As the 2017 season begins, so does the third season of Statcast™, the state-of-the-art technology that has tracked every play in every Major League ballpark since Opening Day 2015. And with two full seasons of data now collected, plus advances in applying that data, Statcast™ is better than ever. New metrics, such as Catch Probability and Hit Probability, will provide a deeper layer of analysis and further our understanding of the game.
With that in mind, here are five Statcast™ facts to know about the Twins heading into the 2017 season.
1. 5-star outfield
Based on Statcast™'s new Catch Probability metric, the Twins' outfielders made as many spectacular plays as anyone in 2016. They combined for 18 5-star catches -- plays that have a catch probability of 25 percent or less -- tied for the most in MLB with the Billy Hamilton-led Reds. In Minnesota, all those 5-star plays were mostly thanks to Byron Buxton in center and Max Kepler in right, who made six each (although even Miguel Sano chipped in with a pair of 5-star grabs).
Most 5-star catches by an outfield in 2016 1 (tie). Twins: 18
1 (tie). Reds: 18
3. Royals: 17
4. Braves: 14
5. White Sox: 13
2. They've got cannons, too
The Minnesota outfielders' throwing arms also stand out. The Twins outfield projects as having MLB's strongest arms in 2017. Three Twins are among the top 10 average arm strengths on "competitive" throws (90th percentile or higher) from 2016 -- Buxton, Eddie Rosario and Danny Santana. Rosario and Buxton recorded two of the five hardest Statcast-tracked outfield assists last year -- Rosario's 99.5 mph, Buxton's 99.4 -- and Rosario had 12 assists on 90-plus-mph throws, tied with Adam Eaton for second-most in MLB, one behind Ender Inciarte.
3. And Buxton's got wheels
Buxton's speed in the outfield naturally translates to the basepaths. His 14.1-second home-to-home time on his Oct. 2 inside-the-park home run was the fastest tracked by Statcast™ all year. Buxton also had three of the five fastest overall home-to-third times on triples in 2016. Even when going from home to first (not counting bunts), Buxton's average max effort time of 3.98 seconds was tied for 10th-fastest in baseball, according to Statcast™.
4. Good days ahead for Joe Mauer?
Mauer is a long time removed from his MVP season, but he hasn't forgotten how to hit, and Statcast™'s Hit Probability suggests the Twins' great could have had a much better 2016 than his numbers showed. Mauer hit .261/.363/.389 with 11 homers, producing a .338 wOBA, but based on exit velocity and launch angle, his Statcast-expected wOBA was .372 -- a 34-point difference that was fourth-largest among qualified hitters. That's the same expected wOBA as Manny Machado had for 2016, and just better than Jose Bautista, Mark Trumbo and Anthony Rizzo's.
Largest gap between estimated and actual wOBA, 2016 (min. 500 PA)
1. Kendrys Morales: 56 points (estimated wOBA .399; actual .343)
2. Miguel Cabrera: 50 points (estimated wOBA .459; actual .409)
3. Albert Pujols: 43 points (estimated wOBA .381; actual .338) 4. Joe Mauer: 34 points (estimated wOBA .372; actual .338)
5. Howie Kendrick: 32 points (estimated wOBA .341; actual .309)
5. Dozier's power source Brian Dozier set the American League single-season record for home runs by a second baseman with 42 in 2016, and he has 70 over the last two years. Two noteworthy aspects of Dozier's dingers are how high he's hit them and the location of the pitches he's hit them on. In 2016, Dozier's home runs averaged a 30.7-degree launch angle, eighth-highest in baseball of the 60 hitters with 25-plus homers tracked by Statcast™. And in the Statcast™ Era (2015-16), only four hitters have hit more homers than Dozier on pitches Statcast™ tracked as outside the strike zone.