Baltimore Orioles: Behind Austin Hays’ Unlucky Series

May 3, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Austin Hays (21) reacts after striking out to end the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
May 3, 2021; Seattle, Washington, USA; Baltimore Orioles right fielder Austin Hays (21) reacts after striking out to end the fifth inning against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Austin Hays hit exceptionally well against the Mets this week, although the box score says otherwise. How did the Orioles’ outfielder get so unlucky?

This week, the Baltimore Orioles traveled up to Queens for a brief two-game interleague series against the National League East division-leading New York Mets. Although they were able to dodge a bullet with Jacob deGrom scratched from his scheduled start on Tuesday, the Orioles were still tasked with facing two strong starting pitchers in Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker.

Austin Hays got the start in right field for Baltimore in both games, recording nine at-bats over the span of the series. In these nine at-bats, Hays recorded two hits: a triple in the eighth inning of game one and a single in the eighth inning of game two. While those two hits account for a significant portion of the team’s offensive output in the series, Hays was actually hitting much better than his hit total would suggest.

When viewing Hays’ outcomes through Statcast metrics provided by Baseball Savant, it’s difficult not to notice just how hard Hays was making contact on batted balls throughout the series. In five of his nine batted ball events, Hays knocked a ball into play with an exit velocity above 95 MPH. Leading the pack among these hard hits is Hays’ triple from game one, which left the bat at 104.8 MPH and traveled 393 feet, making it the furthest-hit ball of the game and the series for either team.

However, not every hard-hit ball from Hays had the same positive result. The triple from game one was the only one of Hays’ five hard hits to result in a base hit. Hays was routinely robbed of hits on highlight plays by the Mets’ defense, including a diving catch by Michael Conforto on what likely would have been extra bases for Hays if Conforto were unable to make the play.

Statistics like these are important to keep in mind when thinking about where a player is with their approach at the plate. Hays ran into some very tough luck against the Mets this week, but his process is exactly where the Orioles would like it to be. If Hays is capable of continuing this performance, big hits will begin to fall in for the 25-year-old.

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