Yesterday, I pulled together linear weighted batted ball data for the Rays and ranked their place in baseball.
In that piece, Longoria surprised me by showing up among the top-100 hitters in baseball for exit velocity + launch angle, an analysis put together by Baseball Prospectus.
Watching the games, I wouldn't be terribly convinced that Longo has hit the ball all that hard, so I took a look. But first, for context, here's how hard Longo hit the ball in 2015, by week:
Respectably well above average.
Now, here's how he's done in 2016:
Longoria jumped above a 95 mph avg. only once in 2015, and just barely, which makes last week an impressive development up near 99 mph.
The weekly data are encouraging, but how true is this overall? I pulled the data from statcast for all batted balls recorded to take a deeper look.
You don't need to understand every nuance to read this trend line: Longoria is hitting them harder as the season progresses:
The number of batted balls exceeding 100 mph is further evidence that he's hitting the ball consistently hard.
As for what that performance looks like, his hard hit percentage is up from 30% to 38%, and his HR/FB rate is up from 10% to 14% while his infield fly rate has cut in half. Yet overall Longo's stats are lagging behind:
Many in these parts wanted to see Longo's power stroke return, and it seems like it has. On the other hand, his walks have decreased and strike outs increased, which has contributed to an OBP well below his norm.
This could be a case of "be careful what you wish for," as Longoria's more aggressive at bats may increase strike outs at the expense of walks. Or perhaps the harder hits and the lower OBP are unrelated, and, if we are lucky, we'll see the walks and strike outs regress to his norms with the power remaining. Or further still, maybe it is the improved exit velocity that will lead to more walks as pitchers pitch away, and we just haven't seen the results yet.
It seems reasonable to believe that consistent high exit velocity should help all facets of his game. These data points should then be encouraging for the Rays fan.