Who Hit It Harder? Round 2

Round 1 | Round 2

Have you ever been to a circus or county fair, and they have that game where random people hit a spot with a sledgehammer and try to ring the bell at the top? With enough force, it can be done, but contestants must be strong! The game, according to Wikipedia is called the high striker. You can hear the game being played from afar, a crack of a hammer, a crowd cheering, and every once in a while, a bell ringing. You can hear the shouts too, “Step right up, step right up! See if you have the strength to ring the bell! You sir! You look like a strong man who can impress all these people. Just five bucks a whack! Step right up and show us how strong you really are!”

Part of the reason this is so fun and entertaining is because it’s one of those cases where all else really is equal. In baseball, that rarely, if ever, truly happens. Take for example two hitters who have struck the same pitch type with the same launch angle. How would you determine which one was hit harder?

Guess That EV
Launch Angle 2022 MaxEV 2022 HardHit% Exit Velocity
Player A 23 118.4 43.4% ?
Player B 23 117.4 61.2% ?

What other information would you like? The count? The pitcher? Whether or not runners were on base? Now, we’re adding in variation. We’re giving one person in our analogy a heavier hammer or maybe one of our contestants is somehow stronger when other people are watching. Ok, enough with the analogy, let’s add some variation to our baseball data points:

Guess That EV, Added Info
Launch Angle 2022 MaxEV 2022 HardHit% Count Pitcher Runners On: Exit Velocity
Player A 23 118.4 43.4% 0-0 Brent Suter Third ?
Player B 23 117.4 61.2% 2-1 Brock Burke ?

As we know, these two batted balls are not, could not be totally equal. They were in different cities with different weather scenarios with different pitchers with different runners on base. Both, however, did leave the yard for home runs:

Player A – Oneil CruzVideo Link – 113.9 MPH

Player B – Yordan AlvarezVideo Link – 114.6 MPH

So, what makes these two batted balls unique? Well, a lot actually. But, hit an in-the-zone pitch that hard and it’s going to go a long way. It just all depends on how hard you can swing the hammer. Without further ado, let’s play another round of, “Who Hit It Harder!”


Who Hit It Harder? – Round 2

3-2 count, sinkers in statcast gameday zone 8.Sinker Pitch Chart, Gameday Zone 8

In this exercise, I’ll give you three batted balls under somewhat similar conditions and your job is to determine which batter hit the ball harder. Here are our hitters along with some data points:

Batted Ball Data: Round 2
Batter Pitch Type Pitch Velocity Batter Stands Pitcher Throws Count
Keston Hiura SI 92.5 R R 3-2
Ronald Acuña Jr. SI 93.4 R L 3-2
Anthony Santander SI 95.3 R L 3-2
SOURCE: Statcast

Here are three heavy hitters who have stepped up to the plate and worked their way into a full count. A sinker, low in the zone comes at them and they each put the ball in play. There’s not a whole lot of differentiation here. Santander certainly had a faster pitch to hit, but both he and Acuña benefited from a righty-lefty matchup. Here’s some more information for you to use to determine who hit it harder:

2022 Averages: Round 2
Batter PA maxEV 2022 Average EV HardHit% Barrel%
Keston Hiura 156 112.4 93.3 50% 18.2%
Ronald Acuña Jr. 368 117.9 91.1 52.3% 12.7%
Anthony Santander 460 113.2 90.1 42.7% 10.5%
2022 MLB Averages 88.6 38.3% 7.6%
SOURCE: Statcast

If you use HardHit% to simply help you decide then you can just play the percentages and choose Ronald Acuña. But, what about that perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle? Percentages tell you that Hiura finds the sweet spot more often, but that’s misleading because he’s only had 156 plate appearances. So, what do we do? How about adding in, probably the most important metric to putting this puzzle together, launch angle:

Hint 1: Round 2
Batter Launch Angle
Keston Hiura 35
Ronald Acuña Jr. -12
Anthony Santander 3
SOURCE: Statcast

Remember that what we’re after is exit velocity. We know that each of these hitters can hit the ball hard, but under these conditions, who hit it harder? We can probably assume that Acuña’s ball goes into the ground. Does a sinker hit into the ground have a lower EV than one that is put in the air? How does the pitcher influence your decision?:

Hint 2: Round 2
Batter Pitcher IP EV maxEV Barrel% HardHit% ERA xERA
Keston Hiura Adrian Sampson 샘슨 53.1 86.8 115.2 6.0% 32.1% 3.88 3.88
Ronald Acuña Jr. Ranger Suárez 107.1 86.9 115.8 6.5% 30.9% 3.52 3.64
Anthony Santander Aaron Ashby 91.1 87.8 112.3 6.3% 34.4 4.32
SOURCE: Statcast


Here’s one graph that will show you it’s really anybody’s guess. Balls can usually be hit with high exit velocity despite the launch angle, but typically balls hit straight into the ground, angles of -40 or below, have a hard time getting above 100 MPH.


Scatter Plot, LA vs. EV (Zone 8 Sinkers)

Now, it’s time to guess. Decide which hitter had the higher EV and cross your fingers. Want to see for yourself? Here are the links to each individual at-bat.

Keston Hiura video

Ronald Acuña Jr. video

Anthony Santander video




Round 2: Answer
Batter Events Hit Distance Launch Speed
Keston Hiura home_run 416 110.5
Ronald Acuña Jr. field_out 349 110.8
Anthony Santander single 389 111.2
SOURCE: Statcast

It may seem strange to have a groundball single take the cake by only .4 MPH. But if this were a leaderboard, Santander would be on top. It goes to show that a high exit velocity doesn’t always translate to a home run. But, exit velocity and launch angle together do. When a sinker low in the zone just doesn’t sink enough, it can go a long way. However, these three outcomes show us that context is key. A ball hit with a proper angle and force can make good things happen. But, that’s also why a sinker, low in the zone in a 3-2 count can make a monster hitter like Ronald Acuña Jr. head back to the dugout. Now, we just need to get him, Santander, and Hiura to swing by the high striker the next time the circus is in town.

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