MLB: The 2020 leaders in “True Exit Velocity”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) DJ LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees follows through on a seventh inning run scoring base hit against the Miami Marlins at Yankee Stadium on September 26, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Marlins 11-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) DJ LeMahieu #26 of the New York Yankees follows through on a seventh inning run scoring base hit against the Miami Marlins at Yankee Stadium on September 26, 2020 in New York City. The Yankees defeated the Marlins 11-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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With his penchant for contact, Tommy LaStella ranks No. 1 in 2020 for “True Exit Velocity.”. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
With his penchant for contact, Tommy LaStella ranks No. 1 in 2020 for “True Exit Velocity.”. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

Nos. 1 and 2

Baseball experts do not give Yankee second baseman D J LeMahieu enough credit as a hitter. Part of the reason is that LeMahieu plays in the shadow of all that Yankee muscle: Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Hicks, etc., etc.,  etc.

That batting title LeMahieu won this season began to make up for that historical lack of attention. And the batting title, in turn, was built on LeMahieu’s uncanny ability to put the ball in play hard.

His 91.3 mph exit velocity was good, although it only ranked 25th in MLB. That was based on 195 official at bats in which LeMahieu put bat to ball.

He did that quite often. LeMahieu only struck out 21 times, a 9.7 percent strikeout rate. The ability to pound a ball into fair territory meant LeMahieu’s “True Exit Velocity” only declined by about 8.9 mph, to 82.42 mph. He was one of only two qualifying players to achieve a True Exit Velocity in excess of 80 mph.

1. The Oakland Athletics thought enough of infielder Tommy LaStella to acquire him from the Angels in mid-season. LaStella’s reputation is as a filler piece, a competent slash hitter who doesn’t fan much and doesn’t hit for much power either.

LaStella’s 88  mph exit velocity testifies to his reputation as an average hitter. It ranked him only 97th among 2020 qualifiers.

But couple that with his contact reliability and you have something else again. In his 228 official at bats, LaStella put the ball in play all but 12 times, a sensational 94.7 percent contact rate. That meant that LaStella’s “True Exit Velocity” differed hardly at all from his listed exit velocity. At 83.37 mph, it declined a minuscule 4.63 mph.

Next. Kyle Wright's impressive implosion. dark

And that in turn made the often overlooked middle infielder MLB’s most reliable hard hitter in 2020 when all official at bats – not merely those ending in bat-to-ball contact – are factored in.