Using Statcast data at BaseballSavant.com to identify well struck balls that do damage, Tom Tango has recently created the Barreled Balls metric.
In order to be a Barreled Ball the exit velocity and launch angle combination must produce a .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage for similarly struck balls.
In 2016 the average barreled ball did far more damage than the minimum requirements producing a .822 batting average and 2.386 slugging percentage.
The minimum exit velocity for a Barreled Ball is 98 MPH and starts at 26-30 degree launch angle. That expands until you reach 116 MPH, where a 8-50 degree launch angle would qualify.
As with everything using Statcast we only have 1.5-2 years of data available to the public, so we won’t know how whether Barreled Balls will prove to be merely description (telling us what already happened) or predictive (providing insight into what to expect in the future).
The Returning Rays
|Steven Souza Jr.||468||246||27||5.80%||11.00%|
Evan Longoria was one of the best in the league in achieving Barreled Balls that was documented in an article at MLB.com in September by Mike Petriello. Longoria ended the season tied for sixth in most volume of Barreled Balls with Mike Trout and trailed only Miguel Cabrera, Nelson Cruz, Mark Trumbo, Khris Davis, and David Ortiz.
The two biggest off-season additions to the Rays offense last year show up tied for second on the team — Brad Miller and Corey Dickerson produced 36 barreled balls. They were only separated by 5 batted ball events, but Dickerson produced a higher percentage per plate appearance as he doesn’t walk very often.
For all the complaints by many fans about Steven Souza Jr.’s strikeout rate, one thing he does really well is take advantage when he does make contact. His 11.0% Barreled Ball per Batted Ball Event is only surpassed by Longoria on the team. His lack of contact is tolerable because of the quality of contact.
The Departing Rays
Logan Forsythe got the job done by spraying the field with line drives, and he produced his share at a sufficiently average rate.
Logan Morrison and Steve Pearce’s bats will be missed as they were two additions last off-season to bring more power to the Rays lineup.
I wonder what Brandon Guyer’s line would look like if not heavily inflated by being hit by pitches. He doesn’t make great contact and seems more like Matt Duffy than one of the best offensive weapons against left handed pitchers in the majors.
Desmond Jennings and Mikie Mahtook have been sent off; their down seasons were due to bad contact and not bad luck.
The Off-Season Additions
Wilson Ramos’s batted ball profile compares favorably to the departed Forsythe’s, but there are plenty of questions surrounding his return and when he will be able to catch after suffering a torn ACL during the last week of the season. If and when he’s able to recover the Rays have added a solid offensive piece.
Even though last season was a disappointment at the plate for Colby Rasmus he barreled the ball well. As with Souza the strikeouts are a concern, but they brought him in to supplement the outfield defense with some rebound potential.
2016 was Mallex Smith’s rookie season and his bat looks like a light hitting version of Kevin Kiermaier. He won’t bring a lot of power, but his 80 grade speed will give him plenty of opportunities.