RC+ Stat Stumper: Opening Day Edition!

RC+ Stat Stumper: Opening Day Edition!

Welcome to RC+ Stat Stumper!

We’re taking a longtime ballpark tradition and giving it a modern twist. At Great American Ball Park, the Scoreboard Stumper tests your knowledge of baseball history and helps fans learn a little bit about current and former Reds players. The RC+ Stat Stumper is a weekly question involving the Reds that involves newer statistics and metrics that many of the RC+ writers use to help give context to the season. We invite you to post your guesses in the comments (no looking up the answers, please). The correct answers and winners will be revealed prior to first pitch today day. Check back later for the correct answer. 

Enjoy and thanks for playing!

STUMPER

Since the start of Statcast era (2015), which Reds player has the most barreled balls on Opening Day?

They say that pitchers ramp up to the season quicker than hitters, and that the swing timing can take awhile to get back after the long, cold winter. How has that notion played out for Reds hitters? Barrels are defined as “a batted ball with the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle.” As the highest value batted ball, it carries a minimum .500 expected batting average and a 1.500 expected slugging percentage. A barreled ball won’t be a hit every time since hitters do not control the direction of the ball or the position or ability of the defense. But putting the perfect swing on a pitch gives the batter the best chance to do serious damage.

Extra credit: how many total barrels has the Reds offense mustered in those nine Opening Day games?

Here are the numbers on league-wide barreled balls since 2015:

 And the comparison to “solid contact”, the next best type of batted ball according to Statcast:

Bottom line: barreled balls are a hitter’s best friend.

ANSWER

Eugenio Suarez brought his sweet swing most often on Opening Day, driving 3 barrels in three different games.

Jesse Winker had two in 2021, making the pair who were traded to Seattle together the only players with more than one Opening Day barreled ball. Jake Fraley and Spencer Steer each tallied one in last year’s opener. Joey Votto did not amass any, but we won’t hold that against him.

A total of 14 barrels over those 9 games average to about 1.5 per game. On average over that same timeframe, any given team on any given day can expect about 1.8 barrels, so the Reds have been just slightly sluggish during these openers.

Other than slightly lowering expectations for Opening Day bat cracks, there is not much to take away from this. Despite some key injuries and suspensions to their projected starters, the Reds offense can still pack a punch (at least against RHP). If you are looking for some nuggets to keep an eye on early in the season, the Reds hitters with the highest rate of barreled balls per plate appearance in 2023 were Nick Martini (7.6%) and Luke Maile (7%). While they are not on Aaron Judge’s level (14.7%), metrics like this may have played a part in players being back on the roster in 2024.

Thanks for playing! Happy Opening Day!

Matt Habel

Matthew Habel was born and mostly raised in Cincinnati and was always a Reds fan growing up. Ironically, he did not become die-hard until moving to Pittsburgh after college and experiencing the 2013 Wild Card game behind enemy lines. While the "Cueto Game" is one of the worst sports moments of his life, he became enamored with the analytics side of the game after reading Big Data Baseball and watching the Pirates organization end their postseason drought. He started writing for Redleg Nation in 2017 and has enjoyed continuously learning more about the sport. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon where he loves exploring the great outdoors. Find him on Twitter @MattadorHeyBull

3 Responses

  1. Matt Wilkes says:

    Thanks for bringing this back, Matt!

    Votto feels like the obvious answer since he was the only player around for every Opening Day from 2015-2023. But that’s maybe *too* obvious.

    I’ll go with Eugenio Suarez.

  2. Thomas Green says:

    Gotta guess Votto. While Votto missed 2023, Geno missed 22 and 23. And I think Geno also missed an opening day after his shoulder injury in one offseason (2019?), and he may not have been a starter on Opening Day 2015.

  3. Steve Mancuso says:

    Resisting the temptation of choosing Jose Peraza, tongue planted in cheek, and not wanting to duplicate other answers (I remember at least one Joey Votto homer on Opening Day), I’ll go with Jesse Winker.

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