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Introducing Blast Zone Barrels (BZB)

I’ve certainly taken a step back from writing over the last few months but this one is a doozy. I think it’s up to 2,800 words, so strap in! We should be three months into the 2020 season yet zero games have been played. While it sucks that there are no MLB games, there are infinitely larger issues in the world right now. I’m certainly not trying to minimize the global pandemic or social injustice but I want to create a diversion. Nevertheless, no baseball equals no bueno. But, baseball’s back! Well, in less than three weeks it will be. I’ll be honest, it was difficult to stay motivated and keep writing. I’m working on several pieces currently but have had a difficult time finalizing them. But, this one really got me thinking. It stems from my comment “Not all barrels are created equal.” You may have read that in my underutilized pitches piece for Pitcher List or heard it when I was a guest on the Common Sense Fantasy Baseball podcast. I wanted to dive a little deeper into this statement.



If you regularly visit MLB’s Baseball Savant page or frequent the great Pitcher List site, you likely have a general idea of what a barrel is. For a ball to be classified as a barrel, the batted ball requires an exit velocity of at least 98 mph. At that speed, balls struck with a launch angle between 26-30 degrees always garner the barreled classification. For every mph over 98, the launch angle range expands by approximately one degree in each direction. (Source: MLB.com). Since its creation, a barreled ball has resulted in a hit 80% of the time. Additionally, barreled balls have an expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) of 1.397. To give you an idea of how valuable these batted balls are, on average an xwOBA of 1.397 falls between a double and a triple. So yeah, these are the elite batted balls hitters seek and pitchers look to avoid.

But, when looking at the pure expected value of a barrel, there’s some variance. For instance, barrels can be hit at low launch angles. Take barrels hit between eight and 16 degrees for instance. These balls are hit at over 105 mph and of course, are hits most of the time. But, how often will they result in home runs? Almost never, unless you’re Giancarlo Stanton. In fact, since the Statcast era began in 2015, there have been only seven home runs hit at a launch angle of 15 degrees or less. 

From a recent Tweet, I displayed the expected weighted on-base averages (xwOBA) for barreled balls within certain launch angle limits.

From the Tweet, it’s clear that the batted balls within the middle range (21 degrees to 35 degrees) are the most valuable. What’s not shown is the percentage of those batted balls that were home runs. For those percentages, see the table below.



Home Run per Barrels Rate Based on Launch Angle (2017- 2019)

Launch Angle (deg)BarrelsHome RunsHR/BRL%
8-1441100.00%
14-1526941.49%
15-16324164.94%
16-174674810.28%
17-185628314.77%
18-1975519625.96%
19-2094532033.86%
20-21107843640.45%
21-22126966352.25%
22-23140786661.55%
23-241603106366.31%
24-251744117667.43%
25-261844121065.62%
26-271841124067.35%
27-281771122168.94%
28-291637115170.31%
29-301701119370.14%
30-311559111871.71%
31-32111178270.39%
32-3391062869.01%
33-3473149167.17%
34-3551836470.27%
35-3642825760.05%
36-3731319060.70%
37-3821413161.21%
38-391559460.65%
39-401076358.88%
40-41371437.84%
41-42331854.55%
42-4321942.86%
43-448337.50%
44-454375.00%
45-507342.86%

You can see now why I split the batted balls at launch angles between 21 and 23 degrees from the larger middle section. While these balls are home runs over 50% of the time, they don’t fly over the fence quite as often as balls hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees. The lowest home run percentage in this grouping are balls hit between 25 and 26 degrees (65.6%) while the highest home run probability falls between 30 and 31 degrees (71.7%). Regardless, barreled balls hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees are absolutely crushed. I call this zone, the Blast Zone. 

Excuse my extremely poor PDF edit. The chart above clearly shows that not all barrels are created equal. Yes, all barrels are valuable, but as a hitter, the Blast Zone is where it’s at. Over the last three seasons, 11,528 home runs have been hit on 16,853 Blast Zone Barrels (BZB). Over that same span, there have been 18,466 home runs hit.  While barrels account for 80.9% or 14,943 of all home runs since the start of 2017, BZB account for 62.4% of all home runs (11,528). That leaves 8,803 barrels that fall outside the BZB range. Of those 8.803 barrels, 3,415 of them resulted in home runs or 38.8%. This shouldn’t be all that surprising. Hitting the ball too low regardless of how hard it’s hit will not result in a home run and likewise for balls hit at higher launch angles. This isn’t groundbreaking stuff. It does lead me to look into the correlation BZB has both in season and year over year.



First, let’s take a look at how Blast Zone Barrels correlate to home runs within the same year. I won’t spend much time on this because we’ve essentially proved that BZB correlates with home runs with the data provided above. 

Yearly Correlation BZB to HR (2017-2019)

 HR/FBBZB/PABZB/BBEBZB/FBHR/PAHR/BBE
HR/FB1
BZB/PA0.6291
BZB/BBE0.7020.9531
BZB/FB0.7310.8120.8551
HR/PA0.8470.7180.7160.5001
HR/BBE0.8840.7210.7960.5800.9601

All of the above metrics correlate fairly strongly with each other. The average correlation of BZB per batted ball event (BZB/BBE) to home runs per batted ball event (HR/BBE) from 2017 to 2019 for players with at least 200 plate appearances is about 0.80. Additionally, the correlation between BZB/PA and BZB/BBE is 0.953 which nearly matches the correlation between HR/PA and HR/BBE which is 0.960. 

Now for the year over year correlation. This type of data analysis can help determine predictability. Without getting too much into the weeds on this, the metric with the highest year-to-year correlation for Blast Zone Barrels is BZB/FB with a correlation of 0.51. Close behind is BZB/BBE at 0.49. In other words, BZB has a moderate correlation year over year. It’s certainly something that we should include in our analysis but does not explain the whole picture when looking at a player’s power profile. OK, with the data stuff out of the way, let’s take a look at the raw leaders in “Blast Zone” Barrels (BZB) from 2017 to 2019.

Blast Zone Barrel Leaders: 2017-2019

PlayerBZB (17-19)
J.D. Martinez115
Khris Davis111
Nicholas Castellanos107
Freddie Freeman103
Mike Trout102
Mookie Betts100
Paul Goldschmidt98
Cody Bellinger96
Nelson Cruz96
Nolan Arenado96

The list has Mike Trout on it and includes seven of the top 10 home runs leaders over the last three seasons, so it checks out. The three players listed above who fall outside the top 10 in home runs over the last three seasons are Freddie Freeman (24th), Mookie Betts (30th), and Nicholas Castellanos (45th). Freeman hits a lot of opposite-field fly balls. Opposite field fly balls and even opposite-field barreled balls have a lower home run percentage than pulled fly balls. So, that makes some sense as to why he falls short. More on this in part two of this article series. Yes, they’ll be a part two. Mookie Betts was hurt by the Green Monster in Fenway on the barreled balls hit at lower launch angles. Additionally, centerfield/right-center are massive in Fenway hurting his power output to those parts of the field. So, I can see how he fell short but the move to LA this season will be a boost for him, especially to center. More on him in a minute.

Then there’s Nick Castellanos. He has the largest discrepancy between Blast Zone barrels (3rd) and home runs (45th). I’ve discussed Castellanos ad nauseam this past offseason. The move from Comerica Park to the Great American Ballpark is the largest boost offensively for any single hitter this offseason. The image below includes all of his BZBs overlayed onto his new home, GABP since 2017. Given the large discrepancy, Castellanos required a little deeper dive.

Let’s check some metrics to verify that Nicky C was unlucky. I found that his expected batting average (xBA) was nearly .100 below is actual BA on Blast Zone Barrels and his xwOBA minus his wOBA (xwOBA-wOBA) had a nearly .200 point differential. Yup, he was unlucky alright. Although I should point out, his average fly ball distance on Blast Zone Barrels was only 387 feet, tied for the lowest among all hitters with at least 40 BZB over the last three seasons. It’s a concern, but not enough to deter my opinion that he’ll improve on his home run given the major change in home park. I’ll take the over on his career-best HR rate of 14.4% which occurred last season. I’ll even go bold and project him something closer to an 18% HR/FB rate in 2020.



Let’s look at another player with a new home who I touched on above. Fenway Park inflates BABIP turning some outs into hits and many doubles into triples. Maybe that hurts Mookie’s batting average, but Fenway is brutal for home runs. Take a look. Playing in LA should give Mookie a boost in power. We already saw that Betts is up in the top 10 for BZB (100) the last three years but how many have turned into dingers? Based on the league average, 68.4% of BZBs have resulted in home runs. So, maybe he hit 68 homers? Nope, lower. 60? Lower. 50! Nope. Just 47 of his Blast Zone Barrels resulted in home runs. Just imagine if he played in Cincinnati, he’d be a perennial 40 HR hitter. Most projection systems have him hitting 10 to 11 home runs in the shortened season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mookie is hot right from the jump in the middle of the LA summer and is a dark horse to lead the league especially if he leads off.

Just by looking at the hitters with the largest discrepancy between xwOBA minus wOBA I notice some correlations. Players who have significantly overperformed either have extreme pull tendencies, play in a favorable home park, or both. It’s, of course, the opposite for hitters with low pulled fly balls rates who play in unfavorable home parks. The player with the largest difference between xwOBA and wOBA is Alex Gordon (-0.381). His batting average was just .591 on Blast Zone Barrels, which is insane because as a league, barrels in this range were recorded as a hit nearly 81% of the time (0.806 BA). Unfortunately for Gordon, he’s in the twilight of his career and still plays in pitcher-friendly Kauffman Stadium. I’m not looking to pursue him.

The next name that jumped out at me was Jose Martinez, now of the Tampa Bay Rays. J-Mart is a late-bloomer going into his age-31 season who should split time at DH, outfield, and first base. He might be an easy pass on draft day due to his uncertain playing time, but ATC projects for the fifth-highest wOBA on the Rays team with a solid .332. In limited playing time, he’s managed to hit 45 BZB but only 24 of them resulted in a home run. Additionally, he’s hit just .711 with a wOBA of 1.289 on said BZB. His xBA is over .100 above his actual BA and his xwOBA is a whopping .302 above his wOBA. His average launch speed of 104 mph on his BZB falls in the 73rd percentile. Martinez could be headed for a breakout although he hits far too many ground balls for my liking. Either way, the move out of Busch Stadium is a positive one and I’m a believer that a career-best HR/FB% is in order.

Additional BZB Unfortunate Outliers: Avisail Garcia, Nomar Mazara, Mitch Moreland, Robinson Cano

BZB Fortunate Outliers

Eugenio Suarez has been the perfect combination of skilled, lucky, and fortunate to play half his games in the best ballpark for home runs. Whether you look at my HRPF+ or Dan Richards’ Park Factors, Great American Ballpark reigns supreme. The statistic that was most surprising when looking at Suarez’s Blast Zone results was not the 90 BBE he’s managed in three seasons, it’s his batting average on them. His 90 BZBs have resulted in… 90 hits! A 1.000 BA! Here’s why. 80 of them have gone for taters. That’s 88.9%. As I previously mentioned, 68.4% of BZB go for home runs. Someone should do an in-depth look at every single one of these BZBs to find out how many were lucky, how many were fortunate, and how many were just straight skill. Sorry, to get your hopes up, but that someone is not me at the moment. That’s an entire article in itself. Suarez is not a sell for me based on this information. He’s still in Cincy, he still hits the ball hard and pulls a lot of fly balls.

Didi Gregorius made a living pulling fly balls over the short right field wall at Yankee Stadium over the last five seasons. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a fantastic defensive shortstop but was never projected to hit 25+ homers. Many are aware that Didi’s high contact, pull-heavy approach in Yankee Stadium has done wonders for his offensive production, but just how much? Here’s a spray chart of all of his home runs since the start of 2017.

I know what you’re thinking and no, I did not set the search filter to remove all opposite-field home runs. He has never actually hit an opposite-field home run. That’s amazing in itself, but let’s get back to his Blast Zone Barrels. He’s had 31 home runs on 42 BZB the last three seasons. That’s 73.8% which is better than league-average. What’s odd about that is the fact that his average exit velocity on all of his 42 BZB is just 101 mph. That ranks last among all batters with at least 40 BZB since 2016 just behind Whit Merrifield and Nick Ahmed. His wOBA is nearly .350 higher than his xwOBA on those 42 batted balls. Fortunately, he’s landed in Philadelphia. Citizens Bank Park plays well for left-handed pull power. But, not nearly as favorable as Yankee Stadium. I’m fading Didi a little bit for 2020 but stay tuned for part 2…

Edwin Encarnacion (1B/DH, CHW)
The aging veteran seems to produce solid power numbers every year. He’s in a new situation as the everyday designated hitter for a youthful White Sox club. He’s managed to hit at least 32 home runs every year since 2011 and consistently drives in a high volume of runs. His 86 RBI in 2019 was his lowest since 2011 but on a per plate appearances basis, it was right on par with his elite years in Toronto at 0.177 RBI/PA. Projection systems are still projecting E5 for 33-34 homers and 90+ RBI in about 550 plate appearances (162-game projection of course). At age-37, I think 2020 is the time for the parrot to jump off of that right arm of his. Picture this, E5 increased his HR/FB% by 1.6% in 2019. That’s not a big deal in itself but his BZB/FB% dropped a whopping 7.1%! He wasn’t hitting the ball as hard at ideal launch angles. His popup rate shot up by nearly 6%. So while he’s still hitting the ball hard, he may be selling out as he continues to age. You wouldn’t notice a drop off when looking at his Baseball Savant page but this data is telling. Given his decline in BZB from 2019 and his age, I’ll be steering clear of the aging veteran in 2020 save for OBP formats.



Hunter Renfroe (OF-TBR)
At age-27, Renfroe had a career-best 33 home runs in 2019. He also managed to post career-highs in HR/FB% and HR/BBE% at 23.6% and 11.3%, respectively. For reference, among players with at least 200 PA in 2019, his 11.3% HR/BBE% ranked 17th in all of baseball in 2019. His BZB/BBE% however, ranked 115th. The reason? He pulled a ton of fly balls. 41.1% in fact. The league average pulled fly ball% in 2019 was 24.1%. The remainder of his home runs went to centerfield. Petco Park ranked inside the top-10 in my Directional Home Runs Park Factors (HRPF+) over the last three years to both left-field and centerfield. While Tropicana Field was neutral to leftfield, it is in the bottom-10 for home runs to center field. Given the park change and the lackluster BZB results from Renfroe, I’d expect a decrease in Renfore’s power on a per batted ball basis (say that five times fast) and per fly ball in 2020.

George Springer (OF – HOU)
I’ve covered Alex Bregman and Yuli Gurriel to death. If you’re curious about what I think about them, check it out here and here. It’s too bad because I used to be Alex Bregman’s hype man. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about Springer though and I’m not sure why. He had a 29.5% HR/FB% in 2019 and his career rate is 21.9%. In fact, since his rookie year, he’s only managed a home run rate over 20% once between 2015 and 2018 and his HR/FB% nearly doubled between 2018 and 2019. 

Show table how his BZB/BBE was down from 2018 but his HR/BBE more than doubled! 

The reason I separated Springer from Bregman and Gurriel is that the latter significantly increased their pulled fly ball rates which boosted their home run total. Springer’s pulled fly ball% actually decreased in 2019. Yes, he hit the ball harder and deserved better results than in 2018 but I’m betting against the sustainability of it.

Additional BZB Fortunate Outliers: Joc Pederson, Eric Thames, Jesus Aguilar

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this analysis and while this data is valuable, there’s more work to do. With the suggestions from Max Goldstein (@MaxSportsStudio on Twitter), a great follow, I’ll be looking into directional Bast Zone Barrel. This suggestion inspired this tweet. Pulled fly balls are king.

Part two will look at a few trending players to prepare you for your draft. Part Three will modify this metric directionally. A player’s home park is certainly a factor. I plan on including this information and plugging it into my earned home run (eHR) equation and eliminating some overlapping variables but probably not until the next offseason.

🚨⚾️Best Pitches from 2020 – FreezeStats⚾️🚨

✅Top FB - min 300 & 500 thrown
✅Top CH - RP & SP
✅Top SL - Lamet of course, but who is #2?
✅Top CU - Too close to call?

I went a little GIF happy 🤗 https://t.co/7mFze7vF3s

Interesting 2021 Steamer Pro

-.271 BA for Betts; career .301 BA🤔
-30 HR/19 SB for Tucker 👀
-Bellinger=Trout
-Arozarena 23 HR/21 SB 🔥
-Bichette 24 HR/24 SB
-Vlad Jr=Seager (photo below)
-McNeil=DJL (again) 🤦🏻‍♂️
-Soto .425 OBP, Trout .422 OBP
-Moncada .254/24/8 (BUY!!!)

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Home Run Park Factors Part 2 – (Conversion to a Plus Metric, HRPF+)

In order to display my home run park factors in a way that is much more palatable for the readers, I’ve developed FreezeStats Park Factor for Home Runs (PFHR+) metric. It is used the same way other plus metrics are used such as ERA+ or wRC+. It measures how much better or worse a certain ballpark performs compared to the league average with 100 being average. We know if a player finishes the season with a 150 wRC+, he was 50% better than league average offensively. That’s the same premise behind my park factor metric. A park with a 150+ PFHR+ is 50% better than league average for home runs. 

All ballparks are not created equal, dimensions and irregularities within the same ballpark can vary quite a bit. So, I’ve broken the PFHR+ for each field or direction (Left-field, Center-field, right-field). The focus of directional park factors is important when evaluating a player’s tendencies and batted ball profile. It’s also interesting when looking at evaluating pitchers. I’ll analyze pitchers for my next article with respect to this metric in the next couple of weeks. For this article, I’ll cover nine hitters below who have changed teams. I’ll dive into the park change and what type of power output we can expect, both positive and negative based on the team/park change. 


First, I want to look at an example to help explain the park factors. Yankee Stadium is widely viewed as a great place to hit home runs. Part of this is true and part of it is not. It’s perception more than anything. The Yankees have some massive power bats including Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez. These guys are mashers regardless of where they hit. As you’ll see below, right-field is extremely favorable for home runs at Yankee Stadium. In fact, it’s ranked number one in all of baseball based on my PFHR+ when compared to all right fields! This explains much of Brett Gardner’s late-career success and Didi Gregorius’s 20+ home run power seasons. These left-handed hitters pulled a high percentage of their fly balls to take advantage of the short right-field dimensions. However, Yankee Stadium grades out slightly below-average for home runs to center and left field respectively. 

The slightly unfavorable left-field dimensions don’t hurt the right-handed sluggers on the Yankees because a 450-foot fly ball is a home run anywhere. It actually helps when looking at Aaron Judge. He’s been hitting more and more opposite-field fly balls, up to 49.5% and 48% each of the last two seasons. His HR/FB% on opposite-field fly balls last season was an incredible 37.8% which was significantly higher than his HR/FB% to centerfield. These Home Run Park Factors+ (HRPF+) bare this out. If you take a look at the table below, you can see that Yankee Stadium has a 146 HRPF+ to right field and just an 83 HRPF+ to centerfield. That means Yankee Stadium is 46% better than league average for home runs to right field but 17% below the league average for home runs to centerfield.

To give you an example of the criteria I’m looking at to determine these home run park factors, here’s a three-year snapshot of right field at Yankee Stadium (NYY) and Oracle Park (SFG), the best and worse parks for home runs to right field respectively.

Venue (Rightfield) HR/BRL% (LHB) Non-BRL HR (LHB) HR/BRL% (RHB) Non-BRL HR (RHB)
Yankee Stadium 88.7% 73 77.4% 52
Oracle Park 48.7% 24 15.3% 8
League Average 73.6% 40 49.7% 13

Based on this information, you can see that both left-handed batters and right-handed batters benefit at Yankee Stadium when hitting the ball to right field and the opposite is true at Oracle Park. This is true based on the percentage of barreled balls that become home runs (HR/BRL%) and based on the total number of non-barreled home runs at each venue. The numbers seem a bit confusing and difficult to digest when displayed like this. That’s why I’ve created HRPF+. If you’re interested in the more granular data, feel free to DM me on Twitter or write in the comments below and I’ll share the Google Sheet.


Introducting HRPF+ (Home Run Park Factors Plus)

Park/VenueTeamLF - HRPF+CF - HRPF+RF - HRPF+
Oriole ParkBAL121134100
Comerica ParkDET1042897
T-Mobile ParkSEA97106103
Yankee StadiumNYY9183146
Rogers CentreTOR110101102
Target FieldMIN978294
Minute Maid ParkHOU13673129
Oakland ColiseumOAK9910184
Angel StadiumLAA8214799
Nationals ParkWSH10212485
Kauffman StadiumKCR886677
Fenway ParkBOS966875
Chase FieldARI1066897
Petco ParkSDP11011291
Citizens Bank ParkPHI11591114
Globe Life ParkTEX91110121
Citi FieldNYM110107105
Guaranteed Rate FldCHW110107113
Coors FieldCOL109134113
Dodger StadiumLAD9815095
Busch StadiumSTL8010581
GABPCIN121132136
Marlins ParkMIA868091
Tropicana FieldTBR1028295
SunTrust ParkATL88100100
Miller ParkMIL91134117
Wrigley FieldCHC10510679
Oracle ParkSFG896557
Progressive FieldCLE87108112
PNC ParkPIT7810596

Notes: Columns are sortable! Data for Globe Life in Texas is no longer valid. A new park will be used in 2020. 

Mookie Betts (OF – LAD) formerly with the Red Sox

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Fenway Park (BOS) 96 68 75
Dodger Stadium (LAD) 98 150 95

I don’t think people realize how much of a boost Betts could see in terms of his power with the move the LA. It’s important to note that while the left field HRPF+ is essentially the same in each park they play differently. Fenway allows more non-barreled home runs to left field (61 HR to 38 HR) where Dodger Stadium has a higher HR/BRL% (74% to 67.2%). That’s the Green Monster at play. The barreled balls with low launch angles smack off the high wall but balls hit at high launch angles that don’t qualify as barrels sneak over the monster. Right field is also more favorable but Betts does not have good power to right field so I don’t expect a huge boost in power production there.

Enough about left field, let’s talk about where Betts is really going to benefit. He’s going from Fenway where the HRPF+ was 38% below league-average to Dodger Stadium that plays 51% better than league-average to CF! Let’s try to quantify this. Betts has increased his fly ball% to centerfield each of the last five years (36.8% to 42.1%). I fully expect Betts, who has an elite hit tool to take advantage of centerfield. His HR/FB% to centerfield over the last three seasons is about 50% below the league average. However, when looking at his average exit velocity and average fly ball distance on fly balls to center, he falls in the top 30% of the league. That’s Fenway Park holding him back. Based on this information, I’d expect Betts to finish with a better than league average HR/FB% to center in 2020. To give some context, I’d expect somewhere between four and six more home runs to centerfield in 2020. 

Anthony Rendon (3B – LAA) – formerly with the Washington Nationals

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Nationals Pk (WSH) 102 124 85
Angel Sta (LAA) 82 147 99

Nationals Park plays surprisingly well, especially for right-handed batters, so Rendon takes a hit there. He should see some benefits to center and right field though. His batted ball profile on fly balls is pretty evenly distributed. He hit 23 of his 34 home runs to left field in 2019 with a career-best HR/FB% on fly balls to left field. I expect that number to drop However, he improved his quality of contact on fly balls to center and right, respectively but didn’t see many gains in 2019. So while I expect Rendon to hit more home runs to center and right, it should even out with a decline in homers to left. Expecting a repeat of 34 home runs is probably not wise but 28-30 seems like it’ll be in the cards.


Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN) – formerly with the Detroit Tigers

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Comerica (DET) 104 28 97
GABP (CIN) 121 132 136

I think the baseball world went nuts when they saw this overlay I Tweeted out including Castellanos’ line drives and fly balls over the GABP. 


It’s absolutely nuts. Some people were counting as many as 30 additional home runs based on the overlay. Obviously, that’s not how this works, plus he’s only playing half his games in the GABP. But, going from Comerica that plays like the worst park for home runs to centerfield at 72% below-league average to a top-five park to center is going to do wonders. Castellanos hit 41.5% of his fly balls to center last year but it’s fluctuated over the years. In the final two months of 2019, he benefited from playing in Wrigley which has a 106 HRPF+ to center, so he already took advantage over the final two months of last season. His HR/FB% has consistently been just under 14% for his career and there’s no doubt in my mind, he crushes that rate within a new career-high. I won’t peg him for a 20% HR/FB rate but would probably project him for something around 18% in 2020. Using his 2019 fly ball total, that would bring him to 34 home runs. 

Marcell Ozuna (OF – ATL) – formerly with the St. Louis Cardinals

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Busch Stadium (STL) 80 105 81
Suntrust Park (ATL) 88 100 100

I just found out that SunTrust Park had a name change and is now Truist Park. The park remains unchanged otherwise in terms of dimensions, so the park factors should be accurate. Overall, Ozuna will receive a park upgrade but it’s not as drastic as some of the players above. Ozuna was a massive underperformer based on my earned home run (eHR) metric last year, so I think he’s due for some positive regression regardless of his location. The park change just reiterates this point. His 22.1% HR/FB rate last year was the second-highest of his career but his barrel rate, hard hit%, expected metrics, etc were by far the best of his career. The question is whether or not he can keep his elite batted ball metrics for 2020. If he can, he should hit 35-40 home runs across 600+ PA, otherwise, he’s still a safe bet for 30 home runs.


Mike Moustakas (2B, 3B – CIN) formerly with the Milwaukee Brewers

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Miller Park (MIL) 91 134 117
GABP (CIN) 121 132 136

While Miller Park in Milwaukee is favorable for home runs, Cincinnati is simply the best park in baseball for home runs, as I discussed with Nicky C. Unfortunately, Moose bats from the left side limiting his overall benefit from the park change. Leftfield in the GABP is 30% better than Miller Park and right field is almost 20% better. Believe it or not, the slugger has just seven opposite-field home runs in his career. Four of those seven came last season. He did improve his hard contact on fly balls to left field, so if I was a betting man, I’d expect Mosse to hit more than four homers to the opposite field in 2020. But, where Moustakas makes his money is on pulled fly balls. His HR/FB% on pulled FBs typically sits around 35% but I have a feeling, it’ll push 40% next year. I’m beginning to think that Moustakas can hit 40-45 home runs next year. In fact, I’ll throw down a bold prediction about Moose & Casteallnos totaling a combined 80 home runs in 2020. This is bold because even if I combine both player’s career-high home run totals, we come up with 65 home runs (38 for Mosse, 27 for Castellanos). Combining for 15 home runs above their career-bests is a long shot but I think they have a chance. 

Starling Marte (OF – ARI) – formerly with the Pittsburgh Pirates

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
PNC Park (PIT) 78 105 96
Chase Field (ARI) 106 68 97

Chase Field had the humidor installed before the 2018 season, so I’m not 100% confident in the data. However, one thing is for sure, Marte’s power will benefit to left field and is going to take a hit to center. Unfortunately, he regularly pulls fly balls at a below-average clip. However, he crushes pulled fly balls and line drives to the tune of 97.7 mph over the last two seasons. Those exit velocities on LD/FB put him in company with teammate Josh Bell, Edwin Encarnacion, and Khris Davis. If Marte can modify his approach and pull more fly balls, he could reach a new career-high in home runs. But, with a total of 20 pulled home runs over the last two years and 18 home runs to center, Marte’s move may just be neutral if his approach remains unchanged.

Didi Gregorius (SS – PHI) – formerly with the New York Yankees

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Yankee Stadium (NYY) 91 83 146
Citizen’s Bank (PHI) 115 91 114

We can completely ignore left field when discussing Gregorius’ power. He has NEVER hit a home run to left field and has hit just nine homers to centerfield. Now, he goes from a park that played 46% better than league-average to right field to a park that’s 14% better than league-average. Now that Didi is more than a year and a half removed from Tommy John surgery, I don’t have any doubts that he’ll enter 2020 healthy. Even in an abbreviated season, he was on pace for just under 30 home runs. The switch in his home park probably leads to three-four fewer home runs to right field. The difference to centerfield is about 3% in terms of a three-year HR/BRL%, so that’s relatively minimal. If Didi is a 25-homer hitter in New York, he’s a 22-homer guy in 2020 in Philly.

Avisail Garcia (OF – MIL) – formerly with the Tampa Bay Rays

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Tropicana (TBR) 102 82 95
Miller Park (MIL) 91 134 117

Let’s see, 11% worse to left field, 52% better the center, and 22% better to right. Is this not enough for you to buy into Garcia who reached 20 home runs for the first time in 2019? He actually earned 28 home runs based on eHR last year, so if he can maintain his impressive quality of contact, he’s a bargain in 2020. He’s notoriously a heavy ground ball hitter but as I highlighted in my potential power breakouts article on Pitcher List, Garcia has decreased his ground ball in four straight seasons. It’s interesting to note that Garcia doesn’t pull many of his fly balls. Will you look at that? Miller Park plays a little less favorably to left field. It’s almost as if the Brewers saw an advantage others didn’t. Nearly, 86% of his fly balls last year went to center or right field. Here’s the spray chart from last year overlayed at Miller Park.

Miller Park plays very favorable to LCF and RCF. I feel very strongly that Garcia improves significantly on his HR/FB% from 2019 and if given 550+ PA, he should hit 25 homers.



C.J. Cron (OF – DET) – formerly with the Minnesota Twins

Park (Team) LF HRPF+ CF HRPF+ RF HRF+
Target Field (MIN) 97 82 94
Comerica (DET) 104 28 97

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Cron’s move to Comerica Park is going to kill any power he has to centerfield. Not that Target Field was all that great for fly balls to centerfield but if you remember, Cron played for the Angels prior to 2018. We now know that Angels Stadium is a homer haven to centerfield. While Cron boosted his barrel rate and hard hit% in 2019, he’s trending in the wrong direction in terms of the percentage of pulled fly balls. His pulled FB% has dropped the last three seasons from 32.7% in 2017 to 24.2% last year. He’s going to want to adjust his approach back to the 2017 version of himself to take advantage of Comerica’s most favorable part of the park, left field. His range of outcomes in terms of home runs is huge. Fortunately, he should play every day because he’s basically the Tigers’ best hitter (at worst, second-best). If his pulled fly ball rate continues to drop and his fly-ball rate to center jumps to 40%, he could end up with a home run total in the low-20s. If he gets back to his pull-heavy approach, I could see him reach 30 home runs with the potential for even more.

If you prefer the color-coded version of the HRPF+, it’s below. Although, it’s not sortable like the table above.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.





Photo Source : MLB and Lou Spirito

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MLB Directional Home Run Park Factors Using Statcast (Updated)

Last April, I developed home run park factors based using a combination of home run per barrel rate (HR/BRL%) and non-barreled home runs. The data I used was from Baseball Savant. I gathered the data from each season 2015 through 2018 at each ballpark. Essentially how it worked was any park that allowed higher than league-average HR/BRL rates and allowed more non-barreled home runs were more favorable and vice-versa for parks that scored below-average. This was relatively simplistic but it allowed me to determine that Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati was the most friendly park in MLB for home runs and that Fenway Park in Boston is indeed a poor park for home runs. Naturally, the next step was to breakdown each park directionally (left field, centerfield, right field).


I pulled data from the last three seasons to determine directional home run park factors. I choose a three-year sample for two reasons. First, some of the sample sizes seemed a little small using just a single season of data. Second, combining two juiced ball seasons with one “dead ball” season may be a good way to aggregate how the 2020 ball might respond if there is a slight adjustment to the ball. Of course, it’s anyone’s guess as to how or if the properties of the ball will change, but at minimum I’m accounting for the range of possibilities here. Before I get down into the final park factors, below are the directional HR/BRL% for both right-handed hitters and left-handed hitters.

Left Field Centerfield Right Field
Right-Handed Hitters 75.82% 42.3% 49.65%
Left-Handed Hitters 46.80% 43.2% 73.55%

Not surprisingly, pulling the ball yields a much high home run percentage compared to balls hit to center or balls hit to the opposite field. Based on this information, I separated right-handed and left-handed hitters when determining the directional park factors due to the large discrepancies in HR/BRL%. For example, I ran home run park factors to left field for pulled fly balls by right-handed hitters and opposite-field fly balls hit by left-handed hitters. Then, I created a formula to combine the two for a final left-field park factor. I did the same thing for right field park factors. Hopefully, this makes sense. Just to be clear, these park factors are for home runs only. OK, enough of the boring explanations, let’s get to the Home Run Park Factors.


Note: 1.0 is neutral, less than 1.0 is below-average, over 1.0 is above-average

Home Run Park Factors Using Statcast (FreezeStats)

Venue/ParkTeamLF PFCF PFRF PF
GABPCIN1.1071.1361.176
Oriole ParkBAL1.1131.1441.012
Miller ParkMIL0.9841.1451.108
Coors FieldCOL1.0081.1441.055
Guaranteed Rate FldCWS1.0511.0321.114
Dodger StadiumLAD1.0041.2150.976
Citi FieldNYM1.0641.0271.057
Minute Maid ParkHOU1.1020.8861.155
Citizens Bank ParkPHI1.0790.9651.084
Angel StadiumLAA0.9111.1971.010
Petco ParkSDP1.0771.0550.981
Globe Life ParkTEX0.9731.0481.087
Yankee StadiumNYY0.9480.9311.212
Nationals ParkWSH1.0201.1020.936
Progressive FieldCLE0.9561.0311.054
T-Mobile ParkSEA0.9881.0261.006
Rogers CentreTOR1.0121.0060.995
Oakland ColiseumOAK1.0251.0080.943
SunTrust ParkATL0.9650.9991.003
Chase FieldARI1.0730.8611.006
Tropicana FieldTBR1.0180.9270.985
Wrigley FieldCHC0.9921.0270.909
PNC ParkPIT0.8801.0220.962
Target FieldMIN0.9660.9250.954
Busch StadiumSTL0.9141.0250.887
Marlins ParkMIA0.9290.9170.961
Kauffman StadiumKCR0.9550.8560.874
Comerica ParkDET1.0070.6920.958
Fenway ParkBOS0.9120.8620.844
Oracle ParkSFG0.9400.8540.717

Some things that jumped out at me upon seeing the results is that both Los Angeles ballparks are extremely favorable to centerfield. Dodger Stadium and Angel Stadium rank one and two, respectively for home runs to centerfield based on my HR Park Factors. Without diving in too deep, I noticed that Angel Stadium is perfect for Shohei Ohtani (the batter). Ohtani hits nearly 37% of his fly balls to centerfield and he absolutely crushes balls up the middle. It partially explains how he has maintained an insanely high 40.4% HR/FB on fly balls to center compared to league-average 10.5%. Another player who benefited from playing half his games in Angel Stadium over the last couple of seasons is Justin Upton (2019 injury notwithstanding). He’s hit a whopping 45.4% of his fly balls to centerfield since the start of 2018. There’s a reason that his HR/FB rate jumped once he was traded from Detroit to LA (23.4% w/ LAA compared to his career 16.6% HR/FB%).

On the flip side, centerfield at Comerica Park in Detroit is where fly balls go to die. That tweet was from back in April, so I had a feeling Detroit was awful to center but it’s worse than I thought compared to other parks. Consider this, since the start of 2017, no park has seen more barreled balls to centerfield than Comerica Park (404 barrels), but only 12.13% of those barreled balls turned into home runs (49 home runs). That is the fewest number of barreled home runs to centerfield since 2017 in all of baseball. That’s crazy! Just for fun, if Comerica played neutral to center, there would have been an ADDITIONAL 127 home runs hit over the last three seasons. If it played as favorable as Dodger Stadium has over that time frame, we would have seen a whopping 222 additional home runs to centerfield alone! It’s amazing Miguel Cabrera surpassed the 40-homer plateau multiple times while playing in Detroit despite hitting 35-40% of his fly balls to center. Nick Castellanos gets a huge boost wherever he lands in 2020 because he hit 41.5% of his fly balls to center in 2019.  


A few other interesting observations that jumped out at me is that Oakland Collusiem and Petco Park in San Diego actually play somewhat favorable for home runs. Both play above-average to centerfield and left field. So, let’s give Manny Machado another chance to bounce back in 2020 even though Petco is still a downgrade compared to Oriole Park. I’ll touch on Yankee Stadium’s right field but the park is below-average to center and left field. I’m beginning to understand why Aaron Judge hits so many balls to the opposite field. Citi Field, the other park in New York, ranks as the seventh most favorable park for home runs by my park factors. If you recall, they moved the fences in before the 2015 season, so that modification has done wonders for their hitters. It also makes what Jacob deGrom’s done over the last two seasons extremely impressive.

Oriole Park, Great American Ballpark (GABP), and Minute Maid Park are the top three parks for home runs to left field. I’m not surprised, because GABP is favorable to all fields and Minute Maid has the short porch in left thanks to the Crawford Boxes (84.14% HR/BRL for pulled FB to left). Although Minute Maid is even better for left-handed pull power but below-average to center. Oriole Park has proven to be more favorable for right-handed pull power and straight-away center but plays neutral to right field. We should shift our analysis for left-handed pull hitters and right-handed hitters who favor the opposite field in Baltimore as they may not see a boost in power numbers. PNC Park in Pittsburgh is the worst for home runs to left field but is OK to center and right. More on this in a future article.

Oracle Park is a nightmare for power hitters who favor right field. That’s a well-known fact of course. However, the fences are indeed coming in as the bullpen is now moving behind the right field wall! It’s hard to say how much this will improve the home run park factors in Oracle because the entire park plays unfavorable. Either way, I’m intrigued by Brandon belt (if he stays in SF), Mike Yastrzemski , and Alex Dickerson. In fact, one of my bold predictions involves Alex Dickerson surpassing 20 home runs in 2020. The number-one venue to right field is Yankee Stadium. Along with the juiced ball, it helped boost Didi Gregorius’ power numbers and resurrect Brett Gardner’s power. Great American Smallpark comes in at number two and how about Minute Maid Park ranking third to right field. It’s actually MORE favorable than left field with the Crawford Boxes! 

I had to dig a little deeper to find out why Minute Maid was so favorable to right field. It ranked second in HR/BRL% to right field and allowed the fourth-most non-barreled home runs. Minute Maid is only 326 feet down the right field line which is 11 feet deeper than the short porch in left field, however, the height of the wall is only seven feet high in right field as opposed to the 19 and 25-foot walls in left and left-center. In the power alley (right-center), the fence is 373 feet from home plate and 10-feet in height. Again, this is 11 feet further than left-center but with a much shorter wall. In other words, batted balls with a lower trajectory have a higher probability to be a home run to right field than to left field in Houston. Meanwhile, non-barreled fly balls with high launch angles to left field have left Minute Maid 113 times in three seasons, most in MLB.


My next article will look at hitters and some pitchers who are changing parks and how we should evaluate each player based on the park change. Obviously, we need to see more signings before that happens. To reiterate, these park factors do not consider singles, doubles, or triples, so they are not complete park factors. They are strictly measuring how favorable/unfavorable each park is for home runs to each part of the field using Statcast metrics (barrels and on-barrels). ESPN and FanGraphs along with several other sites have overall park factors, but we care about the long ball!

This metric can be extremely helpful for the evaluation of certain players who have extreme pull or oppo tendencies on their batted balls. Heavy pull hitters or hitters with a higher percentage of opposite-field fly balls can be analyzed and projected more accurately. I could also see where this metric could provide value for DFS purposes. For example, imagine righty-masher Joc Pederson in Yankee Stadium against a right-handed pitcher. That’s easy money right there. I’m open to any questions or ideas you may have as well. Feel free to hit me up on Twitter @FreezeStats.


 Photo courtesy of southerncal88

Weekly Rundown – You Can’t Spell Goldschmidt without Old Shit

Hot Hitters
Nomar Mazara is only 23 years old and already has more than 1300 plate appearances in the Majors. He’s got power in his bat but has always struggles against lefties and hits far too many ground balls. Mazara is hot right now mashing .350 with 3 homers in the last seven days. After hitting 20 HR in his first two MLB seasons he’s got 10 before mid-May. I’m kind of buying in to Mazara as he’s hitting the ball harder than ever and barreling up over 10% of his batted balls up from 6%. His launch angle is trash if you want big power and he’s probably the slowest 23-year-old in the league but I think he could be a .300 hitter with 25 homer power.

Justin Upton is on one of his binges as he’s mashed 5 bombs in the past week and now has 10 HR on the season. This is Upton, you know there are going to be highs and lows. Enjoy this one because a three week slump is around the corner. In the end, he’s a .260 hitter with 30 homers and 100 RBI with 8-10 steals. If you can sell high and get a top 30 bat, do it, otherwise just sit and chill with a little J-Up.

Odubel Herrera is hitting a blistering .500 with 3 bombs, 10 RBI and a steal in the last 7 days! He also leads the league in batting average at .360. Herrera is good hitter you guys! He’s a career .293 hitter in just under 2,000 PA and is only 26 years old. He’s not this good based on his elevated BABIP but he’s regularly had .350+ BABIPs in his career. He’s also cut his K rate, so high contact plus low Ks equals a really good batting average. Throw in 15 HR & 15 SB, he’s a moderate buy/Hold for me.

Odubel’s teammate Carlos Santana has 3 dingers and a boat load of RBI (13 to be exact) in his last seven games. I discussed Santana a few weeks ago as a buy low candidate and I’m still buying. He’s taking the launch angle thing to the extreme but squaring up the ball with regularity. I think he gets hot and hits 30+ homers this year while driving in over 100 RBI but an increase in fly balls and popups brings a low batting average. He may hit only .240 this year but he’s under .200 right now, so could hit .255 the rest of the way. Go ahead make a SMOOTH trade offer for Carlos Santana.

I’m glad I wrote about how Kris Bryant was struggling last week. Since then, he’s gone 9/24 with 4 HR and 7 RBI. Bryant doesn’t hit for much power in April but heats up in May. In 79 career April games, he’s hit 10 home runs; in 90 career May games, he’s hit a whopping 26 homers! KB has somehow cut his strikeout rate again and looks to be a legit .300 hitter with 30 homer power. He’s cut his flyball rate which could limit his HR upside but he’s pulling the ball again. He’s 0-1 on the bases and the Cubs run less than anyone in the National League, so anymore than 5 steals would surprise me from KB.

Delino DeShields, AKA the Dentist is getting on base at a .500 clip this past week and is walking more than he’s striking out. He’s got a homer and 3 steals in the past 7 days and is starting to look like the breakout player I hoped he’d be. He’s making more contact and while it’s not quality contact, the spring speed, which ranks 2nd in all of baseball, along with his ground ball approach should yield great results. He should stay atop the Rangers lineup with his improved OBP. I’d be buying, he could still reach 10 homers and 30 steals this year.

Freezing Hitters
What is going on with Bryce Harper? With only 2 hits in his last 25 ABs without a run, RBI, or steal. He had a similar stretch last May when the Cubs decided to walk him in about 90% of his ABs during a series in May. The success to stopping Harper, walk him for an entire series and watch him struggle, got it. Obviously, I’m kidding y’all! Harper has been extremely unlucky recently. If an owner is frustrated by the recent poor performance try to BUY him for $0.90 on the dollar.

Christian Villanueva came out like gangbusters blasting 3 homers in a single game early in April. To his credit he carried his hot streak across three weeks and still has a impressive nine homers on the season. However, he’s gone 0 for his last 21 with just one walk, and one run. Villanueva appears to have issues hitting righties as he’s hitting .162 with one homer in 84 plate appearances. Yes, he’s been murdering lefties but here’s the problem, only about ⅓ of the pitchers in MLB are left handed. He’s even been lucky per xStats, his swinging strike rate and approach are both terrible. You should have listened when I told you to sell this MFer about three weeks ago. He’s a drop in shallow formats.

Didi Gregorius is finally coming back down to earth. No one expected him to keep up his April pace (at least I hope), but he doesn’t have a hit in his last 22 plate appearances. Regression is a bitch! You know what’s going to happen right? Watch Didi become the player we all thought he’d be, check out my Didi bust post way back in the offseason, going something like .260 with 14 homers the rest of the way. The problem is, he started off like Babe Mantle and will finish the season above expectations. Actually, he has made adjustments by improving hard contact, launch angle, and pull%. So he should be just fine as a borderline top 100 player the rest of the way. I’m holding.

The Oakland Matts (Chapman and Olson) have combined to go 4 for their last 44 with 1 homer which came off the bat of Matt Chapman last night. What’s going on? Both have been a little bit unlucky because they both hit the ball hard and hit it in the air a lot. I expect Olson’s power numbers to go up based on his batted ball data where I think Chapman’s numbers are about right. The problem is, Olson’s plate discipline is trash and Chapman’s is great! It’s odd that they have similar strikeout and walk rates. I’d be buying Chapman right now and holding Olson. The power will come in bunches with Olson, but it will come at a .220 average and 30+% K rate.

Paul Goldschmidt is having his worse start to a season ever.  What’s going on, did he just get old fast? The power is down (humidor), the speed in down, and the strikeouts are up. There’s a lot to look at with Pauly, I’m going to do a deep dive, but right now he’s looking like Joey Gallo without the power, not good. Hold tight for now, but this could be a major sell or a hidden injury. Stay tuned.

Hot Pitchers
Aaron Nola just keeps getting better. I’ve already anointed him ACE status. He’s given up 1 ER in his last 14.1 innings striking out 19 batters! But I thought he didn’t have a good K rate? How about a 4th straight season with an increase in SwStr rate up to 11.9%. The 8 K/9 is a mirage. He managed a 9.8 K/9 in 2017 with a lower SwStr rate in 2017. I’m buying him as a top 12 SP ROS and believe he ups his K rate to around 9.5 K/9 and should be a sub 3.00 ERA with a WHIP around 1.05.

Sean Newcomb has been a man possessed with 2 wins, 14 Ks, 0 ER in 13 IP in his last 2 starts. His stuff is really good, it really is, he can get swings and misses on his slider, change and sometimes his fastball. However, looking at his heatmaps, he’s all over the place with his command. He’s out of the zone far too much and pep this, his fastball velocity is down a tick while the change up velocity is up 1.6 mph. That means that the difference between the two pitches is less than 6 mph which tells me that the changeup won’t be as effective as an off-speed pitch. That being said, I’m riding this out until he loses control again. Right now, he’s effectively wild.

Gio Gonzalez is doing it again. I’m just going to have to ignore what the peripherals tell me with Gio and just trust he’s a pretty decent pitcher. The walks are up and the zone% is down, so don’t expect a pretty WHIP but the whiffs and Ks are up as well. He’s given up 2 ER and struck out 21 in his last 18 innings. Gio may be doing this with smoke and mirrors but he’s a nice guy to have at the back end of you rotation.

Freezing Pitchers
How could I not write about Dylan Bundy after his last outing. Literally anyone in the world could have done what Bundy did last time out as he failed to record an out, gave up four bombs and seven ER! What to do with Bundy because he looked so good the first five starts of the season. His last three have been disasters. In deep leagues you have to hold him but keep him on the bench. He’s not own-able in 10 or 12 team mixed leagues. I’m hoping it’s an injury because the velo is down and he was looking like a top 20 SP the first month of the season. But right now I’d rather be owning Ted Bud Bundy.

Brandon McCarthy is actually healthy but can’t seem to get many outs. That’s too bad, maybe he is hurt? He used to put up solid numbers when healthy and now he’s not giving you anything. Without being able to count on 100 IP from McCarthy, he’s a hard drop.

Yu Darvish, what the hell bro? The Cubs just DLed him because he has the flu. Yeah, ok we are all sick of your pitching Yu but you don’t see us on the DL! Whoops sorry for the rant, the only positive thing I can say is that his strikeouts remain high but so is everything else, in a bad way. Walks are up, HR are up, fly balls are, hard contact is up. Of course I’m stashing him for now, but he’s no longer a top 30 SP going forward. I need to see what he looks like when he clears his head or whatever.

Jeff Samardzija has not looked good since coming off the DL. What’s worse is that his previous ability to limit walks has apparently stayed on the DL. Guess what, maybe his command was all an act and his command/control is actually trash. Just ask Eno Sarris of The Athletic and that dude is smart! Here’s the main problem, his sinker is way up. By way up I mean it’s way up in the zone and he’s decided to nearly double its usage. Therefore fly balls have skyrocketed and many of them go over the fence. STOP THROWING YOUR SINKER JEFF! I’m dropping him in shallow leagues because he’s going to continue to hurt your ratios without helping your strikeout numbers.

Weekly Rundown – 4/21 – 4/27

HOT Hitters

The Notorious DIDI is at is again blasting 5 homers and driving in 13 runs while hitting over .450 this week. The league leader in RBI has continued his onslaught on MLB pitching. I’ll admit when I’m wrong and I was way off on Didi Gregorius coming into the season. He’s walking at a career high and striking out at a career low. He’s hitting that ball very hard and his high drive percentage is a hair under 20% (league average is around 6.1%). His xStats are great but the one interesting note is that xHR sits under 5 (currently has 10 homers). He’s outperformed his Stats in the past so I’m riding this out with Didi especially if he continues to hit in the middle of the Yankee lineup.

Michael A Taylor has had himself a week after a slow start filling out the stat sheet with 2 homers and 3 steals hitting .313. Taylor has been a great source of steals with 9 on the season but I’m not buying the hot streak. He has contact issues, hits too many ground balls and a lot of poor contact. His walk rate is up which is good and I’d hold him if you need steals or are in a deep league. In shallow leagues, he’s a sell for me right now.

Brandon Belt, the Prince of xStats is murdering baseballs. He’s hitting .455 this past week with 3 homers and leads the league in OPS (last 7 days). Whoops, nope, that’s Didi, Belt is second. The 6 homers on the season is a third of his career high in a single season. He’s rolling with career highs in both hard (high) and soft contact (low) which which tells me he’s selling out for power evidenced by his elevated O-swing and SwStr rates. I like the power gains but I’d sell him while he’s hot. If he maintains the power, which will be difficult at AT&T Park, he’s likely to lose 50 points on his average.

Kyle Schwarber has blasted 4 home runs this past week and has followed up a terrible 2017 with a hot start to 2018. So far, things are looking great, the strikeouts are down, the walks are up and the lower SwStr and O-Swing back that up. The one negative, I noticed is his launch angle is down to only 7 degrees. He’s hitting less fly balls, the ones he’s hitting have been fantastic, just check his 40% HR/FB rate. As great as that is, it won’t last. He’s not a sell, because he’s still stinging the ball and this lower LA could keep his average above .260.

Matt Davidson has 4 dingers this past week and continues to prove doubters wrong. He’s got 9 homers on the season but there are some underlying numbers that make me concerned about his season long term. The strikeout rate sits over 34% and his launch angle is below 9 degrees which is not ideal for a power hitter. As a result, he’s only hit fly balls 33% of the time which is more in line with a mid-teens to 20 homer type FB rate. Here’s the outrageous number of the day, his HR/FB is 60%! Yes, that’s correct, it leads the league by nearly 20% and almost doubles Bryce Harper’s 33% which ranks 3rd in MLB! In OBP leagues, I’m holding him because he has improved his walk rate but I’d sell high on him in standard leagues.

Freezing Hitters

J.D. Martinez is hitting .238 this past week. His Ks are up and BB are down. Has the decline for JDM begun? No, not even close, he’s hitting 60% of his batted balls hard. When he makes contact, it’s Judge-like, his average exit velocity is over 95 mph and his high drive rate is nearly 30% which is almost triple the league average! Per xStats, he’s actually been unlucky and should have more HRs and a higher average. If this cold stretch continues, I’m buying!

Chris Taylor has gone 5 for his last 26 with 2 runs, no homers, no RBI, and no steals. Ugh, this follow up to his 2017 breakout is a nightmare. He hasn’t stolen a base and his BABIP sits nearly 100 points lower than in 2017. We knew the .361 from last year was a bit inflated but this is low. He does have 3 homers and 10 XBH, and his contract rate is right where it was last year. He’s not hitting the ball quite as hard but I expect the numbers to up a bit, he’s a hold or moderate buy.

Andrew McCutchen is 2 for his last 16, that’s a .125 average but at least he taking walks, right? He hasn’t homers or stolen a base in that stretch and is now hitting under .200 for the season. Slow start for Cutch, but other than a slight increase in K rate, he’s the same guy. He’s still walking a ton, the BABIP will come back up and his 3 homers + 3 steals is solid. I’m buying Cutch right now.

Anthony Rizzo is 5 for his last 23 without a homer with a total of 1 bomb this year. He’s walking less and striking out more, very uncharacteristic of his track record. I’m worried about big Riz. His value hits are half of the league average and his poor hit rate is nearly 25% which is 5% over league average. His xStats don’t paint a much prettier picture, so it’s possible he’s hurt. If he keeps struggling the next couple weeks and they don’t DL him, I’m selling.

Justin Upton is in one of his slumps going 4 for his last 22 without a home run. Even though Upton was able to hold off an long slumps in his incredible 2017 campaign, he’s been known for prolonged slumps throughout the season. Nothing out of the ordinary for Upton. His batted ball profile and plate dicsiline is right in line with his previous seasons. It’s funny because the fantasy community believes Upton is inconsisten (especailly head to head players), but he’s as bankable as they come. He’l end up with a .260 BA, 26-30 HR, and 90-100 RBI.

Dee Gordon is hitting .192 in the last seven days without a steal. Where is Gordon’s value without steals? Now, he can’t steal bases every week but if you’re expecting 60 from him, you want that consistent production. The 9 steals on the season are nice and puts him on pace for over 50 steals. His speed hasn’t declined yet and so that’s good but he’s swinging and missing more so less opportunities to steal bases. If this keeps up, he’s probably more of a .285 guy with 50 steals than a .300-60 guy.

HOT Pitchers

Sean Manaea followed up his no hitter against the Red Sox with a gem against the World Series Champion Astros. No surprise, he’s the number one pitcher over the last seven days with 2 wins, 17 strikeouts, no earned runs and a WHIP of 0.44. He’s been amazing but he’s not an ace. His 98.2% LOB and a .148 BABIP just won’t stick. Don’t get me wrong , I love Manaea but he’s probably a 3.40-3.60 ERA pitchers with a K rate around 8.5/9. A solid #2 or 3.

Kyle Gibson has looked great in his last two starts with an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP below 1.00 in that stretch along with 17 Ks in just over 12 innings. I’d be picking him up in 12 team leagues and deeper where available. His Swinging strike rate is up 3%, that is not insignificant. Yes, that’s a double negative. Otherwise, he’s the same guy, but more Ks equal less blow ups. I think he can be a solid number five or six, so hold or pick up for now.

Miles Mikolas has proved to be more than ready to dominate Major League hitters giving up only four earned runs in his last three starts. He needs to be owned in even the shallowest of leagues if available. He was bit by the long ball in his first few starts and could be an issue going forward, but he’s averaging over 95 mph on his fastball and allows a lot of weak contact. I’m buying now, but keep an eye on the velocity, if that dips, he may be starting to fatigue. If that happens, you need to sell.

Chris Tillman, yes everyone Chris Tillman pitched seven innings last night without giving up a homer or a run for that matter. He struck five and has a 2.77 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in his last two starts. Here’s my advice for you on Tillman, don’t pick him up and if you own him in a super deep league SELL! He’s allowing a .313 BA with a .571 SLG. xStats actually says he’s been lucky! His walk rate and strikeout rate are identical. Excuse me….Sorry, I just threw up, but I’m back. SELLLLLLLL

Freezing Pitchers

Marcus Stroman has an 8.88 ERA on the season with his worst starts coming this past week.  He’s given up 14 runs (12 ER) in his last 10.2 IP, he also walks four in his start against the Yankees. Ground ball rate is great vut his hard contact given up is high. His average exit velo against is over 92 mph. That’s not good fam. He has been unlucky but his control is off as well with a 12+% BB rate, so he’s paying for allowing the walks and the hard contact. I don’t like what he’s doing and his velocity is down. I’m selling, he’s a streamer, nothing more.

Luis Castillo has given up eight earned runs in his last six innings along with 13 hits and six walks! This one really hurts. His velocity wasn’t bad last night, he was regularly hitting 96 mph and touched 97 but his command and control was off. He’s stuff is good but he’s making way too many mistakes. He also doesn’t trust his slider, he threw a total of three sliders and they all went for balls. This is a problem, if he’s not hurt he’s droppable in 10 team leagues. In deeper leagues you have to hold him for now. If he hits the DL then at least there’s a reason for his poor performance.

Danny Duffy has given up 10 earned runs in his last two starts while striking out only five batters in 10.2 IP. I’ll make this quick, I’m out on Duffy, Velocity is down a bit, swings and misses are down, contact up, hard contact up, I could keep going. He’s a drop in shallow leagues and ell low in deep leagues.

Clayton Kershaw has not looked sharp as he walked six batters, yes SIX, in his last start against the Marlins of all teams. It’s not just the walks but his 14 hits allowed in his last 12 innings is also no Kershaw like. Check out this great deep dive into Kershaw’s struggles from Nick Pollack on RotoGraphs. Basically, his fastball command is off and his velocity is down. It’s completely devalued the pitch which has been so great for Kershaw in his career and throws off the sequencing of his awesome curve and slider. I had Kershaw as the #3 SP coming into the year and if he can’t correct this fastball issue, I may be dropping him outside the top 5 or 6 overall SPs. Don’t sell yet, but monitor the situation.

Notorious D.I.D.i – One of “Brooklyn’s Finest” Fakers

Biggie Smalls had one of the best flows in the game.  His lyrics were top notch too and even though I have him a spot below Pac, I got nothin’ but love for ya.  Didi however, is not in the B.I.G.’s class, that park in Brooklyn  the Bronx though has made him into a star!  He’s what I’d call a Fortunate Son.

Steamer projects Didi Gregorius to hit 19 home runs in 2018 which is six less than he hit in 2017.  I agree with regression in general for Didi.  After some quick research (which didn’t actually require much) Didi has greatly benefited from hitting half his games in Yankee Stadium.  This is not new, left hand hitters have a significant advantage hitting at Yankee Stadium.  I mean, it’s 318 feet to the right field foul poll!  Below I’ve superimposed Didi’s home runs at both Yankee Stadium and Fenway (picking at random but also using a divisional opponent for context).

 

Basically, if he played all his games at Yankee Stadium in 2017, he would have 24 home runs but if he played all his games in Fenway, he’d have AT LEAST 10 LESS HRs!  Ok, well lucky for Didi, he doesn’t.  So he will benefit in half of his games with the way he swings the bat.  What else do you notice about this HR distribution?  They are all to right field.  Didi has no power the other way and doesn’t hit the ball hard enough to get it out in center field.  Here’s some statcast data: Gregorius averaged 377 feet on his 25 home runs in 2017.  It’s not hard to believe that he had the lowest average distance on home runs for players with at least 20 home runs in 2017.  The next closest player with over 20 HRs is Daniel Murphy; his average HR distance was 389 feet; 12 feet further by average!  Out of 291 players with at least 190 batted balls he ranks 213 out of 296 in Brls/PA and 261 in average exit velocity at 84.4 mph!  Those numbers are good enough to be sandwiched between Big Joe Panik (or as I call him BJP) and Cesar Hernandez.  He will luck into some HRs hooked down the line sure, but I think 14-16 is more in the cards for 2018.  Here’s a list of all of Didi’s HRs in 2017 with expected BA and wOBA values based on the how the ball was struck.  I’ve highlighted the six balls that had a much higher probability of being an out rather than a HR, but there are even more than that.  Yup, very lucky.

Enough about power, lets move on.  How about speed?  He doesn’t really have any.  His base running score is a plus but his speed score is terrible; in 2017 it was valued at 2.7 on a 0-10 scale.  His career high in steals is 7 and he had all of 3 in 2017.  Let’s say he gets up to 4 in 2018.  His approach at the plate is poor which is backed by career high O-swing% in 2017 at 40.8%.  That resulted in poor contact and a career high 11.4% SwStr.  Anymore career worsts?  I guess worsts is a word.  Anyways, the answer is yes, his Infield fly percentage was 15.5%, that’s not good friends.

The only thing he’s doing well is hitting and pulling more fly balls to take advantage of that short porch in right.  That’s great, but since he doesn’t hit the ball hard or far, any fly ball that isn’t right down the right field line is basically an out.  Therefore, I’m expecting BABIP regression even lower than his 2017 number of .287.  For 2018 I’ll give Didi: .257/.298 15 HR, 4 steal, 74 runs, 78 RBI.  His current Early ADP in mocks is around 100 overall.  A quick peek at xstats from 2017 has Didi’s expected triple slash at .257/.291/.401.  Looks like I’m pretty close here.  I wouldn’t take him in the top 200.  If you want better value at shortstop check out my Marcus Semien sleeper post.