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These hitters have squared the ball up most often through July 4

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Last season, ESPN stat guru Mark Simon popularized a statistic called hard hit rate, which is the % of a player's at bats that end in a hard hit ball. Hard hit balls are classified by video trackers as batted balls with exit velocities of 90+ mph with strong trajectory and contact on the sweet spot of the barrel. This is a different stat than the new FanGraphs hard%, which is a percentage of balls in play rather than a percentage of at bats. It's also classified by different video trackers.

We want to target hitters with a high hard hit% and pitchers with a low hard hit% because the harder a ball is hit, the more likely strong offensive production occurs. The batting average on hard hit balls is over .700. Approximately 100% of home runs, 80% of triples and 70% of doubles are hard hit, while only 30% of singles are hard hit. For hitters, generating hard contact is a way to make run scoring more likely.

The average MLB hitter hits the ball hard in about 15% of his at bats. These hitters have ended the highest percentage of their at bats with a hard hit ball in 2015 (min. 200 ABs):

1. Bryce Harper, 25%

2. Paul Goldschmidt, 24.7%

3. Giancarlo Stanton, 24.4%

4. Andrew McCutchen, 23.9%

5. Freddie Freeman, 23.2%

6. Mike Trout, 22.4%

7. Brian Dozier, 22.2%

8. Anthony Rizzo, 22.2%

9. Prince Fielder, 22.1%

10. JD Martinez, 21.3%

11. Nolan Arenado, 21%

12. Miguel Cabrera, 20.9%

13. Jose Bautista, 20.4%

14. Ryan Howard, 20.3%

15. Joc Pederson, 20.2%

16. Carlos Santana, 20.2%

17. Adrian Gonzalez, 20.1%

18. Brandon Moss, 20.1%

19. Todd Frazier, 19.7%

20. Jason Kipnis, 19.7%

21. Albert Pujols, 19.7%

22. Luis Valbuena, 19.7%

23. Mitch Moreland, 19.6%

24. George Springer, 19.6%

25. Brandon Belt, 19.5%

26. Lucas Duda, 19.2%

27. Brandon Crawford, 19.1%

28. Jay Bruce, 19%

29. Lorenzo Cain, 19%

30. Yoenis Cespedes, 19%

31. Josh Donaldson, 18.8%

32. Derek Norris, 18.6%

33. Buster Posey, 18.6%

34. Troy Tulowitzki, 18.4%

35. Brian McCann, 18.3%

36. Mookie Betts, 18%

37. Robinson Cano, 17.9%

38. Torii Hunter, 17.9%

39. Josh Reddick, 17.9%

40. Kyle Seager, 17.9%