In every game, where each swing holds the promise of victory and the thrill of the unexpected (you did see Luke Raley’s inside-the-park HR on Wednesday, right?), one can’t help but think of the age-old adage: “It’s more fun than a barrel of monkeys!” While the mental image conjured might initially appear whimsical, the metaphorical connection between swinging the bat and the seemingly chaotic cascade of monkeys is surprisingly apt. Just as a barrel of monkeys symbolizes a playful jumble of entwined creatures, a batter’s relationship with the elusive “barrel” of the bat is equally entwined with the outcome of a ball game.
Today, we’re going to unravel the intricacies of this metaphorical connection and delve into the world of barrels. Through mastering the art of swing mechanics to seizing the sweet spot and unleashing the potential for the long ball, this article will examine the MLB leaders in barrels and see where we can find correlations to what matters most to us in fantasy baseball.
But first, what exactly is a barrel? You know…round ball, round bat, square it up! I know, I know, stop (Dad joke alert!) monkeying around and stay on topic.
In baseball, the term “barrel” refers to the optimal point of contact between the bat and the ball. When a batter successfully connects with the ball using the barrel, a symphony of physics and technique harmonizes to produce optimal results. The energy transferred from the batter’s swing is efficiently transmitted to the ball, resulting in higher exit velocity and a more controlled trajectory. This, in turn, increases the likelihood of hitting the ball with power and precision. Mix in the right launch angle and you’re now living in the barrel zone, where the ultimate goal of traveling greater distances is achieved.
That’s a lot of words to describe what this picture does all by itself:
If you are a regular reader of my work here at Razzball, you’ve seen this figure before. This is one of my absolute favorites. We have Launch Angle, Exit Velocity, and Barrels. If you’re a batter and put these ingredients together often, then yes, you’re having more fun than a barrel of monkeys.
Alright, I’m done with the metaphor. I’ve made my point! Now it’s time to dig into the numbers and see who is leading the way in barrels and what it means for us fantasy warriors.
Here are the top 15 players in barrels (thru August 16), along with their respective HR totals and where they rank across MLB.
With just a few exceptions, the barrel leaders rank amongst the top HR hitters across baseball. As expected, there’s clearly a correlation between barrels and HRs. Remember though, there are two other prominent factors at play here: LA and EV. Here’s the same table with LA and MaxEV added.
Let’s compare two players with equal barrels, Matt Chapman and Adolis Garcia. Both rank an eye-popping 4thin barrels but Garcia has twice as many HRs than Chapman. A look at the last two columns shows the greater influence of EV near the bottom of the barrel zone.
On the flip side, a look at Mookie Betts’ numbers confirms that whole “a symphony of physics and technique harmonizes to produce optimal results” rubbish I threw at you earlier. Yes, you can have success hitting HRs (Mookie ranks 5th) with lower EV when you consistently lift the ball comfortably into the barrel zone.
Of course, hitting bombs is not as black-and-white as comparing barrels to LA and EV, there are many other factors in play here (park factors, weather, etc.). On the surface though, we can do a lot with just this information.
What else can we look at with barrels? There was that whole bit about “hitting the ball with power and precision.” Does “power and precision” add up to higher extra base hits (we’re talking strictly 2B & 3B here, we already looked at HRs). Let’s dig into that as well.
How about Barrels and HardHit%?
Realizing 75% of all MLB batters have a HardHit% at or below 45%, our barrel leaders generally rise to the top in this category as well, as expected. Currently, only 13% of batters have a HardHit% > 48%. Here, we see 10 of the top 15 in barrels are members of that exclusive club.
How about Barrels and BABIP?
You’d think a high rate of barrels would translate to higher batting average on balls in play, right? Well, obviously not. In fact, I’m sorry for even going to BABIP – one of my least favorite analytics.
So, what did we learn (or confirm) today?
- A greater number of barrels generally correlates well to increased HRs, but also requires at least one of LA or EV to also be in the zone.
- Hitting the ball with power and precision does not directly translate to extra base hits.
- Barrels and HardHit% correlate well.
- BABIP continues to be one of my least favorite fantasy baseball analytics.
Well, I admit we didn’t exactly split the atom here today, but it was an interesting analysis to do nonetheless. I hope you all enjoy the read as much as I did putting it all together.
As I always say, keep sifting through the numbers and see where it takes you. Sometimes the conclusions are obvious and other times, not so much. No matter what though, it’s always a fun ride.
Follow me on Twitter/X at @Derek_Favret.
Until next time, my friends!