One of the best aspects of the age of analytics is we have instant access to metrics like exit velocity and launch angle. Whereas once we could only guess at the distance of some tape-measure blasts, now we have to the minute knowledge of exactly how hard and how far every baseball is hit. And so without further ado, I present the five hardest hit balls by Yankees this season.
5. Giancarlo Stanton: 116.1 MPH
Stanton blistered this line drive single to left off of Orioles reliever Travis Lakins Sr. on September 30th. The inning ended a batter later as Aaron Hicks would ground into a double play. The Yankees took an early lead in this game before Jonathan Loáisiga surrendered a go-ahead home run in the eighth. New York would claw their way back to a victory however, with Aaron Judge delivering the game-winning three-run dinger in the ninth.
4. Giancarlo Stanton: 117.0 MPH
Only innings prior to the previous shot, Stanton sizzled this groundball single off of Orioles starter John Means. Judge came around to score from second, plating the first of eight runs on the game for the Yankees. This is the prototypical example of how exit velocity can overcome a non-optimal launch angle. The grounder was hit so hard, no fielder in the league could have gloved it. It’s also incredible that Stanton could post two of the highest exit velocities all year in the same game.
3. Giancarlo Stanton: 117.3 MPH
It’s kind of wild to think the third-hardest hit ball by a Yankee went for a routine out, but that’s exactly what happened here. Stanton pounded a 3-2 T.J. Zeuch sinker into the dirt. Second baseman Jonathan Villar fielded it cleanly, but did a little double take at the ball, perhaps out of surprise of how hard it was hit. This was in the midst of the Yankees’ 2-6 stumble toward the finish line, and it must have felt like Murphy’s Law to hit a ball this hard with this result. It’s pretty funny to think a ball hit 117.3 MPH only traveled 14 feet in the air, but that’s what a -13 degree launch angle will do for you.
2. Gary Sánchez: 117.5 MPH
He may have had a season to forget, but Gary Sánchez will occasionally remind us why he still has it in him to be the most feared slugger in the Yankees’ potent lineup. This fourth inning laser came against Blue Jays reliever Chase Anderson on September 17th. The one-hop double off the wall in left-center plated Clint Frazier to break the deadlock, and kickstarted one of the most absurd five-batter stretches I’ve ever seen. That’s right, this hit immediately preceded five home runs by Brett Gardner, DJ LeMahieu, Luke Voit, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gleyber Torres. What’s really impressive is that Sanchez’s double was the hardest hit of the the six hit barrage.
1. Giancarlo Stanton: 121.3 MPH
Not only was this the hardest hit ball by a Yankee, it was the hardest hit baseball in all of MLB this season, as well as the second-hardest hit ball in the Statcast era. And it came in only the second game of the season for the Bombers. Stanton obliterated this absolute thunderbolt off Nationals starter Erick Fedde in the fourth inning to cut the Yankees’ deficit to one run. The ball traveled 483 feet and appeared to still be rising as it crashed into the seat cover in left-center. I don’t know about you, but I could watch this on repeat forever.
So what is the lesson from all of this. First of all, the Yankees hit the ball hard. Really hard. In fact, they have made it a modus operandi of sorts to stockpile the hardest hitters of the ball in all the league. Stanton has recorded the hardest hit ball in baseball every year that Statcast has tracked exit velocity. But he’s not the only one hitting the cover off the baseball for the Yankees. Judge, Sánchez, and Voit routinely fill up the exit velocity leaderboard, such that at times the top entries are a sea of pinstripes.
The other lesson to take away is that exit velocity tells an incomplete story. Only one of the entries on this list resulted in a home run, while another was a groundball out. That said, I think it is obvious that the harder you hit the ball, the better chance it has of falling for a hit. This is conveniently reflected by Statcast’s expected statistics: the expected batting average positively correlates with exit velocity. So no matter how loud the cries for slap-hitting, contact types, the best route forward will always be to hit the ball hard, something the Yankees do with aplomb.