It began on Opening Day with a ninth-inning two-strike single dumped into centerfield:
It ended on the final day of the season with a fly ball double to the right-center field gap:
In between, Twins infielder Luis Arráez knocked 171 other base hits, totaling 173 hits for the 2022 season. Over 547 at-bats, Arráez batted .316 to lead the American League and earn the first batting title of his career. He joined Rod Carew (7 times), Joe Mauer (3 times), Tony Oliva (2 times), and Kirby Puckett as Twins that have led the American League in batting average in a season.
In celebration of Arráez’s accomplishment, I thought diving into the data that accompanies his hits would be fun. Here comes a torrent of charts, graphs, and GIFs, starting with a spray chart of his hits:
A big part of the beauty of Arráez’s game is his ability and willingness to use the whole field, which is clear in the chart above. In total, 43% of Arráez’s hits went up the middle, 26% went the opposite way, and 31% were pulled.
You can also see in the spray chart and table below that the preponderance of his hits were singles:
Not only did Arráez get hits all around the field, but he also generated those hits from pitches all around the strike zone, including 39 from pitches located out of the zone:
And he got his hits against all different pitch types:
In total, 118 (68.2%) of Arráez’s hits came against fastball varieties, against which he hit .351. He batted .262 in adding 32 more hits (18.5% of his total) against breaking pitches and .258 (13.3%) in safely knocking 23 off-speed pitches.
As Arráez created hits against seemingly every pitch type this side of knuckleballs (and he can’t face teammate Jhoan Duran’s splinker), it makes sense that he rapped hits against pitches at every velocity marker from 99 mph to 79 mph, with a few at 77 mph and 75 mph thrown in for good measure:
Pitches thrown 94 mph yielded the most Arráez base knocks (20). That tracks with the data showing he hit fastball pitch types the hardest on average (90.2-mph average exit velocity), including his hardest hit ball that landed safely of the season, this 105.1 mph rocket against Cleveland last month:
His softest base hit came off a Zack Greinke changeup and was this checked swing infield roller that presented the second baseman with a very tough chance:
In between those two extremes, Arráez got base hits on batted balls with all kinds of exit velocities. The most (12 each) came from balls he hit 98-, 99-, or 100- miles per hour:
Naturally, when Arráez hit the ball hardest, he had better chances to get base hits, at least as estimated by Statcast’s expected batting average (xBA) metric. When Arráez hit the ball 95 mph or greater, he carried a .550 batting average and a .460 xBA. When he hit the ball 100 mph or greater – something he did 39 times – he batted .718 with a .571 xBA.
Interestingly, though, Arráez’s hardest-hit batted ball of the season (107.3 mph) was chopped straight into the ground in front of home plate and went for an easy 6-3 groundout.
The Arráez base hit that had the highest expected batting average off the bat was not a pitch that he hit exceptionally hard. It was this 88.9-mph flare to left that came with a .960 expected batting average:
Similarly, the hit that came with the lowest expected batting average was not one that had a low exit velocity. It was this 85.3-mph pop-up that came with just a .017 xBA, somehow wasn’t caught, and benefitted from some generous home-team scorekeeping in Cleveland.
(I dug up the box score for this one. Arráez did not come around to score after reaching on this hit, otherwise, I suspect it may have ended up being scored somewhat differently in the end.)
Of course, those kinds of breaks often go both ways. Arráez had four batted ball events this season with xBAs of .700 or greater that resulted in outs. Three of those four looked almost identical to this one – slashed liners that left fielders were able to snag:
Line drives were the most common batted ball type that went for hits for Arráez. He led the American League with 100 base hits classified as line drives by Statcast, well clear of José Abreu’s 90 in the AL and trailing only the Dodgers’ Freddie Freeman (101) in all of MLB in that specific category.
Finally, let’s close this out the way it began – Arráez’s prowess with two strikes. He tied for second in baseball this season with 76 hits in two-strike counts, trailing only Boston’s Xander Bogaerts (82). However, Arráez led baseball in batting average in such counts, hitting .281, a full twenty points above the next closest player with at least 100 plate appearances (Colorado’s Yonathan Daza), 23 points ahead of Bogaerts, and 123 points better than the .168 league average.