White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson and Cubs third baseman Patrick Wisdom lead Chicago hitters with 12 barrels each, tied for 20th among major-league qualifiers through Sunday.
That sounds impressive, but what does it mean?
‘‘Barrel’’ is defined both by exit velocity and launch angle, as explained in the Statcast glossary at MLB.com. The minimum exit velocity is 98 mph, and the launch angle comes in a range that expands at higher velocities.
With an exit velocity of 98 mph, the launch angle must be between 26 and 30 degrees. At 99 mph, the range expands to 25 to 31 degrees. At 100 mph, it’s 24 to 33 degrees.
After 100 mph, the launch-angle window expands two to three degrees per mph until reaching eight to 50 degrees at 116 mph.
At the bottom and top of launch-angle ranges, batting averages and slugging percentages approximate the .500 and 1.500 in the definition. Averages are much higher closer to the center of the range, so the overall barrel percentages exceed the defined minimums.
In the example given at MLB.com, barreled balls led to an .822 batting average and 2.386 slugging percentage in 2016. That puts barrels squarely in extra-base-hit level of contact. The ball is hit hard at an angle that will launch it into the air.
Barrel data goes back only to 2015. The technology with high-definition cameras and analytical software had to be in place before much of what Statcast does could be practical.
So far in 2022, Anderson has barrels on 9.6% of his plate appearances. That’s not far off the 10.3% by Wisdom.
There’s a much wider gap when you look only at batted balls. Wisdom, with 50 strikeouts and eight walks in 117 plate appearances, has fewer batted balls than Anderson, who has 15 strikeouts and three walks in 125 plate appearances.
When Wisdom makes contact, he’s much more likely to barrel the ball. That shows up with barrels on 20.7% of his batted balls, compared with 11.5% for Anderson.
Three other Chicago hitters have 10 or more barrels this season, with Sox outfielder Luis Robert at 11 and Sox first baseman Jose Abreu and Cubs outfielder Seiya Suzuki at 10 each. By percentages of plate appearances and batted balls, Robert is at 10.2 and 12.6, Abreu at 7.4 and 10.2 and Suzuki at 8.3 and 14.9.
Not so coincidentally, Wisdom (eight doubles, six home runs) and Suzuki (eight doubles, one triple, four homers) lead the Cubs in extra-base hits. Anderson (eight doubles, four homers) leads the Sox, with Abreu (five doubles, three homers) second and Robert, Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets (all three doubles, four homers) tied for third.
Yankees teammates Aaron Judge (24) and Giancarlo Stanton (22) lead the majors in barrels, with the Angels’ Mike Trout (19) right behind.
Barrels and their related percentages are indicators of power swings, focused on one slice of a player. Wisdom’s strikeouts are a problem outside the barrel, but he has the launch angle and exit velocity to do serious damage when he connects.