Let's play a game. Below are three statements, two of them are factual. Your job is to figure out which one is not:
- Giancarlo Stanton and the Marlins played against the Brewers on Thursday night;
- Stanton recorded the hardest-hit ball in the Statcast era (123.9 mph, for the detail-orientated)
- Stanton grounded into a double play on that ball.
This might surprise you -- or not, if you have experience with this hackneyed setup -- but the incorrect statement is No. 1. That's right, Stanton did set a new Statcast record for highest exit velocity, and yes, the end result was a 4-6-3 DP -- he just did it against the Twins, not the Brewers. Here's the visual:
For what it's worth, Stanton was the previous record holder for hardesr-hit ball in the Statcast era. A single in May 2015 against the Dodgers was clocked at 120.3 mph. Here's footage:
While that has to be a bummer for Stanton, it's bully for the rest of us. Stanton's well-struck double-play ball reminds us that exit velocity isn't the end-all, be-all -- the holy grail of baseball analytics, if you will. Context matters, context which so often gets ignored in cases like these.
Think of it this way: if we were as monomaniacal about launch angle, or launch direction, or hang time -- or any number of other recorded aspects from Stanton's batted ball -- as we are about exit velocity, then this wouldn't even be a noteworthy occasion. Rather, this would be shrugged off as a forgettable double play from the late stages of a boat race.
So moving forward, we should always keep in mind to be mindful when handling statistics -- even those new, scientific-sounding ones.