Mariners, Swisher hitting in bad luck

May, 13, 2014
5/13/14
1:30
PM ET
Every Monday, I tweet out a series of hard-hit ball leaderboards, ones that tell you how often players and teams are hitting a ball hard, and how often they’re getting hits when they hit the ball hard.

The decision of whether a ball is hard-hit or not is determined by a video-review team for one of our data providers. The analysts look for beneficial velocity and contact on the sweet spot of the bat in making their determination as to whether a ball is hit hard, medium or soft.

It is admittedly an imperfect, subjective stat. But it has value, and based on the reaction of my followers, there seems to be interest in learning more about it.

So with that in mind, here are a few things I gleaned from this week’s hard-hit and soft-hit leaderboards.

Poor Nick Swisher
Nick Swisher is 6-for-37 over the last two weeks, but this doesn’t appear to be of any fault of his own. Swisher has the second-highest rate of hitting balls hard over that span, registering a hard-hit ball in 13 of his trips to the plate.

But those 13 trips have produced only four base hits. Swisher has been crushing balls into power alleys, but they’ve been tracked down in the gaps by hard-pursuing outfielders.

Swisher’s track record is that he gets base hits when he hits the ball hard about 70 percent of the time. Had he done so here, he’d gave gotten nine hits.

Sounds like the baseball gods owe him a few.

Which teams hit the ball hard the most often?
I would never have guessed that the Seattle Mariners lead the sport in how often they hit the ball hard. But they do.

Justin Smoak
ESPN Stats & InfoJustin Smoak is not getting fully rewarded for driving the ball.
The Mariners have two players ranked in the top four in that stat -- Justin Smoak (third) and Kyle Seager (fourth). Smoak and Seager are each registering a well-hit ball 25 percent of the time. But just like Swisher, they’re going unrewarded. Smoak and Seager are each hitting .246.

The Mariners rank 24th in team batting average when hitting the ball hard, at .647.

Smoak has two homers in his last three games, but he’s got more hard-hit fly balls plus line-drive outs than any player in baseball, with 13.

Seager’s issue isn’t what happens when he hits the ball hard, but when he hits it softly. Seager has the worst "soft-hit average" (.022, 1-for-46) of any player in baseball. The average major leaguer gets hits on about 17 percent of soft-hit balls.

Everything’s going right for Howie Kendrick
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick has the highest batting average in the majors when he hits the ball hard. He has 21 hits in his 23 instances of doing so.

[+] EnlargeHowie Kendrick spray chart
ESPN Stats & InformationHowie Kendrick is driving the ball the other way.
Kendrick looks like someone who has changed his approach. He’s driving the ball to the opposite field with a much higher frequency than he used to.

From 2010 to 2013, about one-third of Kendrick’s hard-hit balls were hit to the opposite field. In 2014, he’s just about doubled that rate. Fifteen of his 23 hard-hit balls have gone the opposite way and another six have been hit to the middle of the field.

The benefit for Kendrick is, among other things, more doubles. He had only 21 in 478 at-bats last season, but he’s already at 10 through his first 148 at-bats in 2014.

Matt Adams is killing them softly
Most of the players at the top of the list for highest batting average when hitting the ball softly are speedsters who beat out slow-hit groundballs (see Gordon, Dee). One of the exceptions to this is Matt Adams.

Adams is hitting .333 when hitting a soft-hit ball and seems to have made the decision to sacrifice power for batting average, particularly when hitting against a shift. He already has 21 soft-hit base hits (in 63 at-bats) this season, two more than he had in 2013 in 104 at-bats.

Mark Simon helps oversee the ESPN Stats & Information blog and Twitter. Follow him on Twitter at @msimonespn.

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