David Fletcher’s 2021 Was Missing Something

What’s 0/573?

Baseball Savant knows, but they also know it’s useless information. This is precisely why they do not display it. And it’s a shame that they don’t display it.

If they did, it would show that David Fletcher is in the zeroth Percentile for Barrels.

For a quick refresher, Barrels are “a batted ball with the perfect combination of exit velocity and launch angle.” To qualify, a ball must be hit at least 98 mph. For that exit velocity, a launch angle of between 26-30 degrees is required. For every single mph increase, the range of acceptable launch angle degrees increases by two or three, up until 116 mph. At that level, any ball hit between 8-50 launch degrees is considered Barreled.

Fletcher didn’t do that once in 2021. Instead, he mustered eight “close calls” among his 573 batted ball events.

Let’s have a look…

No. 1

  • Date: 2021-09-15
  • Pitcher: Dallas Keuchel
  • Pitch Velocity: 89.5
  • Exit Velocity: 95.8
  • Launch Angle: 28
  • Hit Distance: 367

The ball certainly had more carry on it than it appeared to off the bat, but Jason Benetti had the cause of death nailed down: “Twisted.” Fletcher’s downward stroke doomed this ball in the Windy City, and it settled routinely in Luis Robert’s glove. Judging by his reaction, Keuchel surely wasn’t happy with the pitch location, nor the contact quality, but he had nothing to fear.

No. 2

  • Date: 2021-05-21
  • Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit
  • Pitch Velocity: 86.4
  • Exit Velocity: 94.2
  • Launch Angle: 28
  • Hit Distance: 354

This one’s a real surprise. Petit offered 86 mph down the heart of the plate and Fletcher put a real nice swing on it. By “real nice” I mean “jabby and aggressive.” But he squares it up! The result can only be described as “medium deep.”

No. 3

  • Date: 2021-07-04
  • Pitcher: Tanner Scott
  • Pitch Velocity: 94.8
  • Exit Velocity: 94.8
  • Launch Angle: 25
  • Hit Distance: 368

This ball was well tagged, leaving at the same velocity at which it entered Fletcher’s wheelhouse. The July 4th crowd tells the story on this one, hoping for fireworks. But hits with this profile only muster a .250 BA, dropping to .000 when Cedric Mullins is patrolling out there.

No. 4

  • Date: 2021-08-07
  • Pitcher: Julio Urías
  • Pitch Velocity: 81.8
  • Exit Velocity: 96.1
  • Launch Angle: 25
  • Hit Distance: 369

The first hit on the list falls! A hanging curve whacked into the gap for a classic stand-up double. It’s easy to hear Orel Hershiser comparing Fletcher and his stance to Dodgers PBO Andrew Friedman, followed by Joe Davis‘ line “he’s got some pop too!” Well, not really, but we’ll let him have that one.

No. 5

  • Date: 2021-07-17
  • Pitcher: Rafael Montero
  • Pitch Velocity: 95.7
  • Exit Velocity: 97.9
  • Launch Angle: 25
  • Hit Distance: 368

This one is close! It is just 1/10th of a mph shy of 98 and 1 degree below 26. If this one was just a gnat’s eyelash closer to the barrel (hah get it?), this non-barrelling revelation and subsequently this article would not exist. Thank goodness for Rafael Montero’s well known post-Tommy-John-surgery-drop-in-arm-angle to relieve stress on his elbow. That extra two-seam tail was all this exposé needed.

No. 6

  • Date: 2021-09-14
  • Pitcher: Lucas Giolito
  • Pitch Velocity: 93.1
  • Exit Velocity: 95.1
  • Launch Angle: 23
  • Hit Distance: 357

Just when David seems to be on a roll with booming doubles, the Big Baby comes out of nowhere to snag this one! Plays like this remind baseball fans that any player can revise their own narrative. Eloy Jiménez was always billed as a defensive liability, but every year since 2019, he’s made huge strides according to Outs Above Average. Despite leg injuries, he posted 2 OAA in 2021, an increase of 6 from 2020. Just hold out hope for David Fletcher to gain 30 pounds of muscle in the offseason!

No. 7

  • Date: 2021-07-09
  • Pitcher: Marco Gonzales
  • Pitch Velocity: 88.1
  • Launch Angle: 22
  • Exit Velocity: 97.3
  • Hit Distance: 361

A leadoff dinger is seventh on the list, just a high heater knocked out on a line. The shock, bordering on frustration, from the play-by-play man tells the whole story.

No. 8

  • Date: 2021-07-11
  • Pitcher: Héctor Santiago
  • Pitch Velocity: 80.1
  • Exit Velocity: 97.5
  • Launch Angle: 23
  • Hit Distance: 377

If there ever was a hanging changeup, this is it. Fletcher squares it up for his second and last homer of the season. But even casual baseball fans have been desensitized to the home run. Each game’s biggest highlight seems to be a single uppercut swing.

Not for David Fletcher. And that’s amazing! His two 2021 homers are right here. All 571 of his other Batted Ball Events resulted in something else.

For his career, he’s only Barrelled three balls. Four years in the league, 12 dingers. Only Ben Revere went through a full season of ABs without Barrelling a ball, back in 2015.

The fact that Fletcher is an everyday player is due to factors that are beyond the scope of this article, but they’re not hard to see. Regardless of those reasons, baseball fans should be grateful for him. Despite an all-around down year, he still had the absolute best Whiff% of any qualified hitter.

MLB could find ways to promote Fletcher, applauding his world-class ability to simply hit the ball. Though to be fair, it is difficult to explain why avoiding strikeouts is great in this day and age.

He still puts a charge into one every once in a while, knocking a career-high 107.9-mph batted ball in 2021. Here it is:

This video accurately corresponds to the previous comment.

@SlangsOnSports and @j_shusterman_ on Twitter were the first two on this story back on September 17th. I discovered their discovery as I wrote No. 6 on the list, but big hat tip to them!

Statcast data and videos courtesy of Baseball Savant and MLB.

Alex Bires is a Journalism student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and can't get enough of baseball. He's always up for a research project, no matter how big. Twitter: @AlexBires1 Instagram: sadmets.img

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