arraez. His average bat speed is a full two miles per hour slower than anyone else. On the other end of the spectrum is Giancarlo Stanton. His average bat speed is 2.9 miles per hour faster than the next closest player.

Those two guys are very different hitters. Arraez is probably the best hitter for batting average in the game for a while now. Since he made his debut in 2019 he’s hit .324 and won two batting titles. What he doesn’t do it hit for much power – he has 24 career home runs in 577 career games. He’s still a well above-average hitter, though, because that high batting average carries his lower walk rate and lower power output to higher levels than a normal hitter who isn’t hitting .320+.

Giancarlo Stanton is known for a few things, but the biggest one is his power. He’s hit 410 career home runs in his 15-year career. Back in 2017 he hit 59 of them with the Marlins that helped him edge out Joey Votto in the MVP voting by two points. But another thing that Stanton is known for is a lot of strikeouts. He’s routinely among the league leaders in that category.

It’s important to understand that players who are extreme outliers do not make the exception the rule. And these two guys are extreme outliers but did feel like they were both worth talking about.

Getting to the Cincinnati Reds, let’s talk about where their six qualified players ranks. Baseball Savant has data listed for 220 players this season. That’s a little over seven players per team – or basically your sort-of every day players in the league this year. It’s also worth noting that they are only counting “competitive swings” here. The major league average bat speed on such swings is currently at 71.4 MPH. From this article explaining the new stats, it’s noted that “two-thirds (of swings) are between 68-77 MPH.”

Two of the Reds regulars have an above-average bat speed so far this season. Elly De La Cruz and Will Benson. De La Cruz is averaging 75 MPH on his swings this season, which ranks 23rd. That puts him in the 89th percentile of players in the game. Benson is at 72.1 MPH on his swings, which ranks 99th and has him in the 55th percentile.

The other qualified Reds are all below-average. Christian Encarnacion-Strand and Spencer Steer are at 71.3 and 71.2 MPH and rank 120th and 125th. Jonathan India is at 70.8 MPH and is ranked 150th. Jeimer Candelario is at 68.6 MPH and that ranks 196th and puts him at the bottom of the list among Cincinnati’s hitters that we’ve got data on.

Here’s how the hitters on the team stack up who aren’t qualified for the leaderboards – and I will note that because they have fewer swings to work with that things could change more quickly for them than the others when looking at this data down the line:

  • Tyler Stephenson – 71.1 MPH
  • Jake Fraley – 71.0 MPH
  • Stuart Fairchild -71.0 MPH
  • Nick Martini – 69.3 MPH
  • Santiago Espinal – 67.7 MPH
  • Luke Maile – 67.6 MPH

Not every hitter is swinging as hard as they can with each pitch. And that makes sense, too, because not everyone has the same approach. But perhaps more importantly, not everyone is seeing the same pitches. You’ve got to always be ready for the fastball because you can’t decide to speed up your swing once you start it. But you can slow your swing down a little bit for secondary offerings and not everyone is getting the same kind of distribution of pitches.Β  One addition to the leaderboard is how often a player is swinging the bat at least 75 miles per hour. Among the Reds, Elly De La Cruz is still well ahead of everyone else.

But there’s more fun stuff to look into. They’ve also got a “squared up” stat. If you want to read a detailed version of what the data behind this stat is, you can here, but basically it’s estimating how good the exit velocity of a batted ball is compared to the best possible outcome it could have been based on the swing and the pitch velocity. Anything over 80% can only occur (at least according to them) on the sweet spot of the bat and is considered “squared up”.

This metric can be important, too. The leader in squared up? Luis Arraez at 43.5%. The league average “squared up” rate is just under 26%. There seems to be a correlation between slower bats and more “squared up” batted balls. But with that, there is some trade off with the overall exit velocity because the baseline with a lowered bat speed drops that down.

With the data for the individual players out of the way, here’s how the Reds as a team stack up.

The Reds average bat speed of 70.8 MPH ranks 24th in baseball. Atlanta stands out from the crowd at 73.2 MPH at the top of the list. When it comes to a team’s “fast swing” rate, the Reds are down at 29th in baseball – only ahead of the Chicago White Sox.

Overall, the Reds bats are slow. And they don’t swing fast very often, either. But they are also missing Matt McLain and Noelvi Marte from their lineup and that could potentially help the overall team bat speed if they have it (we don’t really know since they haven’t played this year).

More Reading on Bat Speed

Eno Sarris of The Athletic looked at some of this stuff this morning. He talked to coaches around the league about it. He spoke with players about it. And there’s also some talk about how the chase of increased bat speed may be leading to more injuries, too. You need a subscription to read the article, but if you’ve got it, it’s worth checking out.

If you want to check out the leaderboards and dive deeper into all of the data, here’s where you can go to check it out.

50 Responses

  1. RedBB

    Reds offense is BAD. And there are no more reinforcements coming back. McLain’s interview recently suggests he won’t be back until September.

    Marte will be back in the 2nd half but who knows how much he will or won’t contribute.

    I don’t see anyone in the minors that has shown they are ready to contribute this year.

    Reds need to make an offensive move soon or we may be so far out that it will be time to sell.

  2. Rednat

    Interesting stat Doug. Id be curious to see how the old time greats like Mantle and Mays would stack up to todays players as far as bat speed

    • Doug Gray

      I would imagine that both would be among the best in their era, but probably slower than some of the top guys today. Part of that is that those guys used heavier bats. Easier to get away with that when the velocity in the league at the time was what it was – can’t do that as easily today. But just like all athletic endeavors – training methods are simply better today. That said, it’s not likely those guys were like sub 70 MPH guys – they’d fit in with guys today, they just wouldn’t likely be rivaling Giancarlo Stanton on this kind of chart.

  3. Rut

    Not sure how applicable avg bat speed is to my evaluation of a player.

    But top speed bat speed does seem like a valuable metric — guy either can whip it or not.

    Maybe I am too old fashioned, but don’t want to hold it against a player who chokes up and slows bat with 2 strikes if he is trying to put ball in play or hit to opposite side of the field.

    Fast bat that misses ball just makes wind, or something along those lines.

    • Doug Gray

      Here’s the thing – you aren’t getting to the big leagues without having enough bat speed. You just aren’t going to be able to do one of two things enough to make it matter – make contact with today’s velocity or hit the ball hard enough to hit for enough average (because you won’t be hitting for enough power without the bat speed).

      So when talking about bat speed of big leaguers, there is so much “survivor bias” built in that it’s not funny.

      Your point about the top bat speed for each player will be interesting to follow. Maybe it’s much like exit velocity. The average exit velo for a player is not nearly as valuable as their top 20 or 10% of exit velocities (this may not apply to a guy like Arraez, but does to just about everyone else alive).

      And you’re right – the fast bat that misses the ball….. it doesn’t matter. As I said, and it seems you agree – it’s just a part of the puzzle. Bat path matters (there’s a minor league player in the organization with a very quick bat who has the longest bat path, but also a huge uppercut and couldn’t make contact if you were pitching to him). Pitch recognition matters. Swing decisions matter (think Brandon Phillips here – who could make tons of contact out of the zone, but he didn’t ever do damage on those pitches, but when he swung at pitches in the zone he would make tons of contact to, and crushed those pitches).

      It’ll be fun to see what comes out of this data over the next decade in terms of some of the things we can learn and what matters more than other things within it all.

      • DW

        Maybe you left the name of that minor leaguer out for a reason…but I am curious to know who it is. I have a few guesses.

      • Doug Gray

        I did leave it out for a reason. He doesn’t need thrown under the bus for me to make the point I was going for.

      • DW

        I’d be surprised if it is Hinds, as he has shown the ability to hit plenty well enough to not merit that comment.

        And to respect what Doug said, I don’t think we need to push him on who it is.

      • doofus

        DW, your condescension is noted.

        I really do not care who the player is. I wrote down Rece’s name when it popped into my head after reading Doug’s comment.

        And, I do not believe that Hinds “…has shown the ability to hit plenty well enough…” as you have stated.

        Have a nice day.

      • Doug Gray

        I mean last season Rece Hinds had an .866 OPS in Double-A as a 22-year-old…. he hit plenty well enough.

        But also, it isn’t Hinds.

  4. Melvin

    “Like just about every other stat out there – it does provide us with some good information that can be quite useful. But like every other stat out there, on it’s own it simply doesn’t have enough information in order to give us a full picture.”

    I agree. Another great stat that’s just one piece of the puzzle. I’d love to have a guy like Arraez. The best thing about him is that he doesn’t go into prolonged slumps like most of our guys are in. I guy who can hit like that can usually add power anyway especially playing in GABP. It’s hard to trust Rose about anything he says lol but he’s probably right when he says he could have hit 30 HRs in GABP. Wish we had Arraez and more like him to balance our lineup. He may not hit a lot of HRs but who cares. Too bad we couldn’t have traded for him. πŸ˜‰

  5. Daytonnati

    Is Elly’s bat speed the same from both sides or is this a composite or average? One wonders what “peak” Votto was? Ted Williams?

    • Doug Gray

      So Elly’s at 76.1 from the left side and 73.4 from the right side.

  6. Jim Walker

    I followed the link at the end of Doug’s post and eventually ended up here
    https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/leaderboard/bat-tracking

    This is an x/y axis graph of qualifying players with bat speed on the x-axis and squared up % y-axis (if I recall my math correctly).

    As one would expect there is a huge scrum at the intersection of average speed and squared % and nearly all qualifying players are within (+/-) 3MPH of average and (+/-) 4% range on % squared.

    However, as we move away from this range the preponderance of players with slower than average bat speed have a greater squared % than average while the bulk of players with higher bat speed have a lower than average % squared. Then there are the outliers like Juan Soto, Ohtani, Yordan Alvarez, and Bobby Witt Jr who are clearly above on both πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

    • Jim Walker

      Mookie Betts and Juan Soto have virtually the same squared % (39-40%) but Soto’s average bat speed (fastest on the chart) is about 7mph faster (76+/~69). Betts squared % is 2nd only to Luis Arraez (~44%) whose bat speed at about 63mph is the lowest on the chart.

      • Doug Gray

        It is worth noting, though, that we shouldn’t exactly be trying to compare “square rates” to other players. Given the difference in bat speed, a squared ball for Arraez may not be a squared ball for half of the hitters in the league even if it’s got the exact same exit velo because Arraez is swinging at a much lower speed. Obviously he’s at the extreme here as the slowest swing in the game, but I did want to be sure to point it out.

      • Jim Walker

        I agree. Seeing the relationship of Arreaz, Betts, and Soto brought to my mind that there are multiple ways to effectively husk an ear of corn πŸ˜‰

      • Doug Gray

        Here’s how you husk corn: Throw it in the trash!

        Kidding. Sort of. I do not like corn. But I’ll accept that byproducts of corn can be very useful.

      • Doug Gray

        *Stands and applauds for doofus*

  7. LDS

    Interesting article. I’ll have to find some time to read the rest of the stories behind the story. Let’s see if the Reds can improve that stat via trades. Jason Williams’ article in the Enquirer sure makes it sound like Krall is looking and CES and India are on the block. He suggests that India doesn’t fit the Reds’ plans and somewhat suggests that with CES, there’s no there there.

    • Melvin

      India no problem. CES he’d better get a great return. I’m real uncomfortable about trading him.

    • DaveCT

      I can see it to a certain degree with CES (of whom I am a big fan). The criticism is he swings at way too many pitches out of the zone, with the thought he cannot get away with that as much as in the minors. Providing the club is allowing CES to develop at the major league level, and not really seeing any improvement, there might be some there there. I would add that it’s far too early to make that decision, but not if his name is being floated in a package for a significant offensive upgrade, i.e., Luis Robert.

      The other factor is the upcoming draft and a certain number two pick, where a corner infielder with big offensive numbers may be available. I don’t think it reflects our cohort of prospective 1B in the minors, as Collier/Stewart at far away from the show, unless Ford and Candelario are holding the position until 25/26 when help arrives.

    • Harry Stoner

      So what is an underperforming, average at best defensive 2B playing out of position along with an injured, underperforming 1B going to get you by way of a major upgrade in hitting that’s somehow going to turn things around?

      Wondering what it was about CES’s production last year that can’t satisfy the RLN unsatisfiable?

      Apparently, he’s been playing with an injured wrist for how long?

      “Trader Krall” provoked by the hounds is a scary proposition.

      • Jim Walker

        +1000. And I thought the last game CES played before going onto the IL was one of the best defensive 1B games I recall seeing by a Reds 1B since I don’t recall when (quick qualifier> Votto did play some decent to at times very good defense in his mid career era when he was among the best throw pickers and fielded decently but never got the throw to 2B to start a possible DP consistently figured out).

  8. DaveCT

    One of the biggest surprises I had this season when seeing Candelario more consistently was thinking his bat was slow. And here we are.

    Also, Doug, in scouting reports it is sometimes mentioned how long a batter can keep his bat in the strike zone, framed as a positive, as it leads to barreling the ball better.

    And, if so, a player can still have a slower bat speed, keeping the bat in the zone longer, barrel the ball better and still have power? Or did the Northern Lights fry my circuitry? Is this Spencer Steer?

    • Doug Gray

      Bat path certainly matters, Dave. The longer it’s in the zone, the better your chances are and that’s all about the bat path.

      I can’t speak to your Northern Lights brain frying. Or not frying if that’s the case.

      As to Steer – I’ll have to dive into that kind of question a bit more down the road when I’ve got more time. I’ve got something fun I’m working on in my “free” time with regards to work for the minor league side of things that’s taking up all of that time right now. That said, it’s not like Steer has a slow bat. He’s pretty much league average when it comes to his average bat speed.

  9. Mike Bittenbender

    Doug, I would guess Marte probably also has good bat speed, but I am curious. Among the minor league guys that are highly thought of, is Collier the guy with the best bat speed? Are they even tracking this down there? Thanks in advance

    • Doug Gray

      So the Reds are absolutely tracking it. But the public isn’t getting that data fed to them like they are for the big leaguers.

      I do not know who has the best bat speed among the minor leaguers, but I’ve got a few guesses who would be in the running.

    • DW

      My money is on Hinds being at the top. Ibarra has got to be up there too.

      • DaveCT

        Marte, Hinds, Collier, HRod all seem to swing a very quick bat. Dunn, too. Almonte down in Lo-A has a very quick bat, IMO, too

        Hurtubise seems to be slow through the zone yet effective, like an Arraez approach. Or, perhaps I should say he keeps the bat in the zone for a longer time, as the expense of power it seems.

        It’s interesting to see the data as compared to the eye test.

      • DW

        Hendricks, probably, too…though with very little positive results.

  10. DataDumpster

    Some players have innate quickness and strength and probably higher bat speeds. Others have innate hand to eye and other fine coordination skills and probably lower bat speeds.
    Likely nothing to see here but many will study it and convince some players to establish unorthodox training regimens that brings on injuries and little else.
    The article was worthwhile just to realize how far down in the weeds the analytics dogma goes.

  11. Daniel Kals

    I once watched a video where an average guy – not a baseball player at all, but relatively young and in shape – decided to see if he could hit a 90 MPH fastball thrown by a pro pitcher. He spent two days training with a batting coach at some facility where they had all these advanced tools and a trainer who actually coaches pro players. It ended with him taking ten swings against a pitcher throwing 90+. I believe in the grand finale, he was able to hit a decent foul ball on 1 of the 10 pitches.

    ANYWAY… the thing I remember most about the advice the swing coach gave the guy was, after the guy’s first few practice attempts on Day 1 of training, he was simply not swinging hard enough. The coach told him he needed to swing that thing like a weapon. I think most of us non-players have no idea how hard these guys swing, even someone like Candelario. My guess is any of us non-players who’d get in for our first attempt would swing woefully slowly, thinking we were swinging fast. Not sure what my point is except… hitting is hard.

    • JB

      Hitting is hard and failing 7 out of 10 times is a success.

  12. doofus

    Doug, this was a nice read. Thank you!

  13. Jim Walker

    I am sure Doug is working this and will have a complete report soon but it is breaking on X right now that TJ Friedl is back on the DL this time with a broken *left* thumb that may or may not also involve his wrist. Previous was *right* wrist.

    Jacob Hurtubise has been recalled to fill the roster spot

    • Jim Walker

      Back on IL. I’m stuck in the past I guess calling it DL.

    • Doug Gray

      Yeah….. I was outside watering the plans and hanging out with the pupper before I came in to see the news. Took me a little bit of time, but the post is up now.

  14. Mike W

    Call me old fashioned, but I’d take 9 guys with Arraez’s bat speed AND batting average and like my odds against any team in a 7 game series β€” like the World Series.

    • Doug Gray

      Problem is there’s only like one guy like Arraez currently playing. He’s a unicorn.

  15. JB

    We are all different in what type of players we want but I’ve always wanted guys like Arreaz who gets on and hits .320. Don’t care how slow his bat is if he can hit like that. Tony Gwynn types that just spray the ball all over.

    • Melvin

      If we did have more like him we wouldn’t go a whole playoff series without scoring a single run that’s for sure. πŸ™‚

  16. Mitch

    Miles per house. That’s a new one!