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Hard hit rate: the top 50, and a 2015 target

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These players hit the ball hardest in 2014, and this player is a good target in your 2015 fantasy draft.

Jason Miller

Hard hit rate is an excellent stat to use to evaluate both hitters and pitchers because the harder a ball is hit, the more likely it results in strong offensive production. It also gives us an idea of the process behind a player's batting average and OPS.

The following overview is attributed to ESPN's Mark Simon.

Hard hit rate is the percentage of at bats that end in a hard hit ball. It is determined by a video review team using measures like exit velocity, trajectory and contact on the sweet spot.

The average MLB hitter has a hard hit rate of roughly 17%.

Batting average by batted ball type:

Hard: around .700

Medium: around .400

Soft: around .140-.150

% of _ that are hard hit:

Home runs: about 100%

Triples: over 80%

Doubles: over 70%

Singles: about 30%

Outs: about 7%

The top 50 hitters for hard hit rate in 2014 were:

(Name, hard hit rate)

1. Troy Tulowitzki, 24.1%

2. Paul Goldschmidt, 23.7%

3. David Ortiz, 23.7%

4. Miguel Cabrera, 23.3%

5. Devin Mesoraco, 23.3%

6. Victor Martinez, 23.1%

7. Andrew McCutchen, 22.9%

8. Adrian Beltre, 22.9%

9. Edwin Encarnacion, 22.4%

10. Corey Dickerson, 21.8%

11. Lucas Duda, 21.6%

12. Josh Donaldson, 21.4%

13. Albert Pujols, 21.3%

14. Michael Brantley, 21.3%

15. Josh Harrison, 21.2%

16. Evan Gattis, 21%

17. Freddie Freeman, 21%

18. Anthony Rendon, 21%

19. Buster Posey, 20.9%

20. Carlos Santana, 20.6%

21. Jose Bautista, 20.5%

22. Giancarlo Stanton, 20.5%

23. Justin Upton, 20.4%

24. Kyle Seager, 20.4%

25. Mike Trout, 20.3%

26. Josh Reddick, 20.2%

27. Garrett Jones, 20.2%

28. Tori Hunter, 20.1%

29. John Jaso, 20.1%

30. Adrian Gonzalez, 19.9%

31. Jayson Werth, 19.9%

32. Adam LaRoche, 19.9%

33. J.D. Martinez, 19.9%

34. Nolan Arenado, 19.9%

35. Steve Pearce, 19.8%

36. Billy Butler, 19.7%

37. Jose Abreu, 19.6%

38. Khris Davis, 19.5%

39. Dustin Ackley, 19.5%

40. Colby Rasmus, 19.4%

41. Chase Utley, 19.2%

42. Justin Morneau, 19.2%

43. Chris Carter, 19.2%

44. Brian Roberts, 19.1%

45. Jay Bruce, 19.0%

46. Jonathan Lucroy, 18.9%

47. Jed Lowrie, 18.8%

48. Jacoby Ellsbury, 18.7%

49. Logan Morrison, 18.7%

50. Derek Norris, 18.6%

One player that strongly stands out from this list to me is Carlos Santana. Santana's 20.6% hard hit rate, which was 20th best in baseball, combined with his low .249 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which was 5th lowest in baseball, points to a flukey low and unlucky BABIP. The harder a ball is hit the more likely it goes for a hit, so Santana's hard hit rate and low BABIP doesn't add up. (Note: Santana did have an above average infield fly ball (IFFB) rate of 15%; IFFBs are essentially strikeouts put into play, so that also contributed to his low BABIP to some degree.)

A more normal BABIP would give Santana a strong rise in 2015 production. This means a higher batting average, higher OPS, more RBI and more runs scored in 2015. I will be targeting Santana as a player with strong value relative to his probable 2015 draft position and consider him to be an undervalued player going into 2015.