Look, we bloggers aren’t above doing what our front office overlords do from time to time. Today, we’ll be looking to the Rays’ blog system to make an acquisition to fill out our
prospect content farm, snagging a 65-grade idea with 75-grade execution from DRaysBay writer Adam Sanford, who put together this list, with the help of statcast search, of the unlikeliest Rays hits in the Statcast era.
I’ve done the same for our dearly
beloved tolerated appreciated Mariners, cobbling together a list of some of the weirdest and least-likely hits of the last five seasons (also known as The Statcast Era.) Unfortunately, I lack some of Adam’s youtube-fu, and MLB’s database of complete games is frustatingly random, so my list is not a complete one, but mainly the ones I had video of, or had some tidbit to set them apart. If you’d like to peruse the original list, check out the search here, and see if you can do better than I did at pulling hit videos!
Jake Fraley: .020 xBA
These Players’ Weekend uniforms had such a weird, funhouse-mirror-baseball quality to them. That helps the effect here. Fraley’s popup is pursued, circus-style, by Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Billy McKinney, who slides uselessly past the ball before firing badly to second base. Take that, Blue Jays. Of the 32 batted balls with this profile in the Statcast era (90 mph exit velo, 64 degree launch angle) only Fraley and Clickhole Calhoun have logged base hits (bases hit? note to self: google later). Incidentally, Kole Calhoun has one base hit but has hit two baseballs with this profile.
Ben Gamel: .019 xBA
B-B-B-Benny and the Mets! You can tell this is a James Paxton start from the highlight—hi Maple Grove!—and Ben Gamel lobs a deep fly ball that should really have been no trouble, unfortunately, well, the Mets are the Mets (Yes, I know the sun is tough, but again: The Mets.) Benny Ballgame’s 89 mph EV and 38.9 degree launch angle are reasonably impressive, and very common, but nevertheless: out of 1072 balls with this profile, there were 2 hits. Yo, in this case, did not know.
Jesus Sucre: .018 xBA
No video of this appears to exist. Statcast lists it as a double to Sam Fuld on October 2, 2015, with a launch angle of 34.8 degree and an EV of 86.6. That may be the hardest ball Jesus Sucre ever hit. 186 balls have been hit with this profile, yielding 3 hits, by Sucre, Kyle Seager (does not appear on this list! Not all created equal, I suppose), and Anthony Rizzo.
Edwin Encarnacion: .018 xBA
This is art. Pure art. Michael Brantley and Jake Marisnick are more synchronized than a performance of Swan Lake, without even trying. Look at how perfectly they mirror each other: jog together, step back, ball drop, stare at each other. Yes, they did something truly unprecedented: Of the 14 balls hit with 99 mph EV and 54 degree launch angle, this was the only hit. Well done, sirs.
Kyle Seager: .018 xBA
This windswept fly ball includes Joey Gallo outfield hijinks and maybe the weirdest ground rule double I’ve ever seen, non-Canseco-category. Like the Sucre double above, 3 hits in 159 balls in play on this one. Congratulations to the Safeco Field designers, who get partial credit on it in my view.
Taylor Motter: .016 xBA
This one would very easily be an out, except the Rays had an extreme OF shift on for Motter, which was really smart on their part, since this is actually the only ball he ever hit to the opposite field in his entire career (Do not fact check this thank you we are a volcano blog).
Nelson Cruz: .016 xBA
This is just so good. So, so good. Nelson absolutely skies this baseball and you would really think, you really would, that two gritlords like David Fletcher and Kclcocole Calwhoun could do what they do best, CHATTER, and figure this out. Instead, they teamed up to yield the only hit in five years on a ball hit with this profile, out of 65 balls in play.
Nelson Cruz: .014 xBA
Unfortunately, I don’t have video of this, but I’m leaving it in because this was on April 5, 2016, a noteworthy game only because it’s the game where poor Tom Wilhelmsen was ordered to plunk Chris Iannetta to prolong a beanball war. Fortunately, we brought him back shortly thereafter, so he could end his career a Mariner. This Cruz double was three batters before that, and I miss Tom Wilhelmsen.
Ryon Healy: .013 xBA
Heaven help me, I miss this man. It seems fitting that Ryon, a man who could seemingly lift a life-size Tonka truck (do they just call that a truck?) probably has the highest hit on this list (altitude, that is). Also, I don’t know about you, but I’m comforted by the A’s regular appearances by defensive misadventure on this list. In fact, more on that in a second!
Robinson Cano: .010 xBA
This is easily the most noteworthy hit on this list, and the only one I can say I saw in person! This marked Robinson Cano’s 30th double of 2015, making him (deep breath) the first player ever to start his career with 11 straight seasons of 30 doubles, a very specific but impressive statistic. The hit itself is not so much, although I admit it’s better than most on this list: it isn’t really the result of a defensive miscue, it’s just that this little popup of an 89 mph EV and a 63 degree launch eye seemingly has eyes for one of those few completely dead spots that exist in a major league defense. Congrats, Robbie. We miss you.
Unfortunately, MLB has disabled embeds for this video, so click here to watch.
Dylan Moore: .010 xBA
This isn’t the most noteworthy—it’s another sun ball by a totally unmemorable Cleveland player (sorry Tyler Naquin) but I do like it because I, a person who does not like pain, would definitely have ended up at least this far away from this ball. I mean, usually fielders get to the vicinity. Naquin wasn’t even close. This is definitely less deserving than Robbie’s double, but they ended up with the same xBA, somehow.
Jean Segura: .009 xBA
This is funny for a few reasons. First, it’s the game—and inning—where Jarrod Dyson blew up Verlander’s no-hit bid with a bunt. In fact, Dyson is on second after that bunt for this at bat! Second, the hit itself. Jose Iglesias is one of the better defenders in the game at shortstop, so to see him skitter past this broken bat blooper like a looney tunes character or Raul Ibanez is quite entertaining.
Seth Smith: .004 xBA
Don’t worry, this video of the whole game cues directly to the at bat. Nothing like a little Fenway Magic (tm) to juice your xBA rating! Jackie Bradley is generally an excellent defender, but there’s something in the water of the Charles, apparently, that occasionally rears its head and makes an elite athlete like Bradley make the most awkward jump-flail at the ball, which caroms vigorously off the wall to eventually be collected by Xander Bogaerts, making this hit especially interesting since it’s got to be one of the deepest hits you’ll ever see to end up being touched first by the shortstop. It’s even hit pretty decently! With an EV of 95.8, its biggest problem was the launch angle of 48.8 degrees. Congratulations to Seth, who always exuded such competence, on reaching the top of this leaderboard: Out of 6,966 hits in the last five seasons, this is the most unlikely Mariner hit.