Relive ’20’s most spectacular Statcast plays

Detroit Tigers

The 2020 season was short on games, but packed with unbelievable plays.

The pandemic-shortened campaign still delivered a plethora of memorable moments and awe-inspiring physical feats, and Statcast was there tracking every part of the latter. On Sunday, MLB Network picked out the very best plays for each of the 30 MLB clubs for its “2020 Statcast Superlatives” program, and if you missed the show, you’re in luck: below is a rundown of each of those 30 plays and feats for your enjoyment.

American League East

Blue Jays: Tellez clears the seats
Aug. 20 might have been the most fun day Toronto had all season. After scoring runs in the final two frames to walk off the Phillies in the doubleheader opener, the Blue Jays erased a 7-2 deficit in the nightcap with a seven-spot in their penultimate turn at the plate. Rowdy Tellez’s 117.4 mph moonshot — Toronto’s hardest-hit homer under Statcast tracking — kickstarted the rally.

Orioles: Santander says, ‘Not so fast’

With the Blue Jays clinging to a 7-6 lead in the top of the seventh on Aug. 18, Toronto’s Travis Shaw thought he could stretch out a leadoff double. But Anthony Santander had other plans, firing a 220-foot throw to nab Shaw at second in a game Baltimore eventually pushed to 10 innings.

Rays: Kiermaier rockets one home

The hardest-tracked outfield assist of the season belonged to Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa Bay’s all-world center fielder, who unleashed a 96.9 mph one-hopper to cut down Philadelphia’s Andrew McCutchen at home plate on Sept. 26.

Red Sox: Verdugo shows off his arm

Alex Verdugo garnered some down-ballot AL MVP Award votes after his Boston debut thanks to both his bat and defensive plays like the one he made in Baltimore on Aug. 22, when he charged Pat Valaika’s single and whipped a 95.1 mph throw to easily cut down Renato Núñez at home plate.

Yankees: Giancarlo makes opening statement

Big things were expected of the Bronx Bombers in 2020, and Giancarlo Stanton wasted no time stoking that excitement when he walloped a 121.3 mph home run — MLB’s hardest-hit ball of the year — in the Yanks’ second game of the season. This 483-foot shot came just one night after Stanton launched a 459-foot dinger off Max Scherzer.

AL Central

Indians: Bieber leaves them flailing

How does one become a unanimous AL Cy Young Award winner and capture the MLB Pitching Triple Crown? Well, getting your opponents to miss on 40.7% of their swings, as Shane Bieber did, is an excellent way to start. That whiff-per-swing rate led all AL starters, and finished second only to Jacob deGrom (41%) across the big leagues.

Royals: Staumont’s smokin’ strikeouts

It was a tough season for the Royals, but they found a bright spot in rookie reliever Josh Staumont, who emerged as one of MLB’s very hardest throwers. Staumont finished 2020 with the season’s four fastest strikeout pitches, with each of them popping the mitt at a scorching 101.5 mph or faster.

Tigers: Still some pop in ol’ Miggy’s bat

Two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera just wrapped up his 18th Major League season, but the 37-year-old still proved he could send the ball a country mile on Sept. 24, when he belted Royals lefty Kris Bubic’s fastball a projected 450 feet for his longest homer in more than a year.

Twins: Rosario nabs Cameron at home
Most AL Central players know not to run on Eddie Rosario’s arm, but we’ll give Daz Cameron a pass here as he learns the ropes. With the Twins clinging to a 2-1 lead on Sept. 22, Rosario charged in on Victor Reyes’ single and fired home a 95.1 mph throw on the fly to keep Cameron from scoring the tying run.

White Sox: ‘La Pantera’ notches first October highlight
South Side fans are hoping outfield prodigy Luis Robert will help lead the White Sox to many more postseason trips, but he put his stamp on his first October appearance with this 112.2 mph, 487-foot monster home run off A’s starter Mike Fiers in the decisive AL Wild Card Series Game 3. This was both the longest homer by a White Sox player and the longest blast tracked at the Oakland Coliseum since Statcast launched in 2015.

AL West

Angels: Walsh knocks a (very) grand slam
No it was not Mike Trout, but rather rookie Jared Walsh who clubbed the Angels’ longest home run of 2020 at 450 feet. Better yet, Walsh’s tape-measure blast was a grand slam amid the Halos’ 8-5 win over the Rangers on Sept. 21.

Astros: Springer delivers in October (again)
George Springer knows a thing or two about hitting in October; his 19 career postseason homers (and counting) are tied for fourth most all-time. He also knows a little something about hitting leadoff home runs, just like his 115.8 mph laser shot (the fifth-hardest postseason homer tracked by Statcast since 2015) that kickstarted the Astros’ win over the Rays in ALCS Game 5.

Athletics: Chappy pops one

Long known for his all-world glovework at third base, Matt Chapman took another step forward with his bat in 2020. The A’s star showed more power, including a 115.9 mph laser off Houston’s Zack Greinke on Aug. 29 that stands as Oakland’s hardest-hit dinger under Statcast tracking since ‘15.

Mariners: Lewis rips one off JV

The tone was set for Kyle Lewis’ AL Rookie of the Year campaign right on Opening Night, when the center fielder squared up Justin Verlander’s second-inning fastball with a 110.9 mph exit velocity and sent it way over the train tracks in left-center at Minute Maid Park. That shot remained as the Mariners’ hardest-hit homer for the rest of 2020.

Rangers: Gallo’s got a cannon, too

Yes, we’re featuring Joey Gallo here — but not for a tape-measure dinger. Rangers fans can tell you that Gallo owns one of the game’s strongest outfield throwing arms, as he showed when he fired home a 95.7 mph throw on Aug. 20 to retire Manny Machado at home plate.

NL East

Braves: Ronnie crushes 2020’s longest blast
This year’s longest homer belonged to Atlanta superstar Ronald Acuña Jr., who got all of this cutter thrown by Boston’s Chris Mazza — and then some — while launching the pitch a projected 495 feet to the left-center-field concourse.

Marlins: Brinson takes a run off the board

Nationals star Juan Soto put up video-game numbers in 2020, but they would have been even a hair better if it weren’t for Marlins outfielder Lewis Brinson’s efforts on Aug. 23, when he covered 101 feet before reaching up and snagging Soto’s drive as it was clearing the Nationals Park fence.

Mets: deGrom gets even more dominant

Throwing fastballs harder than he ever has before, two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom somehow looked even more dominant than he ever has before. He raised his whiff-per-swing rate nearly 10 points from 2019 to an incredible 41%, best among all qualified starting pitchers.

Nationals: Soto slams the Mets

Brinson might have robbed Soto of one homer, but absolutely no one was bringing back the pair of moonshots that the Nationals’ prodigy slammed over the course of one mid-August series against the Mets. The two taters traveled a projected 466 and 463 feet, respectively, giving Soto the two longest homers tracked at Citi Field since Statcast launched in 2015.

Phillies: Bryce unloads
There are few things more beautiful than when Bryce Harper’s violent swing gets a hold of a pitch, as it did when he sent a fastball thrown by Atlanta’s Robbie Erlin a projected 470 feet to the back of the Truist Park seats in right-center field on Aug. 22.

NL Central

Brewers: Devin masters ‘The Airbender’

2020’s most untouchable pitcher? That was probably NL Rookie of the Year Award winner Devin Williams, who used his high-90s fastball and incredibly filthy “Airbender” changeup to get hitters to miss on 51.8% of their total swings — the highest whiff rate of any pitcher who faced at least 100 batters.

Cardinals: Bader the burner

Almost no one in baseball covers ground as fast as Harrison Bader. The Cardinals outfielder showed off his wheels by reaching a top sprint speed of 30.8 feet per second — above the 30 ft/sec threshold for elite MLB speed — while legging out a triple against the Brewers on Sept. 27

Cubs: Slow coming in, slow coming out

Kyle Hendricks has never lit up the radar gun, but when he’s on, neither do the hitters he faces. Only 18% of the balls put in play against Hendricks’ superb changeup registered as “hard-hit,” meeting Statcast’s definition with an exit velocity of 95 mph or higher.

Pirates: ‘El Coffee’ serves up a missile
Cincinnati’s Nick Senzel thought he had an opportunity to tag up and take second base after teammate Josh VanMeter lofted a ball to the right-field warning track on Aug. 14. Pirates outfielder Gregory Polanco disagreed, catching the ball and then calmly firing a perfect, 212-foot throw to retire Senzel by a good step.

Reds: Cy-caliber dominance
Statcast’s expected batting average (xBA) metric is pretty simple: it approximates how hitters should fare, looking at expected outcomes based on exit velocities and launch angles, while also factoring in real-life strikeout totals. Well, hitters struck out a ton against NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer, and they hardly ever made solid contact, either. Hence, Bauer’s .165 xBA — the lowest for any starting pitcher this year.

NL West

D-backs: Timmy turns on the jets

Tim Locastro has finished as MLB’s fastest player by average sprint speed two years running, thanks to plays like the triple he notched against Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Sept. 9. Locastro topped out at 31 feet per second as he motored from home plate to third base, blowing past the 30 ft/sec threshold that Statcast designates as elite MLB speed.

Dodgers: Mookie pulls off an eerie sequel

We may just need to call monster outfield assists from the right-field corner “Mookies” from now on. Back on July 31, Mookie Betts scooped up a ball hit by Arizona’s Ketel Marte and unloaded an incredibly accurate 300-plus-foot throw on the fly to get Marte at third base trying for a triple. It was almost a carbon copy of the throw Betts pulled off for the Red Sox in September 2019 in Tampa Bay — take a look for yourself in the video below.

Giants: Dickerson goes off
It’s hard to top Alex Dickerson’s night in Denver on Sept. 1 as far as this year’s best single-game performances go. Not only did Dickerson join Kris Bryant and Matt Carpenter as only the third player on record to pair three homers with two doubles in a single ballgame, but he also belted one of those dingers a projected 480 feet through Coors Field’s mile-high air. That marked the longest homer tracked by any Giants player since Statcast launched in 2015.

Padres: Machado takes over right field
Here’s a play that honestly might honestly had never been seen before 2020. Officially playing as the Padres’ third baseman while positioned in a shift behind second base, Manny Machado tracked backward and covered roughly 100 feet — all the way to the right-field corner — before making a difficult over-the-shoulder catch in no man’s land to notch an unlikely out. This went in the scorebook as a popout to the third baseman, perhaps the most understated scoring description ever.

Rockies: Kemp turns back the clock
Just a month shy of his 36th birthday, former NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp showed that there’s still some pop in his bat when he sent a ball a projected 468 feet through the rain at Denver’s Coors Field on Aug. 28. No other Rockie hit a ball farther this year than Kemp, who also hit the club’s second-longest blast (457 feet) on Aug. 1.

Matt Kelly is a reporter for based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.

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