After assessing starting pitching the last couple of weeks (ERA, WHIP), today I turn my attention towards the hitting side. There are so many unknowns right now about the length of the upcoming season; possibilities include everything from no games, to a full 162-game season stretching until Christmas. With at bats & counting stats completely up in the air, evaluating hitters with rate stats makes sense. What are the best ones to use?

Generally speaking, wOBA is a good all-around statistic to measure overall offensive contributions. Of particular note, this does not include stolen bases, and therefore is better used to evaluate sluggers than rabbits for fantasy purposes.

Of the new Statcast data, Barrels have been proven to have the best correlation to traditional power categories. Specifically, this post from the great Alex Chamberlain demonstrates that Barrels:

  1. Correlates to wOBA in-season better than any other Statcast measure
  2. Stabilizes pretty quickly in-season
  3. Correlates year-to-year (“stickiness”) far better than wOBA itself

So: Barrels (on a rate basis: Barrels per batted ball event, or Brls/BBE%) are quick to stabilize, correlate with stats we care about, and can be carried over season-to-season better than most other stats.

With all that in mind, I wanted to look at players’ 2020 projections compared to their barrel rate from last year. Who was strong in barrels but has a poor projection? Who achieved a strong wOBA last year despite a below-average barrel rate? etc. Most projection systems aren’t fully including Statcast numbers, and so there’s room for profit when the two disagree. Without further ado, this week’s chart: 2019 Brls/BBE% compared to 2020 projected wOBA (ATC projections):

Click to enlarge. I’ve only labeled the players whose projections don’t line up with 2019 barrels performance, and only graphed the top-250 by ADP. Minimum BBE = 200. You can see the full data set here.

The chart has been divided into four quadrants, based on the averages in this sample; let’s look at each in turn.

Q1: High Barrel Rate, High Projected woBA

Generally speaking, these are the top-of-the-draft-board players. Trout, Yelich, Bellinger, Harper, Yordan, Judge… no surprises. There are a few, though, worth discussing.

  • Miguel Sano had the best barrel rate in baseball last year (min 200 BBE). In only 105 games, he hit 34 HR and 79 RBI; pro-rated over just 150 games, we’re looking at 49 HR and 113 RBI. And the barrel rate backs it up. At a current ADP of 116, there won’t be a bigger buy recommendation in this post.
  • Gary Sanchez has projections that make sense – even with an outlandishly high barrel rate, his wOBA last year was merely average (.346).
  • Nelson Cruz shows has strong projections, backed up by the #3 barrel rate in the league last year. You can still get him at pick 74 on average.
  • Jorge Soler had a breakout that the projections don’t fully buy, but is backed up by a top-10 barrel rate.
  • Mitch Garver absolutely crushed the ball in 2019 (#11 in barrel rate), finished the year with a .404 wOBA, but is being projected back down at 0.348 and picked at ADP of 114.

Q2: Low Barrel Rate, High Projected wOBA

Some interesting names here, where projected wOBA is significantly outpacing underlying barrel rate.

  • Alex Bregman is way out on an island, with a 5% barrel rate in 2019 (and 7.5% in 2018). The last two years, he’s produced .396 and .418 wOBA, so his projections aren’t out of line. He seems to have a knack for making the most of his non-barrels hits; for that matter, most of the Astros do. Curious, no? I’d bet the base rate and fade Bregman at his price.
  • As long as he’s in Colorado, I won’t be expecting Nolan Arenado to drop off.
  • Quick, what’s the career-high HR mark for Anthony Rizzo? Somehow, Rizzo has never hit more than 32 HR, including a mere 25 and 27 in the last two rabbit-ball seasons. While his wOBA has held up, the well-below-average barrel rate is telling an accurate story.

Q3: Low Barrel Rate, Low Projected wOBA

The least interesting players are those who 1) didn’t hit many barrels last year, and 2) aren’t projected for an above-average wOBA this year. In other words: trust the projections. A few interesting names here:

  • Adalberto Mondesi, Scott Kingery, Byron Buxton, and Randal Grichuk are all near-league-average in barrel rate, but projected well below average in wOBA. Buxton, in particular, appeals; if he keeps his improved barrel rate, with elite speed, you’re looking at a huge bargain at pick 157.
  • Luis Arraez and Adam Eaton hit far fewer barrels than average, but projections have them with solid wOBAs. Neither brings elite speed to the table; mostly, these are Runs & BA contributors.

Q4: High Barrel Rate, Low Projected wOBA

Here’s our pile of sleepers, guys who mashed the ball in 2019 but aren’t projected for high wOBAs this year.

  • C.J. Cron hit a higher % of barrels than Harper, Olson, Springer, Suarez, and all but 12 other major leaguers in 2019. He appears to have a full-time gig in Detroit, and can be had at an ADP of 216.
  • Somehow, Rougned Odor had a top-25 barrel rate last season. The big deal for him, of course, is playing time; between an injury history, poor strikeouts, and bad defense, it’s hard to predict a full season. When he hits the ball, he hits it well, and the cost is right at pick 225.
  • Christian Walker breakout was led by top-30 barrel rate. At pick 199, you’re not paying a steep price to see if he can recapture that magic.
  • Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Hunter Renfroe, and Jorge Alfaro are other guys with strong barrel rates and cheap ADPs.

 

 
  1. Schoolboy P says:
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    Thank you. This is excellent!

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:
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      Thanks!

  2. baby seal says:
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    Awesome post!!! Great to see I own a bunch of these sleepers :-)

    The other thing that’s heavily weighted in wOBA is BB% — which for most Roto leagues — obviously doesn’t matter too much. Doesn’t take anything away from the post, but felt like it needed to be said!

    One thing not often discussed enough w/ barrels per BBE is that — for fantasy — we *really* care more about barrels per PA (on the margin, shown below). The correlation for these types of studies is definitely much better when using per BBE. That’s why I think it gets cited so much (and why Statcast highlights it the way they do).

    This isn’t a criticism of your post to be clear! But, I think it is important for people to think about this small difference — because players like Judge and Sano are great — but if the reason their barrels per BBE is so high is because of a high K and BB% with a low contact rate, then you may not be getting the production you expected.

    I actually think Judge and Sano are fine. Just using the obvious examples here to make the point.

    Some guys who screen well with brl/bbe, but have a higher risk for the bottom to fall out than you might think otherwise (if you take [brl/bbe] – [brl/pa] [sort in desc order; then I like to add brl/pa < 7% as a filter) would be ….

    Teoscar, Chavis, Wil Myers, Vogelbach, Smoak, Bader, Hoskins, Thames, Biggio

    – A lot of guys I don't own anywhere. It's funny because I didn't cross these guys off my list due to doing this study (I literally did it tonight) — it's just so deeply embedded in my player evaluation philosophy — that they are always auto-fades for me…

    – One exception is Bader. A case for Hoskins could be made too. Both are guys who actively spent the off season working to improve their swings, are young, and had good seasons recently (and/or you could say are talented and have a roster spot). Hoskins is still going too high for me, and if I don't have a 1B at that point, I'd rather wait for a Cron or Walker. Bader is a super cheap bench OF that I've taken some shots on in deep leagues.

    – 2 catchers high on the list (but didn't list above) are Alfaro and Grandal. Alfaro has the high K% and Grandal the high BB%. These guys are catchers, so definitely not fades, just showing how this list checks out.

    If we increase brl/pa filter to < 9%, and include some other factors mentioned above (contact rate and K% mostly — BB% isn't really a huge problem), then we get a slightly higher profile list:

    – Franmil, Odor, Renfroe, Tatis (AH, what have I done!?)

    You need to add filters at this point, because now you are getting to guys who mash, like a Harper, and they will be fine. One surprising guy who shows up is Soto — but he has the high BB%. He will get excluded w/ a contact rate filter. Also, he's obviously 22 and can grow.

    Higher profile guys than that are Suarez and Hiura. We know Suarez has big boy power and plays in a great park. Hiura had the small sample size, so I usually go w/ the other 2B there…

    Last thing here I just kind of stumbled upon while writing this — I think you could actually use this list in the opposite way for potential sleepers. So if you look lower down the list –where the diff between brl/bbe – brl/pa is ~3-3.5 or less. Then look at AVG EV and get all the components. Look for guys w/ an AVG EV < 90 MPH that's mostly driven by a low EV on ground balls (< 85 MPH). Thus, their EV on FBLD is high.

    These are generally cheap ADP guys who *may* be able to grow into more homers (or bounce back):

    – Hedges, (Castellanos, not cheap, but maybe says he's actually a bit pricey unless the park saves him?), Carpenter (old, but short season?), Kingery, Belt, Adames, Dejong, Schoop, Mondesi, Pedro Severino, Kyle Seager

    I'm going wayyyy too long here, but the next thing I'd look at is max EV. Castellanos checks out there w/ 111 MPH. Belt does not w/ a 106. Schoop does w/ 115. Another good one is Goodwin at 111 MPH (see what I did there? hehe, OK, now this is officially a huge digression!)

    I don't know if this post actually went anywhere — mostly interested to see your take on it — if you even get a chance to see (or read) this at all!

    seal out!

    • TheTinDoor

      TheTinDoor says:
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      Great stuff seal. Yes, I stuck with Barrels/BBE for correlation purposes. There’s a lot of ways to slice & dice this data, and you bring up a variety of interesting points.

      I think it’s most relevant on the margins – I only labeled a handful of guys. For the majority of players, their statcast data lines up pretty well with traditional projections. But the ones with significant differences (+ or -), that’s where we should be looking…

      Thanks for jumping in!

      • baby seal says:
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        No problem!! Keep up the great work — looking forward to the next one!

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