Chuck Brownson here at Birds on the Black wrote a compelling two-part series (two separate links) about Marcell Ozuna’s batted ball conundrum of 2017-2018. If you look at the raw numbers, Ozuna’s 2018 looks quite a bit like his 2017 looking at batted ball data, but the results in 2018 looked like Ozuna’s 2013-2016 seasons instead. Not what the Cardinals would have wanted.
In Part II, Chuck (on hunches from Zach Gifford and @cardinalsgifs) checked out the separate ground ball, line drive, and fly ball exit velocities (EV). Chuck found out that Ozuna crushed line drives and fly balls 1 and 2 miles per hour faster, respectively, in 2017 than he did in 2018. However, in 2018 his ground ball exit velocity was nearly 3.5 mph harder than his 2017 totals. On his PULLED fly balls, Ozuna’s EV was 3 mph harder leading to a 22 foot difference on average pulled fly balls.
What I am going to be checking out today is how the exit velocities on types of batted balls compare to the rest of his career prior to just 2017. The first hiccup came when I realized batted ball data I needed went back through 2015, but not to 2013-2014. So I’ll only be comparing 2015-2018 data. Not quite the sample size I wanted. Let’s get to the data that I do have.
So you can take a look to the left there and see that his 2015, 2016, and 2018 numbers are all very similar at all of the ground ball, line drive, and fly ball categorizations.
2017 is very much an outlier in those statistical categories. In fact, they were so similar that I decided to make a second chart that averages those three separate seasons and compare them more directly with 2017’s exit velocity numbers.
Here are those numbers, below.
Looking at the information on the right side of the page, you can see that his ground balls in 2017 were batted 3 mph slower than in the other three seasons. His line drive EV jumped one mph and his fly ball EV jumped 2 mph in Ozuna’s best season.
The last thing I want to look at today, thanks to the tip from Zach Gifford that Chuck Brownson followed back in November, is the exit velocity on fly balls and line drives to left field (Ozuna’s pull side).
This is the absolute killer for Ozuna in his career, I believe. In 2017, his pulled line drives and fly balls are nearly 4 mph faster than in the other three years in which data exists.
I was hoping that this data was less conclusive that Ozuna’s 2017 was a true outlier, but it’s not. Marcell Ozuna, whether injured shoulder or not, simply pulled line drives and fly balls in 2017 harder than any other time in his career and his mainstream numbers skyrocketed. Absolutely a career year that, unless he changes how he is connecting with the ball at a fundamental level, will never be repeated.
I hope that Jeff Albert unlocks Ozuna’s 2017 this year.