Early part of season has been no barrel of fun for White Sox’ pitchers

Opposing hitters have launched their way to a .449 slugging percentage and have barreled 10.3% of batted balls in the Sox’ first 16 games.

SHARE Early part of season has been no barrel of fun for White Sox’ pitchers
Baltimore Orioles v Chicago White Sox

Sox starter Michael Kopech has allowed a whopping 29.8% barrels and a .683 opponents’ slugging percentage in his first three starts.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

White Sox pitchers have been hit hard during the team’s 6-10 start.

April extremes have a way of fading into the background of full-season results, but a little discomfort is in order.

The Sox have allowed 6.06 runs per game, the third-most in the majors and far above the major-league average of 4.66.

And it’s not a matter of soft hits eluding fielders, though opponents’ .335 batting average on balls in play is 36 points higher than the major-league average. Opponents have launched their way to a .449 slugging percentage and have barreled 10.3% of batted balls. The major-league averages are a .407 slugging percentage and an 8.4 barrel percentage.

Any discomfort doesn’t apply to Dylan Cease, the 2022 American League Cy Young runner-up, who is 2-0 with a 2.01 ERA through four starts. Newcomer Mike Clevinger also has been strong at 2-0, 2.20 through three starts. Cease has allowed only 5.3% barrels and Clevinger 6.7%.

Barrels combine exit velocity with launch angle to zero in on balls most likely to go for extra bases. Exit velocity must be at least 98 mph. Required launch angle depends on the velocity.

At 98 mph, a ball is barreled with launch angles from 26 to 30 degrees. The launch-angle range expands at higher velocity, so at 99 mph a ball is barreled from 25 to 31 degrees. At 100 mph, the range is 24 to 33 degrees. The range expands 3 degrees per mph until 116 mph, when the angle reaches its maximum range of 8 to 50 degrees.

A glossary at MLB.com uses 2016 as an example and says barreled balls went for an .822 batting average and 2.386 slugging percentage.

Two of the best at avoiding barrels this season have been Cubs starters Justin Steele at 4.3% and Marcus Stroman, who hasn’t had an opponent barrel up in going 2-1 with a 1.00 ERA in his first three starts.

Sox starter Lucas Giolito has struggled, with 9.8% barrels, a 6.00 ERA and a .507 opponents’ slugging percentage in an 0-1 start.

Early returns have been worse for Lance Lynn and Michael Kopech. Kopech has been sky-high at 29.8% barrels, leading to a .683 slugging percentage in an 0-2, 6.32 start. Lynn, who is 0-1, 7.31 in his three starts, has yielded 11.4% barrels and a .615 slugging percentage.

Sox relievers have been hit even harder than their starters. Starters have yielded a 4.54 ERA and a .440 slugging percentage; relievers have been rocked for a 7.57 ERA and a .463 slugging percentage.

Jimmy Lambert, who has yielded two runs in eight innings, has been barreled only once in 19 batted balls. But Reynaldo Lopez, who is closing in Liam Hendriks’ absence, has been barreled three times in 18 batted balls. The early sample is so small that the difference of two barrels between Lambert and Lopez have contributed to a 2.25 vs. 7.36 gap in ERA and a .357 vs. .567 difference in slugging percentage.

The extremes are just a snapshot of 2½ weeks in a long season. For right now, however, the Sox are struggling as opposing hitters barrel along.

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