MLB: Byron Buxton Leads the 2016 Statcast Superstars
MLB released their top performers via Statcast on Monday, headlined by Twins outfielder Byron Buxton.
MLB.com’s Mike Petriello released an excellent “All-Statcast” team article on Monday, and it highlighted how awesome and fun the new breadth of information being publicly available to the average fan is.
Statcast is something that has been (and is) available to teams for some time, and there is still plenty that we as fans don’t have access to, but the amount of information being released on launch angle, peak velocity, etc. is tremendously intriguing.
Kings of the Barrel
We’ll start with the big boppers.
First in barreling up the ball, and someday possibly your first unanimous Hall of Famer, Miguel Cabrera. Seriously, the guy was in his 14th major league season in 2016, yet he wasn’t fading off into the sunset by any means. In fact, his numbers on the season were essentially a mirror of his overall career numbers as Cabrera surpassed 2,500 hits and 1,500 RBI for his career in the 2016 season.
What caught the attention of everyone watching this season was just how he does it every year. Players get a much better hit when they get the barrel of the bat on the ball. That is a fairly well known fact. Cabrera did that more than anyone this season, in fact, by a decent amount, as he finished with 72 barrels this season. The #2 hitter was Nelson Cruz with 68.
While Cabrera had the best total number of barrels, a guy bursting on the scene led the league in the amount of barrels per plate appearance. Khris Davis barreled 10.7 percent of all plate appearances, while Cabrera was a fairly close second in that stat, finishing at 10.6 percent.
While not a barrel specific stat, along the same lines typically is the leader in average home run distance on the season. As has been the case before the system went public, the leader in that average across the league was a member of the Colorado Rockies. Carlos Gonzalez took the mark this year, averaging an impressive 427 feet per home run.
Spin Rate Leaders
Justin Verlander’s fiance has been getting the publicity of late, but it was due to his resurgent year that the baseball community took notice of Justin Verlander again.
In rate of spin on pitches, most remember Seth Lugo’s curveball that ended up breaking a Statcast record for the amount of spin on a pitch, but we’re talking about fastball spin here.
Verlander was the leader among starters in rpm on his fastball, reaching a ridiculous 2,565 rpm when the league average was 2,264. That allowed Verlander to get up in the zone with plenty of swinging strikes.
However, Verlander wasn’t the guy who truly led the league overall. He finished third. Andrew Bailey finished first, but he struggled to find the strike zone.
The real star of spin in 2016 was Cubs reliever C.J. Edwards. His high velocity stuff kept hitters to a batting average that was roughly half of the Mendoza line. He finished with a spin rate of 2,659 rpm, nearly 100 rpm MORE spin than Verlander!
Velocity Leaders from the Field
So while the big arms in the rotation were tremendous, even more impressive were some of the arms around the field.
Jackie Bradley, Jr. had the most 100 MPH throws in the field with four 100+ MPH throws from the outfield in the regular season and two in the postseason, but his average outfield throw still didn’t top Starling Marte‘s 97.
Bringing it into the infield brought two different views into play. At shortstop, you have Danny Espinosa who out-paced all shortstops significantly in his velocity from his position. Espinosa’s throws from short averaged 91 MPH on the season. Second place on the season was Didi Gregorius, whose average was 88.6 MPH, so that tells you just how incredible Espinosa was compared to the field.
Of course, Espinosa also brought a sub-.700 OPS to the plate as well, so he needed to be outstanding in the field to hold any value. Nolan Arenado, on the other hand, could get overlooked for his defensive prowess because of the incredible amount of value his bat brings.
While Arenado didn’t have the top throw of the year from third base, he did have three of the top five at the position on the year and ran away with the best average velocity at the position, launching balls across the diamond at an average 87.7 MPH velocity while his next-closest competitor, Manny Machado, came in over 1.5 MPH slower at 86.
However, in all of these statistics (and more outside the article if you dig into the Statcast leaderboards on MLB.com, which I’d recommend for some fun number exploration) one player stood out above all the rest.
Buxton Rules Them All
When Byron Buxton struggled in the first half of 2016 offensively, many began to write columns and articles on how the once-hyped prospect was really going to end up being a flame-out, a bust, a never-has-been.
What was missed over and over this season was that Buxton was flashing otherworldly speed – stealing bases, out of the box, in the field. He then took time down in the minors, came back in September, and he made the pitchers he faced in the month wish he’d have spent the rest of the year in AAA as he crushed balls in September.
More from Call to the Pen
The tough part with this is exactly where to begin. Let’s start from the end, and we’ll go in reverse. On October 2, Buxton launched a ball into right-center field against the White Sox. 14.05 seconds later, Buxton crossed home plate with an inside-the-park home run and the fastest home-to-home time ever in Statcast history!
Buxton also had the fastest home-to-third time as well. However, he didn’t just have the fastest time… he had the FOUR fastest times! He also had six of the 10 fastest times.
Among right-handed hitters, Buxton had the nine fastest times from home to second base. That’s not a misprint. The NINE fastest times posted by a righty to get to second were by Buxton. Let that sink in…
That doesn’t even take into effect any of his defensive runs, which were some of the fastest max speeds achieved in the outfield on the season, longest distance covered in the outfield, and had one of the fastest first steps of outfielders.
To close out, here’s some Buxton speed porn… enjoy!