Lucas Duda is a power hitter.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images (Lucas Duda); Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images (batting)


CCSS: 7.SP.B.4, 8.SP.A.1, MP5, MP6

TEKS: 7.12A, 8.11A, A.4B

Going, Going, Gone!

Baseball teams are using a new measurement to predict power hitters

When you go to a baseball game, odds are you’ll see at least one home run. Last season, the home run total in Major League Baseball (MLB) jumped to 4,909—that’s 700 more than the previous year! 

No one knows for sure the cause of this sudden surge. But some experts say it could have something to do with a new measurement that’s helping teams choose the best power hitters: exit velocity. That’s the speed at which a hit ball leaves the bat, and some believe exit velocity can be a powerful predictor of base hits and home runs.

“The harder you hit the ball, physics will tell you the better chance you have for it to be either a home run, double, or even a base hit,” says John Ricco. He’s the assistant general manager of the New York Mets. “We look [for speeds of] 95 miles per hour. If you hit at that speed or higher, you’re going to have very good results.”

MLB now reports exit velocity at every game using high-tech cameras and radar. Some managers—including Ricco—believe in the metric so much, they’re using it to rethink their lineups. Two seasons ago, the Mets were debating whether to keep first baseman Lucas Duda. While he wasn’t as highly rated as some other players, he had an above-average exit velocity when he hit the ball. The Mets predicted that Duda could develop into a powerful slugger if given a chance.

“That really has happened over the last few years,” says Ricco. “He’s been our team leader in home runs.”

Exit velocity, though, is still a fairly new statistic that’s only been monitored for a couple of years. Experts say they don’t have enough data to know for certain if it can reliably predict hitting performance.

“We’re still as an industry—and individually as teams—accumulating this data to verify its accuracy and determine what it can actually tell us about a player,” says Ricco. But for now, it’s certain a number of teams will keep watching closely.  

Not all MLB managers agree on what conclusions to draw from exit velocity data. Below is a scatter plot that compares Lucas Duda’s exit velocity with the distance the ball traveled for his hits that resulted in home runs and singles during the 2015 season. Use it to answer the questions that follow.

A. What’s the approximate exit velocity of the ball that traveled the farthest distance?

B. What’s the approximate exit velocity of the ball that traveled the shortest distance? 

What conclusion can you draw about the relationship between the exit velocity and distance of Duda’s home runs? 

A. What is the overall trend of the data?

B. Are there outliers in this data set? If so, at what exit velocities?

Do you think managers should use exit velocity to determine their lineups? Explain your answer. 

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