Let’s Watch Kris Bryant Do Something Amazing

Out of all the reasons I enjoy baseball, I think mainly it’s about watching people do things few other people can do. Granted, that applies to the whole sport itself — every single player in the major leagues is absolutely fantastic. But I get particularly charged up by the freaks, and by the freak events. I love Felix Hernandez‘s changeup because there just isn’t another one like it. I love Aroldis Chapman‘s fastball because there just isn’t another one like it. Mike Trout clobbers baseballs other guys don’t clobber. Andrelton Simmons gathers baseballs other guys don’t gather. Everybody we watch is several standard deviations above the mean. And then to see things several standard deviations above that? I watch to be amazed, and players remain amazing.

Kris Bryant was just called up, as you know. He’s without question an elite-level prospect and he might be, with some question, an elite-level player. One thing we know is he possesses an elite-level skill, in his ability to hit for consistent power. Not every player in the league is capable of doing truly extraordinary things. Bryant, though, shot up prospect lists because he is capable. And Tuesday night, we got our first major-league glimpse. In the first inning of a game against the Pirates, Kris Bryant did something amazing. Let’s watch and discuss.

You know I’m going to have .gifs to embed, but if you’d prefer to watch video, here’s a link to the highlight on Cubs.com. What happened: Bryant hit a double, against Francisco Liriano. That, on its own, isn’t amazing, although in some sense it really is. But anyway, here’s a full-speed visual:

bryant-double-swing (1)

And now here’s a slowed-down swing, from a slightly off-center angle:

bryant-double-swing (2)

You see pretty good balance, and a compact yet powerful swing. Bryant keeps his hands at or above his waist, and he really dips his right shoulder in order to get a more vertical swing plane against the pitch in question. The ball flies away to the opposite field. We’re going to get to that.

Freeze-frame! Liriano’s pitch target:

liriano-bryant-1

The goal was clearly to bust Bryant inside with a fastball. And though the location was slightly missed, Liriano did bust Bryant inside with a fastball. This is one of the Pirates’ team pitching philosophies, and Bryant was already behind in the count 0-and-1. The Pirates know he has swing-and-miss tendencies, and they know you can get in under his hands. That’s a statement that applies to everybody, but, anyway.

liriano-bryant-2

Basically, the moment of contact. You can see the angle at which Bryant has arranged his shoulders. The pitch is located a little above Bryant’s knees, but more importantly, it’s also inside, and inside off the plate. Part of the baseball might’ve scraped the inner black, but that’s a certifiably inside pitch. That’s just about what Liriano wanted to throw. He wasn’t expecting this:

liriano-bryant-3

The ball did hit off the fence on the fly. It was the lower part of the fence, so it wasn’t mere inches away from being a dinger, but that’s a powerful shot to right-center, right next to a measurement that very helpfully reads “375”. I’m going to pull an image from the ESPN Home Run Tracker and estimate where this baseball wound up:

bryant-pnc-overlay

Still pulling, from other places. This time, I’m going to pull from MLBFarm.com. Shown below, Bryant’s minor-league spray chart from the full 2014 season:

bryant-spray-2014

Perhaps Bryant’s most remarkable skill is his ability to hit for power to the opposite field. Anyone who scouted him would’ve been able to see that strength, and though Bryant also proved he was able to turn on pitches when he needed to, he showed true all-fields power, which is uncommon in a prospect. It’s uncommon in a major-league vet. A hitter who can hit for power to all fields in the minors seems to stand a good chance of being able to hit for power in the majors.

But it’s one thing to hit with power the other way. It’s another thing to hit that pitch with power the other way. That’s where this gets really astonishing. I’m going to use Bill Petti’s Interactive Spray Chart Tool. What you see below: pitches in similar locations thrown to righties between 2010 and just the other day. All pitch types are included; I didn’t see a reason to specify fastballs.

spray-tool-pitch-location

Okay. So. Where did those pitches get hit?

spray-tool-hit-location

Plenty of pull-side power, as you’d expect. Also plenty of pull-side non-power, as you’d expect. And there’s practically nothing hit with authority the other way. Oh, there are balls hit to the opposite field, but not many of them, and not many hit far and hard. You start to see a little more as you approach center field, but as you focus on right-center, it’s really about one dot. It’s one dot, then you have some fly outs.

That dot: a Matt Kemp homer from 2012.

kemp-dodger-stadium

The pitch Kemp hit out:

kemp-2012

Pretty good. But, oh, we’re not done. Kemp’s fly ball hung up and was just about catchable. According to the Home Run Tracker, under standard environmental conditions, the dinger would’ve left a total of zero ballparks. According to the same source, the ball left Kemp’s bat at about 96 miles per hour. Now, there are differences between the Home Run Tracker and StatCast. StatCast is capable of measuring exit speed. The Tracker has to approximate it. But, we use what we have. One source puts Kemp’s dinger at 96mph off the bat. Bryant’s double? According to StatCast, the ball left his bat 10 full ticks faster.

That’s 106 miles per hour. This quickly, we have a new way to appreciate something we already would’ve been able to appreciate to some extent. Based on what information we’ve gathered to date, Bryant’s batted ball ranked in the top seven percent in exit velocity. The overall average for right-handed hitters has been about 88mph. And the average for righties against pitches that inside has been about 82mph. As you’d expect, those inside pitches have given righties trouble, relatively speaking. Not only did Bryant clobber the pitch; he somewhat inconceivably clobbered the pitch to the fence in right-center field, in one of the more pitcher-friendly environments in the game.

I don’t know what else you need. When we all saw the Bryant double live, or in a highlight, we knew it was incredible. We also have the information to say how incredible. Hitters just don’t do what Kris Bryant did, and while maybe some other hitter might’ve turned on the same pitch and knocked it out to left, that doesn’t mean Bryant’s result wasn’t extraordinary. It was a great result, and it was a freakish result, the achievement of a baseball-hitting freak who can do things other people don’t. They don’t make many hitters like Kris Bryant. Because of this double alone, you could accurately figure that Bryant has a special skillset.

Doesn’t mean he’s a lock. Javier Baez did some freaky things, too. Wily Mo Pena did some freaky things. I’ve seen Carlos Peguero do some freaky things. The impossibly strong are capable of the borderline impossible, even if they don’t have much of a plan. The scary thing is that Kris Bryant goes up there with a plan. And it’s usually a good one.



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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Redisappointed
Member
Redisappointed
1 year 1 month ago

Great post Jeff. People who think stats and love of the game don’t go together should have to read this.

George
Guest
George
1 year 1 month ago

Excellent, excellent piece.

bdresch7
Guest
bdresch7
1 year 1 month ago

Great research on a well written article. I’m excited to see what this kid will become.

tz
Guest
tz
1 year 1 month ago

Is it just my bad vision, or does Bryant have the torso of a 6’2″ guy and the legs of a 6’8″ guy?

If that’s the case, he’s probably learned to use that extreme downward angle to cover pitches low in the zone. And because of that swing angle, he doesn’t have to swing early to get the barrel of the bat on the ball (which would inevitably mean pulling the ball).

Scott B
Guest
Scott B
1 year 1 month ago

This reminds me of how Frank Thomas could pull his hands inside the ball and drive an inside pitch to right center with authority. Great analysis….and player!

Skuggs
Guest
Skuggs
1 year 1 month ago

Does the ESPN Home Run Tracker take pitch type into account when calculating their exit velocity? I’m assuming so. That would be the only reason I could think of to include pitch type in the analysis.

Otherwise, this is awesome and I echo my man “Heart of the Game”‘s comments…whoever you are.

amgarvey
Guest
amgarvey
1 year 1 month ago

I don’t think so. I believe it has more to do with distance and launch angle.

Swfcdan
Guest
Swfcdan
1 year 1 month ago

What’s next, curing cancer? Stopping rainforest deforestation? Curing world hunger?

Mike Trout
Guest
Mike Trout
1 year 1 month ago

Already done. Try something else.

Tony
Guest
Tony
1 year 1 month ago

Kris Bryant has counted to infinity, twice.

Ballfan
Guest
Ballfan
1 year 1 month ago

the second time he did it backwards

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

In other news, Jose Abreu has hit a HR off 5 Cy Young winners in 1 year and was the only player in baseball last year to take Kluber and Kershaw deep.

….

wait, Kris Bryant just tied his shoe. Much bigger deal.

Wolf359
Guest
1 year 1 month ago

This just in. Jose is 5 years older than Kris and you are a colossal ass.

Brady Anderson from 1996
Guest
Brady Anderson from 1996
1 year 1 month ago

Brah relax, it’s sarcasm.

Jackie T.
Member
Member
Jackie T.
1 year 1 month ago

lol wut?

chasfh711
Member
chasfh711
1 year 1 month ago

Where did you get the Statcast data for yesterday’s Cubs game?

bdhudson
Member
Member
bdhudson
1 year 1 month ago

Some of the parks have included the batted ball stuff in the feed

Catoblepas
Guest
Catoblepas
1 year 1 month ago

All of them! Click “feed” in Gameday and I believe it will show up for any park, as of yesterday.

Stephen Harper
Guest
Stephen Harper
1 year 1 month ago

Anyone know if it’s possible to look back at this? On Gameday now and not seeing “feed” for games from last night.

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 1 month ago

Awesome article, Jeff.

GTinNYC
Guest
GTinNYC
1 year 1 month ago

Joey Votto did this exact thing against the Brewers on Monday. Only his left the park by a fair bit.
http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/gameday/index.jsp?gid=2015_04_20_cinmlb_milmlb_1&mode=video&content_id=81827383&tcid=vpp_copy_81827383

Bob Loblaw
Guest
Bob Loblaw
1 year 1 month ago

Votto’s pitch was more middle-inside than off the plate inside.

Buck Rotgut
Guest
Buck Rotgut
1 year 1 month ago

Not the exact same thing, but close. And Votto’s an exceptional hitter.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Yeah, but Votto is only a former MVP so why talk about him?

Better to continue to ram a 1st year player who has accomplished nothing down our throats.

I didn’t know fangraphs was Cubs affiliated.

David of unknown robot status
Guest
David of unknown robot status
1 year 1 month ago

It’s really time to consider changing your screen name.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

?

It’s irrational for me to expect fangraphs to write about someone but for Kris Bryant and Addison Russell?

As I noted above, the best hitters in the world (Abreu and Cabrera – Trout too) have maybe had one or two pieces written about them in the past 6 months. Trout more than the other two. Sorry if I have interest in following other teams and players. The countless obsession with the Cubs and this site has just gotten to be terrible. I love baseball. I don’t need to hear about one prospect 10000 times. He’s not Barry Bonds. He’s not Frank Thomas. He’s not Miguel Cabrera. He’s not Jose Abreu. Hope that clears things up.

Wolf359
Guest
1 year 1 month ago

And you are not rational, nor are you a fan. Also, I didn’t know it was required for you to read every article on this website. I really wish there was a block feature so I didn’t have to look at your unrelenting bitching and moaning.

Please feel free to do something else with your pitiful life … Or just get one.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

I didn’t know required to read every comment on this website.

minusthewhale
Member
minusthewhale
1 year 1 month ago

Seriously man, I just registered after, I dunno, two years, just to Tell you to stop crying…the phrase Debbie downer comes to mind…you see, you can skip articles, but in order to enjoy the other posts/comments, I’m FORCED to look at yours. Jesus man, stop acting 12. Anyone else familiar with Dane Cooks skit about ‘Karen’. If you don’t think there is a Karen in your group, it’s cuz it’s YOU BRO. Christ. Listen, you ACTUALLY seem to truly know your stuff about the game…But all you do is whine…If you wanna complain, start your OWN blog or site. Just stop using us as your therapy space. Must are here to chat about baseball…you don’t wanna chat about ChC n KB move on to whatever topic, but don’t act like a child. You should be well beyond that at this point in life. And hopefully you’re more evolved as a human than my 3yo nephew. End rant

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Carlos Rodon got called up yesterday.

Not a single article projecting him or calling the Sox in win-now mode. Weird.

Addison Russell called up – 3 articles written on him.

Kris Bryant called up – fangraphs shuts down, rebrands itself as KBCubs.com, and makes it a rule that 50% of all pieces must name Kris Bryant.

Wolf359
Guest
1 year 1 month ago

You sound like every other moronic White Sox fan in existence. Wah, they’re ignoring my team. Wah, they hate my team, wah. The persecution complex is strong with this idiot.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Wahhhh, I’m not a White Sox fan. Guess again.

Silvio
Guest
Silvio
1 year 1 month ago

And anyone who is really rational would realize that he is currently a relief pitcher who is being used in low-leverage situations. He isn’t playing everyday, he isn’t starting. He will be a a special SP someday, but he isn’t being used in that role at this time.

Buddy Guy
Guest
Buddy Guy
1 year 1 month ago

I love articles like this. I am extremely excited for what you mentioned earlier this season where fans with an analytical mind will have the chance to watch the game and then look back on the game and see what should have happened based on contact, average rang, etc.:)

Buddy Guy
Guest
Buddy Guy
1 year 1 month ago

range* sorry for future grammar police. (I know they should be called spelling police but for some reason ever spelling falls under the grammar police’s jurisdiction… effing police state…)

GBSimons
Guest
GBSimons
1 year 1 month ago

“even” instead of “ever.” I’m gonna have to call this in…

brian
Guest
brian
1 year 1 month ago

Yeah, Bryant’s best AB of the night might have been his 0 out walk in the ninth with runners on 2 & 3rd. Great approach, even if there’s going to be some whiff in his game.

brian
Guest
brian
1 year 1 month ago

technically I guess that wasn’t an AB, his best PA of the night I should have said.

Pirates Hurdles
Guest
Pirates Hurdles
1 year 1 month ago

I agree, I was about 90% certain the K was coming after Melancon got ahead in the count. Very fun game to attend, too bad my guys end up on the losing end.

John W.
Member
Member
John W.
1 year 1 month ago

Fantastic, mind blowing work. Thank You.

Max G
Guest
Max G
1 year 1 month ago

Thanks, Jeff, for yet another awesome read!

Mike Green
Guest
Mike Green
1 year 1 month ago

He jetered that ball real good.

Camchuck
Guest
Camchuck
1 year 1 month ago

Reminds me of this article:

Camchuck
Guest
Camchuck
1 year 1 month ago
Buck Rotgut
Guest
Buck Rotgut
1 year 1 month ago

With Bryant and Addison Russell, the Cubs are going to be fun to watch. Thank God for mlb.tv!

Dave
Guest
Dave
1 year 1 month ago

Nicely done Jeff… I watched that one live and knew it was something special when I saw. Glad to see it put in perspective.

dtpollitt
Member
Member
dtpollitt
1 year 1 month ago

Jeff Sullivan you are a wizard.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Unbelievable.

The two best hitters on the planet – Jose Abreu and Miguel Cabrera might have one piece written on them each the past 6 months by fangraphs.

Kris Bryant has 6 pieces written on him in one week. This is just unbearable at this point.

Rum Infused
Guest
Rum Infused
1 year 1 month ago

If you hate Kris Bryant articles so much you could – and I know this is crazy talk – not read them. Might be slightly too rational for you though.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

They are front and center on the website every time I stop by. Kind of hard to ignore them and look past them.

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 1 month ago

I know right?! It’s tough to scroll past the article title that takes up like 0.5 inch on a 12-inch monitor! Maybe even a WHOLE INCH on a 16-incher! Like, where else could you possibly click?!

Billy goat
Guest
Billy goat
1 year 1 month ago

You’re correct that there’s something unbearable about posts regarding Chicago teams on this site. You are incorrect, however, that it occurs above the comment line. Find a new bridge to lurk under.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Who says I am a Chicago fan? In the past week I have been accused of being a Cardinals fan, a Pirates fan and now a White Sox fan. Good times – all just because I am sick of reading about the Cubs 24/7.

I bring up the other Chicago team just to point to the hypocrisy of the site. I bring up Abreu because that guy sure is fun to watch… in case you were wondering. If you just visited fangraphs though you’d think Bryant was better than Abreu/Miggy and Trout combined.

Moonman Moonman Can't You See
Guest
Moonman Moonman Can't You See
1 year 1 month ago

Anyone who actually read the articles that Fangraphs writes about Bryant would not draw that conclusion.

Someone who was emotionally invested in running down Kris Bryant would draw those conclusions.

arc
Guest
arc
1 year 1 month ago

Who says I am a Chicago fan?

Indeed, even the person you’re replying to didn’t say as much.

Ben
Guest
Ben
1 year 1 month ago

Your bitching is getting pretty unbearable too.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

But wait, can’t you chose not to read it? I thought that’s what I was just told?

Still waiting to hear more about my perceived fanhood.

Silvio
Guest
Silvio
1 year 1 month ago

Why are you interested in Miggy Cabrera? He can’t play D, can’t run — another two-tool player, just like Bryant. What a bum!

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

The Cubs haven’t won anything in 110 years.

The Cubs (A MAJOR MARKET TEAM) just threw away 4 seasons to rebuild. A major market team did not try to put a good product on the field for 4 seasons and they are being praised.

The Cubs are 8-6, and in 2nd place. They aren’t great by any means – regardless of their early season record. Sorry if I’d rather read about the emergence of Cain, the potential turnaround season from Brandon Morrow, the possibility that DeGrom is better than Harvey and the millions of other great stories this baseball season; instead, everyday I check fangraphs the first two articles are about the Cubs and their win-now mode and their overhyped prospects (newsflash, all prospects are over hyped because people that have accomplished nothing in the game of baseball deserve very little attention)

Ben
Guest
Ben
1 year 1 month ago

You may be forgetting that this is a free website. If you find the content so upsetting, you may want to go elsewhere.

Wolf359
Guest
1 year 1 month ago

And you haven’t said anything intelligent in your last 110 comments so I guess we’re even …

Tomcat
Guest
Tomcat
1 year 1 month ago

“Sorry if I’d rather read about the emergence of Cain, the potential turnaround season from Brandon Morrow, the possibility that DeGrom is better than Harvey and the millions of other great stories this baseball season”

Maybe you should submit an article about one of these topics to community research?

Mike13
Guest
1 year 1 month ago

Someone is getting really mad over a few articles

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Someone is getting really mad over a few comments.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Wow! What an incredible looking strike out by Bryant to end the game? Did you guys see that? This guy makes striking out look good. Hopefully we’ll get a 3 page breakdown on the most effective strikeout in baseball history tomorrow!

Go to bed
Guest
Go to bed
1 year 1 month ago

Shhhhuuuuuuuutttt uuuuuuuuuuppppp

Silvio
Guest
Silvio
1 year 1 month ago

And yet, you continue to visit a site, and generate revenue for them, even though you clearly have no respect for them. What a clown.

Rational Fan
Guest
Rational Fan
1 year 1 month ago

Love reading fangraphs until the past 2 months, and as a revenue generating customer it only felt right to state my displeasure. You guys seem angry.

Moonman Moonman Can't You See
Guest
Moonman Moonman Can't You See
1 year 1 month ago

I think the butthurt is decisively one-sided.

Hason Jeyward
Member
Hason Jeyward
1 year 1 month ago

Can you cry a little more? I just…it just feels like you could do more. Crying. You know.

emsigam
Member
emsigam
1 year 1 month ago

My robot love is several standard deviations above other robot love.

acj
Guest
acj
1 year 1 month ago

Anyone have a link to that .gif or vine of Miguel Cabrera in a batting cage displaying his hand usage? Wondering whether Bryant’s usage here’s similar.

ptbnl
Guest
ptbnl
1 year 1 month ago

Very nice article, and awesome tool … there goes another morning.

The result is somewhat sensitive to the precise definition of the pitch zone – let it creep in just a hair more (HL>-1.05) and you’ll pick up Michael Young’s 7/25/11 homer off Nick Blackburn in the same location as Kemp’s

More significantly though, any reason not to distinguish between left- and right-handed pitchers? Pretty much everything else hit to the wall to straightaway center or rightwards was off a rightie.

Rational Fan Fan
Guest
Rational Fan Fan
1 year 10 days ago

@Ration Fan

I’m with you man. I live in Chicago and literally every time Kris Bryant hits a home run I have to hear about it.

I mean Chicago is a big sports town with Hawks, Bulls in playoffs every year but I didn’t know the baseball teams were Chicago White Sox and Chicago Kris Bryants

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