When you think about the first week and a half of the Colorado Rockies' season, what comes to mind? Trevor Story and his home runs? Maybe DJ LeMahieu and his .464 batting average? What about the starting rotation and their league-worst 7.40 ERA? Did you hear Nolan Arenado had seven RBI last night? What about Carlos Gonzalez?
The Rockies' second longest-tenured and arguably most well-known player has somehow gotten off to a blistering hot start that nobody is talking about. Through his first eight games, CarGo is crushing the ball to the tune of a .394/.426/.788 slash line.
It isn't just the surface numbers that have made his early season production impressive, though. He's hitting the ball really hard. Harder than any other everyday starter in the league, in fact! We are still learning about what exactly what different batted ball velocities tell us, but one thing we can say for sure is that higher is better.
The fact that hitting the ball harder leads to better results isn't a new or groundbreaking concept. All of us already knew that. What is new is Statcast's ability to tell us precisely how hard a ball was hit and how that compares to a player's past performance as well as to the league as a whole. This tells us two things about CarGo's hot start.
One, there's nothing fluky about it. Back in January, MLB.com's Mike Petriello looked at the relationship between exit velocity and offensive success. What he found was that, while not a guarantee of success, higher exit velocity certainly helped. In fact, all of the top 20 in average exit velocity were above-average offensive players in 2015. To further illustrate this point, check out how much better the results are with top-tier exit velocity:
Several people have requested exit velocity breakdowns. Here's last years breakdown. Hit the ball hard kids... pic.twitter.com/HxZjv7Iro2— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 14, 2016
This doesn't mean we should expect CarGo to hit .394 all season, but it does mean he's likely back to being the offensive force we've grown accustomed to seeing outside of his injury-riddled 2014 and early 2015 seasons.
Speaking of those injuries, the second thing we can learn from Gonzalez's high exit velocity is that the ailments probably aren't affecting him anymore. Way back last June, Petriello also looked at the correlation between exit velocity and health. Andrew McCutchen and Hanley Ramirez were the case studies for this article, but the same principle applies to Gonzalez.
When players with established track records like these three do are struggling and may or may not be bothered by an injury, exit velocity can help to point us toward the truth. In Gonzalez's case, he was at or below league average exit velocity in five of the first 11 weeks of the 2015 season. In the 17 weeks since, his average exit velocity has been above league average 14 times, with the highest of those 17 coming in the first week of 2016.
Prior to the season, many believed that CarGo's days as a star player were over. So far in 2016, he's letting everyone know that reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated.