Some people go to the ballpark to literally see fireworks, with weekend postgame extravaganzas often sparking up the promotional schedule. And yes, now that July is upon us, we're waiting on fireworks in the trade game, as discussed in this week's installment of "The Cycle."
But here on the eve of Independence Day, let's take a look at guys who generate on-field fireworks. I'm talking about physical freaks of nature whose eye-catching exploits are all the more appreciated now that we have Statcast™ data to demonstrate how rare they really are.
These are just some of baseball's most explosive players, and we'll divide them into three categories:
1. The ball explodes off their bat
You start, of course, with Giancarlo Stanton. Unfortunately, a fractured hamate bone has temporarily robbed us of one of the great power hitters of our time. But it doesn't prevent us from appreciating the abuse Stanton inflicts upon a baseball when he makes solid contact.
Per Baseball Savant, Stanton's maximum exit velocity in the 128 at-bats measured so far this season was 120 mph. His average launch speed on fly balls and line drives is 101.94, making him the only player with such an average in the triple digits.
Two rookies rank right behind Stanton in that launch-speed stat: Joc Pederson (98.35) and Randal Grichuk (98.15). So that's a little window into how they've impacted two of the National League's premier teams in 2015. But a few old(er) guys have also fared well in launch speed, including Ryan Braun (93.79), Miguel Cabrera (93.72) and Jose Bautista (93.65).
And in terms of distance off the bat, among those with at least 100 plate appearances measured, Carlos Gonzalez (430.57 feet), Lucas Duda (429), Mark Trumbo (428.83), Pederson (427.32) and Stanton (424.27) have the longest average home run length.
2. The ball explodes out of their hand
In an age of pitching prominence, at a time in the game's evolution when we're seeing more high-voltage arms than ever before, the list of guys with sick stuff is seemingly endless. But even in within that context, two guys (relievers, of course, as they have the ability to air it out from pitch to pitch) stand out above the rest.
The first is Aroldis Chapman, and that's nothing new. We've been gawking over that fastball of his for years, and it's made him a nightmare for opposing hitters in the ninth. You will probably not be surprised to learn Chapman had, going into Thursday, each of the six highest Statcast™ readings of what's called "perceived velocity" -- or basically the speed the pitch appears to travel to the guy standing in the box. Beyond that, he had 45 of the top 64.
The fastest of all these was a four-seamer, measured at 103.92 but with a perceived speed of 105.34, delivered to Brian Dozier just this week. Credit to Dozier for actually making contact on it:
Next up: the Marlins' Carter Capps, who uses that crazy hop-step delivery to baffle batters. Remember when I mentioned that Chapman had 45 of the top 64 readings? Well, Capps had the other 19. And were it not for one stray pitch apiece from the Pirates' Radhames Liz (102.83 perceived velocity), the Dodgers' Pedro Baez (102.82), the Giants' Hunter Strickland (102.73) and the Reds' Jumbo Diaz, and two from the Pirates' Arquimedes Caminero, Chapman and Capps would account for all of the top 150.
3. They explode on the basepaths (thankfully, not literally)
News flash: Billy Hamilton can fly. You know that from his 40 stolen bases --- more than half of what baseball's teams had each accumulated through Wednesday.
Bonus news flash: Dee Gordon can run a little bit, too. Wouldn't you just love to see a footrace between these two guys as part of the All-Star Game festivities?
Well, that's a pipe dream for now. And unfortunately, we don't yet have searchable speed data from Statcast™ to demonstrate just how frequently these two are lapping the competition. But we do have better understanding of just how superhuman they are.
Beyond the stolen-base speed, watch Hamilton beat it down the line on this bunt single. He gets to first base in an absurd 3.05 seconds at a max speed of 22.3 mph:
And finally, here's Gordon's inside-the-park home run from the other night. He gets around the basepaths in an insane 14.3 seconds, with an average speed of 20.6 mph: