Here are the ten hardest-hit balls of Nico Hoerner’s career so far:
|Game Date||Event||Exit Velocity||Launch Angle||Pitch Type|
Three of his highest exit velocities came in this weekend’s series against the Brewers, and he set a career high on Saturday’s game. Either Hoerner has gotten even stronger over the offseason or he’s tweaked his swing to utilize his recent strength more.
Two other things stand out from this table; the first that most of these have come off of fastballs, and the second that only his home run on Opening Day and his single on 8/26/22 are in the launch angle sweet spot of 8-32 degrees. This tracks with the eye test–Hoerner is strong, but he often beats the ball into the ground and struggles with breaking pitches. The Cubs don’t need Hoerner to provide power for him to be a useful player, but his increased exit velocities this year are a trend to watch.
Ethan Roberts made his major-league debut on Saturday, during which he threw three sliders. The slider topped out at a 3081 RPM spin-rate, which is the 30th-highest spin rate of any pitch in the majors this year.1 This year, his slider has the second-highest average spin rate of any slider in baseball. It’s early, and the sample size is small, but as long as Roberts can command the slider it’s worth watching.
Kyle Hendricks was excellent on Opening Day, outpitching the reigning NL Cy Young award winner by striking out seven and allowing just one run in 5 1/3 innings of work. Not only were the results impressive, they were well-earned. Hendricks’ 17 whiffs on Friday were three more than he had in any start last year, and his 13 changeup whiffs were the most he’d had since July 2019. He has as many whiffs on his changeup this year in one appearance as the next two best appearances combined. Of course, this is influenced by who has pitched this early in the year, and it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect Hendricks to be this good every time out. Still, it was nice to see Hendricks provide some reassurance after a rough 2021.
Coincidentally, one of Kyle Hendricks’ curveballs from Opening Day ranked 32nd on this list. You don’t think of Hendricks as a spin-rate guy, but his curve has always ranked highly in that category–it was in the 91st percentile of curveballs last year, and 6th overall early this year. ↩︎