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Padres Star Luis Arraez Is A True Throwback In Statcast Era

In an era featuring Statcast metrics that highlight power numbers, Padres star Luis Arraez is a true baseball throwback. The newly acquired Padres second baseman made his home debut this past Friday night one to remember. He delivered a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Arraez was acquired in a trade with the Miami Marlins as part of an expected Miami fire sale.  The addition of Arraez to the Padres lineup might fly under the radar to the casual fan who emphasizes power numbers and exit velocities, which are often dominated by power hitters like Aaron Judge or Giancarlo Stanton, but Arraez is every bit as valuable to a lineup, if not more so, than the modern day slugger.

Padres Star Luis Arraez Is A True Throwback In Statcast Era


Statcast is a highly-accurate technology used to collect and analyze all kinds of baseball and player data that has given deeper insight into the game. It was introduced to all 30 MLB parks in 2015, and tracks metrics ranging from a pitched ball’s spin rate to a batted ball’s launch angle. It is a brilliant technological advancement in baseball statistics and offers plenty of useful metrics, but it has also added to the increasing infatuation with power hitting in general. For instance, Arraez’s Statcast power metrics such as exit velocity and hard-hit % aren’t going to jump out at anyone. He has not hit more than 10 home runs in a season and has just 24 in his career, which is in its sixth season. But these metrics alone don’t show just how valuable Arraez is to a lineup.

Arraez, 27, is from Venezuela and originally signed with the Minnesota Twins as an international free agent in 2013. In 2019 with the Twins, he hit a robust .334 in 92 games as a rookie. In 2022, Arraez was an All-Star and also won the AL batting title, hitting .316 with 173 hits on the season.

Arraez Traded To The Marlins

The following offseason, Arraez was traded to the Miami Marlins. In Miami, Arraez didn’t skip a beat, recording 203 hits in 2023 while hitting .354, this time capturing the NL batting title. Arraez is just the second player in the modern era to win a batting title in each league, and the only player to do it in consecutive seasons. Arraez also recorded three 5-hit games in the month of June, setting a single season Marlins record. This also tied Ty Cobb, George Sisler, and Dave Winfield for the most 5-hit games in a single month.

The key stat that gets largely overlooked is Arraez’s strikeouts and walks. In his rookie season, he walked (36) more than he struck out (29). He accomplished the same feat in both 2022 (50 BB, 43 K) and 2023 (35 BB, 34 K). Arraez struck out in just 7.1% of his plate appearances in 2022. In 2023 he lowered that number to an unheard of 5.5%. For context, Phillies’ slugger Kyle Schwarber’s strikeout rate in 2023 was 29.9%.

Making Contact At An Unprecedented Rate

Where Arraez’s Statcast metrics lack in power, he more than makes up for in contact. In 2022, according to Baseball Savant’s Statcast, Arraez led all of baseball with a 94% in-zone contact rate. This is the percentage of contact made on pitches swung at within the strike zone. He also led the league with an 89.4% out-of-zone contact rate, which measures the percentage of contact made on pitches swung at outside the strike zone. He led baseball in both categories again in 2023, posting a 93.8% in-zone contact rate and an 87.2% out-of-zone contact rate. To compare, the league avearage last season for in-zone contact rate was 81.9%, while the average for out-of-zone contact rate was just 55.8%.

These are some deep statistics to get into. However, they are every bit as valuable when it comes to measuring a hitter’s skills. Just as the power metrics are. I’m not saying the power metrics aren’t needed. A metric such as exit velocity can absolutely help a hitter gain insight to how and when he’s hitting the ball hard. But there is also something to be said for hitting the ball, which Arraez does better than anyone in baseball.

Arraez Is Quickly Establishing Himself As Baseball’s Best Pure Hitter

Arraez is on a torrid pace to cement himself as one of baseball’s best contact hitters. He has brought back the art of the batting average. That’s in an age where it is largely ignored. That is as long as home runs and slugging percentages are up. The problem with sacrificing batting average for power is that we as fans see fewer clutch hits. Fewer players are shortening their swings with two strikes. Selfishly swinging out of their shoes to try to plant a ball on the moon. Look no further than Javier Baez. He has never been able to corral his huge swing in a moment when his team really just needs a baserunner. Situational hitting has become a thing of the past and that ultimately has taken the excitement out of the game in clutch moments.

Arraez rarely strikes out. His odds of putting the ball in play in clutch situations give fans added excitement since there likely won’t be just one of two outcomes: a homerun or a strikeout, the latter being far more likely. We witnessed this on Friday night when Arraez walked off the Dodgers with a ninth-inning single. We will likely witness it many more times if his career continues along this path.

The Future For Arraez

More data than ever is becoming available now via Statcast to measure how hard and how far players hit baseballs. Luis Arraez is keeping it simple with his classic and refreshing approach at the plate. Arraez is already playing for his third major league team since being traded to the Padres. That is shocking given what he’s accomplished so far. A modern-day throwback like Arraez shouldn’t be so easily discarded. However, it’s only a matter of time before a team finally figures that out.

Main Photo Credits: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports





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