(Photo via AP)
Yoenis Cespedes is really really good at baseball. If you are reading this post, that’s most likely something you already know. At this point, it’s probably fair to say he’s established himself as a top 10 outfielder in all of baseball. It’s also fair to say that Yoenis is not the best player in baseball. In my opinion, he’s definitely the most entertaining, but he’s almost certainly not “the best.”
It’s really hard to be the best at any one thing. Kevin Durant is unfathomably talented at basketball, yet he is not the best. The dude who always finishes second to Usain Bolt is quite possibly one of the best athletes in the world. And even Avril Lavigne, who to her credit has had an incredibly successful career, still comes up short when compared to the grace and brilliance of Kelly Clarkson.
So while it’s understandable that Yoenis isn’t the best at all of the baseball, it is worth pointing out and consequently celebrating that he is the best at one particular aspect of the game. No, I’m not talking about his insanely strong arm (Aaron Hicks probably has the best arm, like I said it’s hard to be the best), and I’m not talking about his workout abilities (though Yoenis is the best at this as well). This season at least, Yoenis has been the best in all of baseball at hitting the low pitch.
Traditionally, most power hitters like the ball up in the zone. It’s easier to elevate and get loft on a pitch that’s up in the zone. Think Brian Dozier, Albert Pujols, Bryce Harper. These dudes succeed by getting their barrel under pitches and driving the ball out. Not everyone is like this of course, there’s the whole group of power guys who like the ball down. Think Anthony Rizzo, Carlos Gonzalez, and most strikingly, Yoenis.
If you are a proponent of traditional stats (which is fine by me, just don’t expect to ever run a baseball team) you’ll be happy to know that Yoenis leads all hitters in extra base hits on low pitches with 42. He also leads all hitters in total hits on low with 105, ten more than the next guy. Now you know how to explain how Yoenis is good at hitting the low pitch to your grandfather, who is most likely a Mets fan because 90% of all American grandfathers are Mets fans. In his day, they didn’t need stuff wRC+ and VORP, just beer. Just beer and greenies and a cigarette. That’s what the past was like kids…
For those of you with a bit more statistical acumen, get a load of this next bit. Exit velocity is a pretty good way to gage a player’s overall hitting ability. As a general rule, if you hit the ball hard good things will happen. This season Yoenis has hit the ball hard, and good things have happened. If you hit the ball hard, maybe you too can get traded to the Mets one day.
Here’s how good Yoenis has been at crushing the low pitch. The dude leads all players in MLB on balls low pitches with an exit velo over 100 MPH. He’s done that 89 times, 12 more than second place Mike Trout. Here’s a heat map of all of the balls Yoenis has hit with an exit velocity over 100.
No that’s not a cat scan, that’s a .883 OPS.
Yoenis’ success at hitting the low ball has translated well to his life off the field as well. Last offseason Yoenis picked up golf for the first time and began to play regularly. He now plays on almost every single off day and recently shot a 74. A 74! Hello PGA Pro-Am. Like I said, the dude likes the ball low.
(As usual, all dope statistics found on baseballsavant.com)