The major league baseball season is currently underway, which means all the nerds who call themselves sports fans come out of the woodwork to analyze numbers and make large claims about players. We’ll start with my favorite team; the Minnesota Twins, (yes, they do exist.) The Twins had an absolutely horrendous year last year where they looked more like a bowling team than a professional baseball team, they finished dead last and now have the chance to draft a guy out of highschool who can throw 102 and has already made the cover of Sports Illustrated. But the article about that guy is for a later time, for now I want to talk about Miguel Sano. Miguel Sano is the Twins third baseman who sits at 6 foot 4 weighing 260 pounds, one of the many mistakes for the Twins last year was forcing this mammoth of a man to play in the outfield so they could play the constantly average Trevor Plouffe at third. Plouffe is gone this year and the people who made that decision have been subsequently canned. So now Sano is back at third and he has been crushing the ball so far this year.
Sano has had a rollercoaster of a career, needing elbow surgery in the minors and then skipping AAA entirely, Sano made a splash in 2015 where he hit 18 homers in limited time and garnered hype as the next big thing. As mentioned before, the team made him move positions and last year he was plagued by injuries and didn’t play at the same level of his rookie year. This year, Sano has looked more like the player the Twins expected. As of May 5th, he leads all of the American League with 27 RBIs (runs batted in) and has been a living nightmare for opposing pitchers. Now I’m a huge fan of advanced stats, so I’m going to rattle off some stats, but I’ll try to describe them so it doesn’t look like I’m speaking a different language. One of the stats I like looking at is exit velocity off the bat, basically how often is a ball being hit well, somewhat well, and not well, Fangraphs labels these as soft hit%, medium hit%, and hard hit%, confusing I know. Anyways, Sano this year is sitting at a 55.1% hard hit%, good for second in baseball behind Nick Castellanos (maybe I should write an article about him, whatever) and his soft hit% is 2, no I didn’t forget another number, the amount of times Sano has hit a ball poorly is 1 in 50. That number is so insanely low that I can’t actually properly describe how low that is, the next lowest is Jay Bruce at 4.9%. Exit velocities started being tracked in the early 2000’s, and as far as I can tell, 2 would be the lowest single season number ever, and that includes part of the steroid era for baseball. Along with these numbers, Statcast allows us to track the average exit velocity off the bat, and Sano’s average exit velocity is 100.1 MPH. As you could probably guess, that is the best in baseball with 2nd place going to Khris Davis and his 97.3 MPH average.
“Ok” you say, “but is there something this guy is bad at?” Very astute question, I would respond with, yes indeed, Sano is currently striking out in 32.7% of his at bats (actually lower than his career rate but that’s not important.) That rate is currently the 9th highest in all of baseball, however in this day and age of MLB baseball, high strikeout rates have become more accepted as the trade-off is generally homeruns hit by that player. However Sano uses strikeouts as more of an art form, unfortunately I don’t have the exact numbers that I want because I found something so specific that a sport known for its specific stats doesn’t even have it, but Sano in his career has ended a plate appearance with a full count (3 balls 2 strikes) more than any other count in his career. Sano’s ability to make pitcher’s throw a lot of pitches works to his advantage regardless of whether he strikes out or not, he doesn’t care, he just made you throw 8 pitches to finally get him out and now you’re more tired than he is and he’ll just go crush you in his next at-bat.
By Matt Braun