TrackMan Tidbits From The AFL
TrackMan collects some of the most fascinating data in baseball. Founded in Denmark in 2003 to evaluate golf swings, the company has a U.S. subsidiary that began measuring baseball attributes five years later. Using a 3D radar system, TrackMan monitors traditional variables such as fastball velocity and non-traditionals ones such as the RPM on pitches.
During the Arizona Fall League’s regular season, TrackMan was on hand for all of the action in Surprise and most of it in Glendale, giving it data for a little less than half of the games. Here’s a quick review of the top performances that TrackMan recorded in the AFL this fall:
Fastball Velocity: Ken Giles (Phillies) had the quickest single pitch at 101.0 mph, while Juan Jaime (Braves) had the best average at 98.6 mph. Among starting pitchers, Kyle Crick (Giants) had the highest peak velocity at 99.2 mph, with Alex Meyer (Twins) recording the top average at 96.5 mph.
Fastball Extension: This measures how far in front of the rubber a pitcher release his fastball, with Major Leaguers averaging 6 feet, 1 inch. The closer a pitcher unleashes his fastball to the plate, the quicker it gets there and the more likely he is to get swings and misses.
Michael Roth (Angels) is the leader here at a phenomenal 7 feet, 5 inches. That gives his typical fastball, which averages 85.7 mph, an effective velocity of 87.9 mph. This helps explain Roth’s success despite mediocre pure stuff. He won two College World Series at South Carolina, nearly won a third and reached the big leaguers after just 27 innings in the Minors.
Fastball Spin: Fastballs with more spin generates more swinging strikes, while those with less spin yield more groundballs. The harder the fastball, the more spin it generates. The typical big league fastball is clocked at 92 mph and has 2,210 RPM, while a 95-mph fastball averages 2,263 RPM.
Jason Adam (Royals) had the most fastball spin in the AFL, averaging 2,611 RPM and 93 mph. Among the league’s hardest throwers, Giles had the most spin with 2,553 RPM (fourth overall) on his 98-mph heater.
Breaking Ball Spin: Curveballs and sliders with more spin feature more break and are harder to hit. The typical Major League curveball is 76 mph with 2,400 RPM. In the AFL, Brandon Maurer (Mariners) had the highest average spin on his curve, 3,142 RPM on a 75-mph breaker.
Among power curves, Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays) stood out the most with 2,912 RPM (third overall) on an 81-mph bender. Sanchez was the best starting pitching prospect in the AFL, and I have some observations from his final outing here.
As for sliders, the Major League averages are 84 mph and 2,300 RPM. Jonas Dufek (Astros) had the highest AFL average with 2,997 RPM on an 81-mph slider. Among those with above-average velocity, Carson Smith (Mariners) led the way with 2,801 RPM (third overall) on an 85-mph slider.
Hardest Hits: TrackMan measures not just the velocity of each pitch, but also the velocity at which it comes off a player’s bat. More exit velocity means a greater likelihood for a hit. In the big leagues, an exit velocity of 80 mph yields a .242 batting average, compared to a .369 average at 95 mph and a .751 average at 110 mph or more.
The hardest-hit ball in the AFL belonged to Steven Souza (Nationals), who smoked a double at 115 mph. Of the top 25 exit velocities, only one player showed up three times. Travis Shaw (Red Sox) had a 114.8 mph double (second overall), a 109.5 mph single and a 109.4 mph double.
Scouts consider Kris Bryant (Cubs), the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, the best college power hitter to come along in years. It’s no surprise then that he had the highest percentage of hard contact (hits leaving the bat at 95 mph or faster). Bryant made hard contact in 68% of his 19 at-bats — and he also topped the AFL with six homers and a .727 slugging percentage.
Power Contacts: In addition to exit velocity, TrackMan also monitors the angle at which the ball leaves the bat, combining the two to determine which drives are most likely to be home runs. They’ve found that 93 percent of all fair balls hit at 105-110 mph at an angle of 25-35 degrees become homers.
The best power contact belonged to Stefen Romero (Mariners), who blasted a ball 110 mph at 32 degrees that indeed went over the fence. Only two hitters made the top 20 list more than once: Bryant at 109 mph/30 degrees (second overall, a homer) and 107 mph/37 degree (the highest-ranking out) and Shaw at 108 mph/28 degrees and 106 mph/34 degrees (both homers).
Home Run Distance: Peter O’Brien (Yankees) smashed the longest home run recorded by TrackMan, a 455-foot blast that left his bat at 109 mph. He also hit a 429-foot longball, making him one of two players to top 420 feet multiple times.
Ryan Rua (Rangers) accomplished that feat three times, with drives of 432, 427 and 426 feet. He also showed off his power during the regular season, smoking 32 homers in his first shot at full-season ball.