Sabermetrics Glossary: Barrel Percentage

MLB’s Statcast system takes every individual batted ball (any ball hit into fair territory) and categorizes it based on the speed (exit velocity) and angle (launch angle) at which the ball was hit. These categories are:

1: Weak
2: Topped
3: Under
4: Flare/Burner
5: Solid Contact
6: Barrel

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Here is the visual of these categories, this is directly from Baseball Savant.

These categorize use both the exit velocity and launch angle in tandem to determine the category. As you can probably surmise, the red (barrel) and pink (solid contact) are the two types of batted balls that have the most success. They require basically the same angle range, but a ball must be hit at least 98 miles per hour to be called a Barrel. Here are the batting averages for each category (from the 2019 season):

Barrel (6): .810
Solid Contact (5): .491
Flare/Burner (4): .661
Topped (3): .076
Hit Under (2): .202
Weak (1): .190

Every single out-of-the-park home run that was hit last year was categorized as a barrel or as solid contact.

Barrel Percentage is a popular statistic that has come from all of this. To calculate this stat, you simply take the number of “Barrels” a hitter had and divide it by the number of balls that hitter put in play. Here is the breakdown of what you are looking for when looking at this statistic:

Elite: 15% or better
Good: 10%-15%
Average: 6%-9%
Poor: 4%-6%
Awful: Below 4%

Another statistic you might see is Brl/PA (Barrels per Plate Appearance). This is just the number of barrels divided by the number of plate appearances a player had. This is useful because it brings walks into the picture. Walks (and strikeouts) are completely ignored by Barrel Rate since it only looks at plate appearances that resulted in balls in play. Brl/PA factors in these things, so it will penalize a batter that strikes out and/or walks at a high rate.

These statistics are very useful just because of their simple nature. You should not be expecting a player to hit a lot of home runs unless he is registering a good amount of barrels since such an enormous share of home runs are classified as barrels. This gives you a new, useful, park factor independent way of seeing which players are making the best contact and are likely to hit for power in the future.

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