As Major League Baseball mashed its way to an all-time record of 6,105 home runs in 2017, it couldn't have asked for a better duo to lead the way.Giancarlo Stanton, whose 59 homers were the highest total by anyone since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in 2001, and Aaron Judge,
As Major League Baseball mashed its way to an all-time record of 6,105 home runs in 2017, it couldn't have asked for a better duo to lead the way.
Giancarlo Stanton, whose 59 homers were the highest total by anyone since Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa in 2001, and Aaron Judge, whose 52 set an MLB rookie record, put on a dazzling show. Baseball fans got to see the two giants crush the ball harder and farther than anyone else. And along the way, Statcast™ was tracking every aspect of their fireworks.
Statcast™ classifies the contact quality of every batted ball across the Major Leagues, based on its exit velocity and launch angle. And it's no surprise that Judge and Stanton were the class of baseball in the best kind of contact a hitter can make: Barrels.
Barreled balls are hit with an optimal combination of exit velocity and launch angle. They are the ones most likely to do serious damage -- going for extra-base hits and home runs. In general, barrels produce a batting average of at least .500 and a slugging percentage of at least 1.500. But often they are even better than that: In 2017 batters hit .826 and slugged 2.889 when they barreled the ball. Over 60 percent of those barrels went for homers.
The MLB barrels leaderboard is populated with the game's biggest boppers. Here's a look at the names who topped the list in 2017.
1. Aaron Judge, Yankees: 87 barrels (plus five in the postseason)
Judge finished 2017 with the most barrels by anyone in a season since Statcast™ was introduced at the beginning of '15, and it's not particularly close. His 87 barreled balls this year were 10 more than Jose Cabrera's 77 in '16. Five more in the playoffs gave Judge a total of 92. More than a quarter of his batted balls were barrels, the highest rate of any regular MLB hitter.
Those included some earth-shattering homers. In back-to-back games in June, Judge hit the hardest home run, then the farthest home run of the MLB season. His 121.1-mph rocket on June 10 is the hardest home run Statcast™ has ever tracked. The next day, Judge crushed a 495-foot moonshot over the Yankee Stadium bleachers. All but one of his 55 homers through the Yankees' run to the American League Championship Series were barrels. Judge had seven of the 10 hardest homers of 2017, and a Statcast-record 11 with exit velocities of at least 115 mph.
2. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: 76 barrels
Stanton's 76 barreled balls put him just behind Miggy for the third-highest single-season total since Statcast™ started tracking. He far eclipsed his own barrel totals from the previous two years, when he was limited by injuries; Stanton had 45 barrels in 2015 and 44 in '16. His barrels were also the most productive of any elite masher. In the past three years, 41 Major Leaguers have had a season with at least 50 barrels. Stanton's 2017 campaign yielded the best batting average and slugging percentage on barrels among that group. He hit .920 on his barreled balls, and slugged 3.213. Nearly 70 percent of Stanton's barrels went for home runs.
That's because, like Judge, Stanton's contact falls on the extreme end of the spectrum. His hardest barreled ball of the year -- home run No. 59, in fact -- was hit at 118.7 mph and a Statcast-projected 467 feet. Only Judge had a harder home run in 2017. Stanton also had four of the 12 hardest home runs of the year, and seven of the 20 hardest barrels. Fifty-one of his barreled balls, and 33 of his home runs, were hit 110 mph or harder. Both of those were tops in the Majors not just for this year, but for any of the past three seasons.
3. Khris Davis, A's: 67 barrels
Davis might get overlooked sometimes, but the A's outfielder now has back-to-back 40-homer seasons, and that's no accident. He barrels the ball with the best of them -- his rate of barrels per batted ball in 2017, 17.7 percent, was actually higher than Stanton's. Davis has posted near-identical seasons the past two years, with 67 barrels and 42 homers in 2016, followed by 67 barrels and 43 homers in '17. That gives him more barreled balls than any hitter since the start of 2016 -- his 134 are two more than second-place Nelson Cruz and 14 more than Stanton. (Davis' 85 homers are also second in baseball since 2016, one behind Stanton.)
4 (tie). J.D. Martinez, Tigers/D-backs: 60 barrels (plus one in the postseason)
Martinez exploded for 29 homers in 62 games after a midseason trade to the D-backs, finishing the year with 45 in 119 games, the most home runs ever in a season for a player with 120 games or fewer. He has the barrel numbers to match.
Martinez led the Majors with 74 barrels in 2015, the first year of Statcast™, and his 60 regular-season barrels in '17 were tied for fourth most in the Majors, and his one in the playoffs broke that tie; 12.3 percent of his regular-season plate appearances ended with him barreling the ball, second only to Judge; and 19.5 percent of his batted balls were barrels, the third-highest rate in MLB behind Judge and Joey Gallo. Martinez was also nearly as productive on barreled balls as Stanton -- he hit .918 and slugged 3.197, both second to the reigning NL MVP Award winner among all hitters with 50-barrel seasons since 2015.
4 (tie). Nelson Cruz, Mariners: 60 barrels
Rounding out the top five of the barrels leaderboard is Cruz, MLB's most consistent barreler of baseballs since Statcast™'s inception. The Mariners veteran is the only hitter with at least 60 barrels in each of the past three seasons. Cruz had 60 in 2017, 72 in '16 and 60 in '15, giving him the highest barrels total in the Majors over that span.
Cruz's 192 barreled balls since the start of 2015 are nine more than Martinez, the next-closest hitter, has amassed, and 18 more than the third-place Davis. Those barrels equal home runs more often than not -- nearly 60 percent of Cruz's barrels were homers in '17, and more than 60 percent of his three-season total -- and Cruz has produced a Major League-leading 126 long balls since 2015.
The best of the rest
Eight other Major Leaguers had at least 50 barrels in 2017, including the postseason. Those hitters: Justin Smoak (59), Paul Goldschmidt (56), Gallo (56), Manny Machado (55), Ryan Zimmerman (53), Nicholas Castellanos (51), George Springer (50) and Justin Upton (50).
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @_dadler.