Spousal debates over directional efficiency are as old as time itself. In 2001, a wife implores her significant other to follow the freshly printed instructions from Mapquest. A few years later, a husband begs his spouse to follow the GPS instructions to the letter. Now, the debate turns to Waze or Google Maps. Whichever the choice, neither is effectively more correct than the other. Efficiency can be argued, but in most cases that is dealing with iotas of time that are relative in nature.
Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor are highly effective baseball players. The similarities between the two run rampant in their performance but split off like a fork in the road in their pedigree. While the numbers from 2018 tend to line up — 8 WAR versus 7.6 WAR, 39 roundtrippers versus 38 — their paths to achieving such levels of success were wildly different. One took the Waze path, while the other plodded along the Google Maps route.
The dichotomy begins with exit velocity. To the dismay of the anti-analytics contingent, it is a primary predictor of success rate at the dish. Even the most sabermetrically averse can attest to their little league coaches drilling into them to hit the ball hard. This is the simple relationship: A ball that is struck harder has a higher likelihood of missing gloves, and even finding its way over the fence.
Francisco Lindor’s average exit velocity marks over the last three years are 88.4, 88.3, and 90.2 miles per hour.
Jose Ramirez’s average exit velocity outputs over the last three years are 88.0, 88.0, and 88.8 miles per hour.
In this cursory glance at the data, it is obvious that Lindor hits the ball slightly harder on average, but not to an overwhelming degree. Though the outputs tend to mirror each other a bit, the journey in which Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor arrive at these outputs is vastly different, much like their prospect pedigree.
Jose Ramirez, the pennies on the dollar international signing whose backstory only grows in lore, ascended to stardom through a barrage of consistent contact. Marked in his plate discipline and elite barrel control, JRam makes the most out of his plate appearances. Directionally, he has mastered his maximization of rather meager exit velocity outputs.
An approach centered on increasing the frequency of pulled contact has led Ramirez to premier power status. While the individual exit velocities won’t blow anyone away, his stamp is finding just enough oomph to scrape over the top of the wall. He does this through optimized loft and pure selectiveness. An average home run distance of 388 feet highlights his ability to find just the right crevasses from park to park.
On the other hand, Francisco Lindor, the highly touted first rounder that was always going to be a bona fide superstar, has lived up to his expectations through brute force. His average homer carries over 400 feet. The twelve plus foot difference between his long balls and Ramirez’s may seem minute in nature, but consider this — when that figure is extrapolated to incorporate all of their homers, Lindor’s homers traveled in excess of 400 feet further, or enough for a no doubter on its own.
Rather than directionally, Lindor accomplishes his power via maximized exit velocity. Of the 42 hardest batted balls for the 2018 Cleveland Indians, Francisco Lindor accounted for a whopping sixteen, including the top three. That’s 38.1 percent via one player. Jose Ramirez accounted for just one. This meant Lindor was providing consistently better outputs on that spectrum, but was the weaker hitter across 2019.
Though Jose Ramirez’s overall plate profile is better as depicted by projections, plate discipline, and aptitude for extra base hits, it is legitimate to hypothesize that there is another level within Francisco Lindor. If he were to optimize his launch angle and pull a few more balls, it’s not unreasonable to suggest he would challenge Ramirez’s stance as Indians best hitter. That jet stream into right center slash right field at Progressive Field could vault Lindor to 40 homers in a season, provided his most recent calf and ankle setbacks don’t keep him out for an extended period of time.
Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez are both elite players. How they arrive at that point is vastly different, but if required to pick one it remains difficult. They will use their different methods to reach the same goal — consideration for the MVP award. Enjoy them, Cleveland.
**Editor’s Note: The 2019 Positional Previews continue with EHC’s Gage Will, Jim Pete, and Mike Hattery talk about the Cleveland Indians’ superstars, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez. What is their peak, and have they already reached it? Where will they hit in the order, and will they be utilized in a way to maximize their production?