I wanted to see who’s hit the ball the hardest yet had the fewest hits. Like you, my guess was that Brandon Belt would be at the top of this list. The Statcast search was barrels sorted by bating average.
[Just to make sure we’re all on the same page: per MLB.com, the barrels stat 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.]
So, as you can see, percentage-wise, he’s not the unluckiest hitter on the team, but he is, as we all guessed, the player who’s hit the ball the hardest (most often) yet had the fewest hits. By my count, that’s four barrels that haven’t been hits.
But this isn’t just about Belt. I was curious to know if the Giants have simply been the worst at hitting the ball hard. We know that Longoria’s finally starting to come around with the bat and Buster Posey has been a little bit up and down and McCutchen has been mostly invisible in the hard hits department, and these three along with Belt are the core of the lineup. How does it compare to other teams?
For the purposes of our valuable time, I limited a comparison to NL West teams (and this weekend’s Braves squad) just to see if I could really feed the negativity beast raging within. The Giants have 39 hits out of 59 barrels. A third of their hardest hit balls have defied the definition of hardest hit. Is it because the Giants are actually bad when compared to the other teams?
No! Probably not. The Giants, in fact, have the 2nd most barrels in their division, trailing only Arizona’s 64. They have 50 hits out of that total, good for a 78% conversion rate. They’re led, of course, by Paul Goldschmidt (10-for-14) and A.J. Pollock (12-for-13). All of this feels right. The best version of the Giants’ lineup could only be, at best, second to the Diamondbacks’. But what about the Dodgers?
Yasiel Puig has been injured and inconsistent this season and he’s 1-for-4 on barrels, which is surprising. So is LA’s 50 total barrels (all numbers are coming into today). 37 have been hits, good for 74%. They’re missing Justin Turner and now they’ve lost Corey Seager, so, this result is perhaps a bit soft, but there are extenuating circumstances that won’t let me draw a lot of conclusions from this small, early sampling.
And for all the dap I was giving San Diego this past week, their 49 barrels was a surprise discovery. But their 79.5% rate (39-of-49) was not. Speed is a good way to close the gap between luck and skill when it comes to barrels being hits. Only Christian Villanueva had double digit barrels, and he was 8-for-10. That guy...
Finally, Colorado’s season has began rather middling. The offense has scuffled and that’s reflected in these barrel numbers: 43-for-53. I just expect them to have more. But at 81.1% conversion, okay, we get it, Rockies: you have a large stadium and play a mile high. And Atlanta’s 43 barrels (led by Freddie Freeman’s 9-for-13) was the lowest total out of all the teams I sampled. So, the Giants are in good shape heading into the weekend...
Mainly because they’re actually hitting the ball pretty hard and doing well relative to their peers. Yes, they do have the worst conversion rate, for reasons relating to age and possibly park factors, but admit it: you’re surprised.