Barrels Per Fly Ball Plus Line Drive Rate Leaders

I think by now, we’re all familiar with the Statcast metric barrels. If not, Statcast defines it as thus:

The Barrel classification is assigned to batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015.

To be Barreled, a batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner Barreled classification. For every mph over 98, the range of launch angles expands.

The development of the barrels metric has led to significant steps forward in forecasting power, and in particular, home runs, as my xHR/FB rate equation uses it as one of its variables. You might note that in my equation, I don’t use all batted balls as the denominators, but rather “true fly balls”, which takes the FanGraphs fly ball count and subtracts pop-ups. Since the equation is attempting to project HR/FB rate, we only care about a hitter’s true flies, as pop-ups aren’t going to travel over the wall.

The Statcast leaderboard includes both barrels per batted ball event and per plate appearances. Both of those rates are fine, depending on what you’re using them for. The problem is when they are used incorrectly, which happens often, since those are the only rates on the board. If we’re diving into home run per fly potential solely based on power skills, we only care about fly balls and line drives, yet the displayed Statcast rates include ground balls and pop-ups. Batted ball type distribution is an entirely different skill/tendency and should be evaluated separately.

So let’s calculate barrels per fly ball plus line drive rate (B/FBLD) entirely from Statcast and check in on the top 20. I arbitrarily chose 20 FBLD as my minimum to be included.

Barrels/Fly Ball + Line Drive Leaders
Player FB+LD Barrels Brls/FB+LD
Mitch Moreland 22 11 50.0%
Miguel Sano 24 11 45.8%
Eloy Jimenez 36 16 44.4%
Juan Soto 28 11 39.3%
Colin Moran 26 10 38.5%
Franmil Reyes 29 11 37.9%
Luis Robert 33 12 36.4%
Fernando Tatis Jr. 47 17 36.2%
Jorge Soler 36 13 36.1%
Evan White 25 9 36.0%
J.T. Realmuto 28 10 35.7%
Brandon Lowe 45 16 35.6%
Nelson Cruz 37 13 35.1%
Corey Seager 51 17 33.3%
Luke Voit 33 11 33.3%
Joey Gallo 27 9 33.3%
Aaron Judge 24 8 33.3%
Willson Contreras 25 8 32.0%
Teoscar Hernandez 44 14 31.8%
Trent Grisham 41 13 31.7%

Raise your hand if you had Mitch Moreland in your B/FBLD pool to lead baseball halfway through this season. None of you, that’s what I thought. The 34-year-old is sporting a ridiculous 38.9% HR/FB rate, proving that anything could happen over a small sample, and his sample is smaller than most (the smallest on this leaderboard as well).

Welp, it didn’t take long for former uber prospect Eloy Jimenez to become one of the best power hitters in baseball. It’s too bad his fly ball rate sits below 30%, but he’s a good example of why this is a much better metric to analyze his power than Brls/BBE (he ranks 11th), which penalizes him for the low FB% (you do want to do that, but separately).

After homering five times over his first eight games, Colin Moran has homered just once in his last 15. That makes sense. Yet, he’s still hanging near the top of the B/FBLD leaderboard, but I didn’t run this to see how many of those barrels came during that hot period. Aside from hitting the ball harder, he’s doing nothing else better this season, and is actually whiffing far more frequently. It suggests selling out for power, but perhaps that season power is still being propped up by the hot start.

I’m going to keep saying it until I’m right — I simply can’t understand how Luis Robert is succeeding despite a 26.8% SwStk% (highest in baseball…by far), fueling a 36% strikeout rate. I guess it just goes to show how good he could ultimately be if/when he cuts down on those swings and misses. Of course, making more contact could affect his power, so it’ll be interesting how he balances the two. Clearly, I have been wrong so far, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel on my short-term bearishness just yet.

Evan White hasn’t put many balls into play and when he does, it’s rarely been a line drive. However, those few flies and liners have been hit impressively hard, so that’s certainly a good sign. Improving his plate discipline is easier than increasing your power, so there’s a light at the end of his current .264 wOBA tunnel.

Wow, J.T. Realmuto is tied for fourth in HR/FB rate among qualified batters! He’s striking out more than ever, which suggests he might be another selling out for power, but hey, it’s working! Ahhh, small sample sizes.

As an owner of Brandon Lowe in an AL-Only keeper league for a buck, I was excited, but nervous by last year’s inflated strikeout rate coupled with his high BABIP. Turns out, Lowe wanted to assure me I shouldn’t have had anything to worry about. The big deal here, aside from the elite power, is his strikeout rate has tumbled down to a rate right near the league average. That’s a pretty amazing feat. The improvement has mostly come from him swinging at pitches outside the zone far less often and making better contact on those pitches he does still swing at. It’s anyone’s guess if this is a sustainable improvement or just more small sample size magic, but it’s resulted in an awesome 122 plate appearances.

Nelson Cruz is 40 years old. That is all.

Heyyyy, look at Corey Seager jacking up the power. Since his sizzling 2015 debut, his ISO and HR/FB rates had declined every season until 2018, before reversing the downward trend last year. But even after last season’s rebound, he wasn’t what fantasy owners hoped he would become, which was a top three or five fantasy shortstop. So it’s interesting to see the power spike finally occurring, and that combines with a career best strikeout rate, which is rare to see. That said, it’s odd to see his SwStk% at a career high, but strikeout rate a career low. The explanation could be found in his plate discipline stats, as he has swung at the highest rate of pitches in his career (by a significant margin), which has resulted in a career low walk rate as well. It’s a weird version of Seager, so we’ll see how long it lasts.

Trent Grisham has been one of the month’s big breakouts, which shouldn’t be too surprising after his 2019 minor league breakout. Of course, there was no guarantee he would be able to carry over that breakout to the Majors, but indeed he has so far. I’m impressed all around here, especially his single digit SwStk%, suggesting plate patience and a possible overly-passive approach at the plate is to blame for his strikeout rate, rather than a penchant for swinging and missing. That provides some optimism he can improve the strikeout rate by simply swinging more often.

We hoped you liked reading Barrels Per Fly Ball Plus Line Drive Rate Leaders by Mike Podhorzer!

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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what’s the difference between barrels and sweet spot used on savant?


Sweet Spot is simply whether the batter hit the ball between 8* and 32* launch angle which is the limits of a range around an ideal launch angle. Essentially it includes all line drives and low fly balls, even if they aren’t necessarily hit hard. I like it because it tells you whether a guy is consistent or not. (Fun fact: Cavan Biggio led the majors last year in Sweet Spot% at 44.2%)

Barrels are a combination of EV and launch angle starting with a minimum EV of 98 mph and a launch angle of 26-30*. As EV goes up from 98, a larger range of launch angles qualify as a barrel