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Who Hit The Ball Hard Most Often in 2020?

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The following essay is part of The 2021 Bill James Handbook, available now at ACTASports.com.


This is not a leaderboard of the best hitters in baseball. But it comes pretty close.

Hitting the ball hard is almost certainly the best outcome that can come out of an at-bat, at least for the hitter. Hitting the ball hard in the air might be the only thing better. The ability to do so on a consistent basis generally indicates an elite hitter, which is a good way to describe this year's leader in hard-hit percentage, Fernando Tatis Jr.

Given how impressive his rookie season was, it was difficult to imagine Tatis improving on it, but that's exactly what he did in many ways. His hard-hit percentage increased from 41.9% in 2019 to the MLB-leading 54.9% mark in 2020, the largest increase among all players with at least 100 PA in both seasons. Moreover, he both increased his walk rate and lowered his strikeout rate, keeping his on-base and slugging percentages nearly steady despite his batting average on balls in play dropping over 100 points. Taking all that together, his OPS+ actually increased a point from last season from 154 to 155, and for a player only 21 years of age, the ceiling is likely even higher.

Joining Tatis in the top five were Corey Seager, Ronald Acuña Jr., Jesse Winker and Teoscar Hernández, all of whom increased their hard-hit percentage from last season by at least five points. Acuña's .930 slugging percentage on balls in play (including home runs) led MLB, although that may not have been the most impressive stat of his campaign. Acuña scored 46 runs in 46 games, averaging a run per game. That would be an amazing feat over a 162-game season—the last player to do that and be batting-title eligible was Rickey Henderson in 1985.

This book chapter includes a full leaderboard of hard, medium, and soft hit rates, reported per batted ball, and also includes count and slugging percentage for each. Players with at least 100 plate appearances in 2020 are included. You can see the full leaderboard in the Handbook or at FanGraphs.com.

2020 MLB Hard-Hit Rate Top 10

Name Hard%
Fernando Tatis Jr. 54.9%
Corey Seager 52.0%
Ronald Acuña Jr. 51.0%
Jesse Winker 49.0%
Teoscar Hernández 48.8%
Justin Turner 48.8%
Miguel Sano 47.9%
Wil Myers 47.9%
Tommy Pham 47.6%
Gregory Polanco 47.4%

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