The 2017 Brls/BBE Surgers

Towards the end of 2016, one of the most exciting new metrics was introduced using Statcast data — Barrels, which are “well-struck ball[s] where the combination of exit velocity and launch angle generally leads to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage”. But counting stats aren’t exactly the best when evaluating performance, as playing time factors in, and we don’t want that. Luckily, Baseball Savant also provides us with a “batted ball event (BBE)” number, and then generously does the math for us, calculating a Barrels per Batted Ball Event (Brls/BBE), which I then use for my analysis. Given that Brls/BBE is a pure measure of power, it stands to reason that we want to see our favorite power surgers enjoy major growth in the metric from one year to the next, in order to validate that increased output. So let’s check in on the Brls/BBE surgers from 2016 to 2017.

2017 Brls/BBE Surgers
Name 2016 Brls/BBE  2017 Brls/BBE  2016 HR/FB 2017 HR/FB Brls/BBE Diff HR/FB Diff
Jake Marisnick 4.0% 11.9% 7.1% 24.6% 7.9% 17.5%
Aaron Altherr 3.4% 10.4% 13.8% 18.8% 7.0% 5.0%
Lonnie Chisenhall 3.2% 10.2% 6.1% 14.3% 7.0% 8.2%
Alex Avila 8.1% 15.0% 33.3% 21.5% 6.9% -11.8%
Colby Rasmus 9.3% 15.6% 14.2% 28.1% 6.3% 13.9%
Yonder Alonso 3.7% 9.9% 5.1% 19.4% 6.2% 14.3%
J.D. Martinez 13.4% 19.5% 18.0% 33.8% 6.1% 15.8%
Caleb Joseph 0.0% 6.0% 0.0% 14.8% 6.0% 14.8%
Randal Grichuk 10.6% 15.7% 17.9% 18.3% 5.1% 0.4%
Eduardo Escobar 3.5% 8.5% 5.7% 12.8% 5.0% 7.1%
Jed Lowrie 1.1% 6.0% 2.3% 6.9% 4.9% 4.6%
Rene Rivera 5.8% 10.7% 14.3% 17.2% 4.9% 2.9%
Paul Goldschmidt 8.5% 13.3% 19.0% 24.8% 4.8% 5.8%
Ryan Zimmerman 8.0% 12.7% 13.2% 26.5% 4.7% 13.3%
Kurt Suzuki 2.6% 7.1% 7.0% 17.1% 4.5% 10.1%
Scott Schebler 5.8% 10.2% 15.8% 22.4% 4.4% 6.6%
Logan Morrison 8.6% 12.8% 15.2% 22.5% 4.2% 7.3%
Welington Castillo 6.1% 10.2% 14.3% 22.5% 4.1% 8.2%
Lucas Duda 8.1% 12.1% 14.9% 21.3% 4.0% 6.4%
Group Avg (unweighted) 6.0% 11.5% 12.5% 20.4% 5.5% 7.9%

I considered only including fantasy relevant names, but instead decided to just list every hitter that increased their Brls/BBE by at least four percentage points. That led to Jake Marisnick atop the group, who enjoyed this power breakout over just 230 at-bats and is projected for even fewer at-bats this year. He also saw his FB% spike above 40% for the first time and his strikeout rate and SwStk% jump, which signals to me that this was a complete change in plate approach. Perhaps another member of the fly ball revolution society who hasn’t received as much press? Could be an intriguing power/speed contributor with severe batting average downside if he fell into some more playing time, similar to Keon Broxton’s skill set.

The acquisition of Carlos Santana pushing Rhys Hoskins into the outfield full-time means Aaron Altherr’s playing time is now up in the air. His Brls/BBE supports his HR/FB rate surge, and since he still owns some speed, we should be rooting for a full-time opportunity here, as he looks legit.

Injuries limited Lonnie Chisenhall to just 236 at-bats, so you wonder how sustainable this Brls/BBE surge really is. But since he also combined the increased power with a career high FB% and even walk rate as well, he looks like a new and improved hitter. He could be a nice source of profit in deeper leagues.

Yonder! It wasn’t just that Yonder Alonso learned to love the fly ball, he also did far more damage with those fly balls than ever before. For a big guy, it was baffling that Alonso has always shown such pitiful power for a first baseman and someone his size. You might be tempted to point to his second half, when his wOBA collapsed from .388 to .337 and call him a one-half wonder. And while both his FB% and HR/FB rates did fall back to Earth, they still remained well above his averages and at respectable levels to remain a worthy mixed league option. I think his second half is going to drive down his perceived value and make him a bargain, especially since Progressive Field in Cleveland inflates left-handed homers, while Oakland Coliseum suppressed them.

Welllll daaaamn, J.D. Martinez took what was already a super strong Brls/BBE and pushed it to an elite level, which ranked third in baseball. Imagine that Astros offense if they hadn’t released him!

Someone teach Randal Grichuk some plate discipline!

It was weird to see Paul Goldschmidt’s name here, but note that his 2016 Brls/BBE represented a dramatic slide from 2015, when he posted a 15.5% mark. Whatever he dealt with that year, he’s seemingly recovered from, even though his HR/FB rate was barely affected.

Ryan Zimmerman returned from the dead to post the highest HR/FB rate and ISO in his career…at age 32. He had never posted a HR/FB rate above 17.6% previously, so forgive me for thinking this was a complete fluke. Given his age and recent health history, I’m not buying anywhere and am guessing he’ll be overvalued.

Scott Schebler appears here solely due to a relatively small sample of poor power performance in 2016. His minor league history suggested he was way better than that, and he proved that in 2017, doing his best Adam Duvall impression.

Logan Morrison was another in the Alonso mold in that given his size and prospect pedigree, we expected more power during his career. That finally happened this year as he posted a career high FB% and pushed his Brls/BBE into the teens. It’s too bad he wasn’t much of a contributor anywhere else besides homers, though. We’ll have to see where he signs before determining his 2018 value.

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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Jim Melichar
4 years ago

Since barrels are a lagging but not predictive stat how would you use this information?

4 years ago
Reply to  Jim Melichar

A lagging stat can still show a change in approach. I’d use this as supporting information for a BABIP or SLG improvement to see if there’s more to it than just noise, which is more or less what Mike’s doing here.

4 years ago
Reply to  Jim Melichar

Use it as a confirmation of underlying skills changes that the hoi poli don’t necessarily believe in yet?

4 years ago
Reply to  HappyFunBall

Sure. If you’re in a competitive league, you are looking for advantages like jumping on a breakout before everyone else gets wise to it.

4 years ago
Reply to  sabrtooth

for instance. Pre 2017 Tommy Pham showed up as a BRLS/bbe monster. I first sign that he was hot I jumped on because I knew this info. $25 profit from just knowing BRLS