Let’s talk numbers. Numbers can be fun, numbers can be boring, and numbers can also be interesting. For instance, exit velocity from a pitcher’s perspective shows how hard a pitcher is getting hit, which could lead to more hits, more runs, etc. Let’s look at the numbers for the Los Angeles Dodgers thus far in the 2016 season.
So far this season, Dodgers pitchers have thrown a grand total of 935 pitches. Of those 935 pitches, 177 have been put into the field of play as either a line drive, fly ball, ground ball, or pop up. That’s according to MLB StatCast. Of those 177, only 19 have registered an exit velocity of at least 100 MPH.
Now, what does all of that mean? Well, for starters, it means that the Dodgers pitchers are not giving up a lot of hard hit balls. In fact, the 19 batted balls with an exit velocity of at least 100 MPH is the third lowest total in baseball thus far. Only the New York Mets (18) and Seattle Mariners (16) have given up fewer.
However, it should be noted that the Dodgers currently have the second lowest percentage of pitches that have resulted in 100+ MPH exit velocity. The Dodgers are at 2.03 percent while the Mariners are at 1.86 percent. This has been the major reason that the Dodgers are presently second in BABIP — Batting Average on Balls In Play.
Currently, Los Angeles has a .231 BABIP. Only the Chicago Cubs (.220) are lower. This means that, on non-home runs, the Dodgers are giving up a .231 batting average to batters when the ball is actually put into the field of play. That’s exceedingly low. The Dodgers were at .296 last season, so expect some regression.
Then again, how much regression actually will happen? Last season, the team gave up a 100+ MPH hit just 3.06 percent of the time. They’re down a full percentage point this season, and while that doesn’t seem like much you have to take into account just how many fewer pitches one percent truly is over a full season.
As it stands, they’re on pace to give up just 457 batted balls all season that register at least 100 MPH in exit velocity. They gave up 688 last season. That’s a difference of 231 batted balls just because of one percentage point, and that’s if they throw the same amount of pitches as they did last season (22,505).
So far, the average exit velocity for the team as a pitching staff is a staggeringly-low 85.6 MPH. It’s the lowest mark in baseball. In fact, it’s a tad over a full mile per hour less than the next closest team — Seattle Mariners (86.7 MPH). The Dodgers were fantastic in this department last season, as well. In 2015, they gave up an average exit velocity of 87.5 MPH, which was the second best mark. Only the Houston Astros (87.4 MPH) were better, and that was only by one tenth of a mile per hour.
On non-home runs, the Dodgers are sporting a 84.9 MPH average in exit velocity as a pitching staff. The next closest team is, you guessed it, the Seattle Mariners are at 86.0 MPH. If Los Angeles is able to curtail the home run ball, of which they’ve given up eight already this season, then they could continue to generate weak contact throughout games.
Factor in everything, and you could conceive a season in which the Dodgers do have a stunningly low BABIP if they are able to consistently generate such weak contact game-in and game-out. Now, will this continue? Some common sense says no. They will get hit hard at times, their average exit velocity will creep up, and so will their BABIP.
Still, as of right now, their crazy low BABIP is explainable because they’ve been getting a lot of soft contact. If they’re able to keep this level of pitching up for the entire season, at least in terms of generating weak contact, then they could have a great pitching season that most didn’t think was possible. There’s still a long way to go in the season, but you have to like what the numbers show so far.