Private Lessons in St. Louis - Rick Strickland Baseball

Where, oh where, does the barrelled ball come from?

It comes from the barrel zone, of course.

That’s the range of launch angles and exit velocities -- somewhere between 8° and 50° and starting at 98 mph -- that result in the highest-value batted balls for hitters.

We’ve learned where these high-value “barrelled balls” originate thanks to advanced technology that can record launch angles and exit velocities precisely, then employ sophisticated metrics to process the data; and we’ve learned which MLB hitters barrel the most balls.

The value of barrelled balls
Statistically speaking, the best thing hitters can hope for is a barreled ball. It has a trajectory that’s highly conducive to driving in runs, and it has a speed when leaving the batter’s box that makes it likely to find a gap somewhere.

According to sabermetrician Tom Tango, the expectation is that balls hit with the right combination of launch angle and exit velocity will result in a minimum .500 BA and 1.500 slugging percentage. And’s Statcast™ data-collection technology -- which tracks player performance with hi-def cameras and radar equipment -- indicates that launch angles between 24° and 33° with exit velocities over 100 mph result in a sterling .626 batting average!

In reality, in 2016, barrelled balls did much better than that, turning in a batting average of .822 and a slugging percentage of 2.386. These numbers are almost certainly indicative of extra-base hits, and they’re a clear indication of why hitters, coaches, and analysts everywhere are striving for barrelled balls.

Who barrels the most balls?
A look at the Statcast™ barrelled-balls leaderboard reveals something not so surprising: a who’s-who of the game’s biggest power hitters, 13 of whom hit over 50 barrelled balls during the 2016 season.

Tigers’ superstar Miguel Cabrera led the way with 72 of them, American League MVP Mike Trout had 57, and National League MVP Kris Bryant had 53. What’s more, Cabrera barrelled a ball in 16.5% of his Batted-Ball Events (BBE), Trout did it in 15.5% of his BBE, and Bryant in 12.9% of his.

By contrast, in 637 AB and 475 BBE, Alcides Escobar hit only 7 barrelled balls, and, unsurprisingly, ended the season with a mere 7 home runs and a .261 BA. So, long story short, MLBs best batters are also the leaders in barrelled balls.

The importance of hitting hard
While almost all of MLBs home runs and 33% of the doubles and triples come from barrelled balls, they happen in just 7% of BBE, so they’re certainly something to file away in the “easier said than done” category.

But it’s worth pointing out that while BBE over 100 mph with trajectories between 24° and 33° is the sweet spot, hitting the ball harder widens the optimum launch angle.

For example, if you only had an exit velocity of 99 mph, the launch angle to achieve a barrelled ball would need to be between 25° and 31° (3° tighter than the ball hit at 100 mph). At 98 mph, your window would need to be between 26° and 30° (5° tighter), and so on.

So, harder contact makes your chances of a barrelled ball more likely because your launch angle window opens wider. And it’s as simple as that: All you have to do to barrel balls is crush pitches at precise launch angles that even the best players on the planet achieve only 7% of the time!

How can you barrel balls?
Barrelled balls are a “know it when you see it” sort of phenomenon. Even though Tom Tango and Statcast have helped us understand the ideal combination of velocity and trajectory to produce the highest-value batted balls, Major League hitters certainly aren’t making calculations as they swing the bat.

For them, taking the right approach at the plate is how to barrel balls. Properly balanced stances and swing mechanics, keeping their hands inside and their eyes level, and completely following through are the things they need to do. And as it turns out, it’s no different for you.

Rick Strickland Baseball knows full well that hitting in the barrel zone doesn’t come easy. But through the use of our own advanced technology and training repertoires -- and a little bit of good fortune -- you might be the next Miguel Cabrera when it comes to barrelling.

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