The 2019 MLB regular season is barely a week old. So, it’s hard to draw any real conclusions from what’s happened on the field at this point without it feeling like an overreaction.
But still, how are we supposed to pass the time until statistics stabilize without some overreacting?
What’s been noticeable about certain position players during this first week of play is how a handful are just absolutely crushing the ball. We’re not just talking about racking up the stats to prove it — that may be a byproduct for some, but we’re talking about the obscenely high hard-hit rates a select few hitters have put together. Fans are starting to notice and are placing wagers on US friendly Android betting apps knowing that these players are on hot streaks and may lead their teams to victory.
After taking a peek at qualified hitters on FanGraphs, there are five hitters living at or near the top of the hard-hit rate leaderboard (heading into Wednesday’s games) that really jump off the page. There’s still plenty of time for these statistics to come back to reality, but for now, it just looks crazy.
Paul Goldschmidt, St. Louis Cardinals
Fresh off signing a long-term extension to stay in St. Louis, Paul Goldschmidt sure seems comfortable with his new squad. Through his first 24 plate appearances, the veteran first baseman slashed .300/.417/.900 (!!) with four home runs and eight RBI.
That’s impressive by itself, but the route he’s taken to get there makes you shake your head in disbelief once more. Goldy has paired those numbers with a 27.3% line-drive rate and 54.5% fly-ball rate, along with a 0.0% soft-hit rate and a league-leading (heading into Wednesday’s games) 90.9% hard-hit rate.
This hot start from Goldschmidt isn’t necessarily surprising — he’s been one of the game’s quietest superstars for years. However, it’s fun to see how different the start of 2019 has been for him compared to 2018. He didn’t hit his fourth homer of the year until his 44th game last season, and his hard-hit rate through the end of April was 39.7%.
Tommy Pham, Tampa Bay Rays
Of the hitters we’ll be talking about on this list, Pham may be the most surprising. He shouldn’t be based off his recent season-long performances, though.
Pham posted a 35.5% hard-hit rate in his breakout 2017 campaign, followed by a 48.5% rate in 2018. So far this season, that number has settled in at 78.6%. The upward trend is strong, but it hasn’t translated into on-field results yet.
The outfielder does own a 124 wRC+ through 30 plate appearances but still hasn’t recorded an extra-base hit for Tampa Bay in 2019. His fly-ball rate is rather low at the moment (14.3%), but it’s also accompanied by 42.9% line-drive and ground-ball rate. Despite a 66.7% hard-hit rate on line drives, his BABIP currently stands at .500 with a 218 wRC+ (those numbers were .635 and 289, respectively, at the end of last season).
Nelson Cruz, Minnesota Twins
Although he’s wearing yet another uniform, Nelson Cruz continues raking at the plate. The veteran has helped the Twins jump out to a 4-1 start and take a (very, very early) lead in the American League Central by slashing .333/.500/.611 with one homer and six RBI in 24 plate appearances.
Naturally, Cruz has enjoyed this fast start by doing what he normally does — crushing the offerings of opposing pitchers. He’s put together a 0.0% soft-hit rate and 75.0% hard-hit rate, but one has to wonder…why only one dinger so far if he’s making consistently solid contact?
That’s because of how the rest of his batted-ball profile looks. Cruz’s 33.3% fly-ball rate is slightly down from what he’s done in recent years, along with there being a huge rise in line drives (41.7%). Once that comes down to his career norm (17.6% career line-drive rate) and his fly-ball rate climbs back up (40.8% career rate), the dingers will start flowing again.
Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies
While Bryce Harper gets all the glory in the headlines during his honeymoon period with Phillies fans (as well as raking at the plate), Rhys Hoskins is busy crushing the ball — although he hasn’t reaped the benefits.
He actually sported a 100% hard-hit rate as recently as Monday night, but it’s just “plummeted” to 71.4% at the time of writing. What’s interesting is that his 126 wRC+ says good things are happening, but it’s accompanied with a very weird .188/.409/.438 triple slash through 22 plate appearances.
Early-season statistics are just the best, aren’t they?
A hitter always known to take his walks, Hoskins’ overall offensive value is being boosted by the fact that his walk rate (22.7%) is outpacing his strikeout rate (18.2%). He’s been a fly-ball-heavy slugger throughout his short MLB career, and that hasn’t changed thus far in 2019 — his fly-ball rate is 66.7%, which is among the highest in baseball. However, it’s been accompanied by a 50.0% infield-fly rate, helping explain why Hoskins has collected just one homer so far.
Once things even out more, he’ll reap the full benefit of having Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, and Harper hitting before him in what’s looking like an insanely deep Philly batting order.
Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
The first four players highlighted here landed in the first four spots of the hard-hit rate leaderboards at the time of this writing. Gallo finds himself a little lower, but still among the top 15 with a 58.3% hard-hit rate.
His current hard-hit rate isn’t outrageous — he posted rates of 46.4% and 48.5% in 2017 and 2018. What does jump out, though, is his ground-ball rate. That number was sitting at 50.0% heading into Wednesday’s games, along with having a 33.3% fly-ball rate.
Based on Gallo’s recent performances, those numbers are the complete opposite of what they normally have been by the time Game 162 is in the books. For someone as dependent on fly balls as him, it’s not shocking to see he’s only collected two extra-base hits (one double, one homer) after about one week of play.
The strikeouts will likely start coming in bunches, but so will the homers. After all, this is a guy who’s racked up consecutive campaigns of 40-plus homers entering this year.