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Monday, August 14, 2017

Sullivan: Let’s Watch Rafael Devers Take Aroldis Chapman Deep

Kung Fu Who?

Even before Sunday, Devers was doing pretty well. He’d advanced through Portland, he’d advanced through Pawtucket, and he’d run a .939 OPS over some dozens of chances in the major leagues. Devers, as a rookie, has taken a firm hold on the Red Sox’s third-base position, which earlier had proven a crippling weakness. Now, though, Devers truly has his breakthrough moment. See, he batted against Chapman in the ninth inning of a one-run game, and he tied it up. He tied it up with a home run back up the middle, and he tied it up with a home run against a pitch measured at 102.8.

Pitchers have been throwing pitches for more than a hundred years. Batters have been swinging at them for same. And yet, for more than a century, we lacked all the data. We have pitch velocities tracked only back to 2008. So be it. We’re given a limited window, but still a meaningful one. For shorthand, you could say we have a decade of information. Over that decade, no one has gone yard against a faster fastball. Faster pitches have been thrown, but none of them have gone for four bases. Devers is still looking ahead to his 21st birthday, but already he’s done one of the most incredible things he’ll probably ever do.

The pitch was faster than the pitch thrown to Davis, by almost six ticks. And, unlike Davis, Devers went up batting left-handed. Chapman, historically, has been good against everyone, but he’s been the best pitcher against lefties on record. Using the Baseball Reference Play Index, I searched historical splits for pitchers who’ve thrown at least 100 innings against left-handed hitters. Chapman ranks first in slugging percentage against, at .174. The guy in second place is all the way up at .238. Then you’ve got a guy at .240. Chapman has faced 422 career lefties. Devers just doubled the home-run total.

Read the whole thing.


 

 

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