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2020 BABIP Outliers – What to Expect in 2021

Typically, at the midway point of the regular season, I cover BABIP outliers to buy and fade for the second half. However, since we only had a 60 game season, I’ll cover buys and fades for 2021. During the 2019 season, I wrote this piece and by in large, regression set in for most of these hitters in the second half.  Let’s apply that same thinking to the hitters below for 2021. Keep in mind that the expected BABIP (xBABIP) I calculated below is descriptive, so it doesn’t mean that’s what we should expect going forward. That being said, she’s outliers are where I expect regression sets in closer to the hitter’s actual skillset. There are a number of factors that may not be covered in the xBABIP equation that I’ll touch on in the player blurbs below including

  • Sprint Speed
  • Shift and pull rates
  • Park Factors





The table below includes a list of the largest underachievers in terms of BABIP aka the biggest gap between xBABIP minus BABIP. The minimum qualifications are 150 at-bats. You’ll notice a bunch of slow-footed left-handed batters with high pull rates. I wrote a piece last offseason covering the hitters who have been shifted on over 50% of the time and in many cases these players underperformed their xBA. Many of them you’ll see on this list below which can explain at least a portion of the difference between xBABIP and BABIP. In the cases of Matt Carpenter, Kole Calhoun, Kyle Schwarber, Matt Olson, and Max Kepler, they all qualify as pull-happy lefties with average to below-average speed. These hitters regularly show up on underperforming outlier lists so I wouldn’t necessarily expect much of a BABIP rebound as some of the others on this list. 

First I’ll touch on some elite hitters who showed up on the underachievers list. While not outliers, it’s encouraging to know that their production is very likely something they can maintain over the course of a full season. Fernando Tatis Jr., Corey Seager, Luke Voit, Ronald Acuna Jr., and Mookie Betts all underperformed their xBABIP by at least 0.030. Acuna, Betts, and Tatis are all top-5 picks next year, nothing changes for them. For Seager and Voit, I’ll be ranking both inside the top-50. Seager has a chance to hit .330 with 30 homers if healhy and Voit is a legit threat to hit 45+ homers whle hitting .275+. A few others to note include Alex Bregman, Franscisco Lindor, and George Springer. All were very unlucky in 2020. Bregman and Lindor were first round picks in 2020 but will both fall into the second round. I think both will be great values in 2021. I’ll be all over Springer in 2021. He’ll be 31 next year and has kind of been labeled as a boring veteran. I could see his ADP settle around 50 overall with some sexier options jumping him. His metrics look great and his strikeout rate has settled in below 20%. I’d peg him for a .280 BA with 35 homers.




BABIP Underachievers - 2020

PlayerPAxBABIPBABIPxBABIP-BABIP
Gregory Polanco1740.3290.1930.136
Christian Yelich2470.3650.2590.106
Nick Castellanos2420.3600.2570.103
Gary Sanchez1780.2610.1590.102
Kole Calhoun2280.3070.2110.096
Anthony Rizzo2430.3070.2180.089
Shohei Ohtani1750.3140.2290.085
Max Muncy2480.2850.2030.082
Cody Bellinger2430.3250.2450.080
Carlos Santana2550.2910.2120.079
Kyle Schwarber2240.2960.2190.077
Bryan Reynolds2080.3070.2310.076
Miguel Cabrera2310.3580.2830.075
Matt Olson2450.3000.2270.073
Joey Votto2230.3060.2350.071
Bryce Harper2440.3480.2790.069
Eduardo Escobar2220.3120.2440.068
Anthony Santander1650.3140.2480.066
Justin Upton1660.2830.2190.064
Matt Carpenter1690.3130.2500.063
Max Kepler1960.2980.2360.062

Gregory Polanco (OF – PIT)

What the hell happened to Polanco this year? He was mostly healthy but hit a dreadful .153 with a career-high 37.4% strikeout rate. He’s been riddled with injuries over the last four years missing over 200 games since the start 2017. Most recently, he dealt with offseason shoulder surgery before the 2020 season. Typically, a hitter will show poor quality of contact upon return from a shoulder injury, but not Polanco. He ended up with a career-best barrel rate and a hard-hit rate. He even managed a strong 30% line drive rate and cut his previously ugly popup%. He sold out for power, there’s no doubt but he clearly deserved better. I don’t know what to make of GP for 2021 because he’ll still be just 29 years old. He’s a lefty who was a victim of the shift and the strikeout rate concerns are real. If he cuts it below 30%, he could be a hit .250 with 25-30 homers. If he can’t fix his contact issues, he’ll see the bench or worse as he’ll be in the last year of his deal (club options in 22-23).

Chrsitian Yelich (OF – MIL)

You’re probably not surprised to see Yelich on this list. He still absolutely crushed the ball finishing in the top two percent in HH% and exit velocity. Let’s take a look at his exit velocity histogram.

The majority of his batted balls were hit over 95 mph with the two largest groups being between 100-105 and 105-110. That’s where an elite hitter wants to be. His issues were solely related to the strikeout rate. He finished with a 30.8% strikeout rate which was more than 10% worse than a year ago. He became extremely patient, to a fault. That boosted his walk rate but really got him into deep counts elevating his K%. He also struggled early in the season with a zone contact% under 75% but bounced back in September with a Z-Con% around 85-86%. I have virtually zero concerns with Yelich going into 2021 even if his strikeout rate settles in around 25%. Pep this, if Yelich would have had neutral luck with his BABIP given his expected stats, he would have hit .265. That’s w/ the ugly K% which I think comes down quite a bit. Easy buyback here.

Nick Castellanos (OF – CIN)

I made no reservations about my love for Castellanos going into 2020 especially given the move to Cincinnati. He got a massive park boost for power which came to fruition hitting 14 bombs in 60 games. That’s a 38 homer pace across 162 games or 11 more than his previous career-high. What I failed to consider is the BABIP drop he may see with a less expansive home outfield. His 2020 BABIP fell over 70 points below his career average. xBABIP still believes he’s a beast pegging him for a .360 xBABIP. I’m a little skeptical about him holding that mark and an elevated K% looms. That being said, I had him right around 50 overall in 2020 and nothing’s changed. He should still hit .275 with 35 homers and 100 RBI in 2021. 

 Gary Sanchez (C – NYY)

What are we going to do about Gary Sanchez next year? He had by far the lowest BABIP of any qualified hitter in 2020 to go with an atrocious 36% strikeout rate. We’ve seen suppressed BABIPs before from Sanchez but not like this. His batted ball distribution was BETTER than in 2019 but he did pull the ball over 50% of the time and was crushed by the shift (.218 wOBA vs the shift). Only one other time in his career has he had a BABIP this low over a 60 game stretch. That being said, he crushes the ball on contact, better than any catcher, by far. Because of his poor speed and results against the shift, he’ll likely never have another BABIP over .250 so he’s probably outside of the top-three catchers for 2021. It’s going to difficult to stomach a batting average at .200 for a full season.


Shohei Ohtani (DH – LAA)

Here’s the first player on this list who may have a massive discount. It also depends on how he’s used, whether or not he pitches, etc. Then there’s still Albert Pujols lingering for one more season. I think Ohtani was hurt this year. Before 2020, his career BABIP was .352. There’s no way that I buy Ohtani as a .200 hitter. His exit velo was down but I think that’s a product of an injury. He’s too good of an athlete in his prime to fall off that quickly. He was also suppressed a little by the shift which I don’t expect to change. He still plays in a great park for home runs to centerfield where he excels. I’ll hold firm that Ohtani is a top-50 hitter if he receives everyday at-bats.

Cody Bellinger (1B/OF – LAD)

I don’t need to say much about Bellinger. His strikeout gains carried over from 2019 but he may have sacrificed some hard contact. There was also some weird stuff going on at the start of the season about him changing his swing. It made no sense and hurt his production early without a full season to recover. He’s also still running, pacing for 16 SBs across a full season which is right in line with his previous two seasons. He’s been healthy, missing only six games between 2017 and 2018. Still just 25 years old, he’ll be a top-12 pick for me in 2021.

Bryan Reynalds (OF – PIT)

Reynolds is going to be a completely forgotten man next year in drafts. He’s boring, plays for an awful team, and completely fell on his face in 2020. However, this is a guy who has never hit below .312 at any level including his rookie season in 2019 where he hit .314. He saw a jump of 6% in strikeout rate without much merit. His plate approach, chase%, and contact rates remained nearly identical from a year ago. He even boosted his barrel rate but also added more weakly hit balls. Overall, it seems like very little has changed from a year ago. The weakly hit balls are reflected in his xBABIP which at .307 is still about 70 points below his career-numbers. I think there’s a little bit of pop here and wouldn’t be surprised to see him come back with a .290 average and 20 homers with a handful of steals. Looks a little like Jeff McNeil just a lot cheaper.

Bryce Harper (OF – PHI)

So xBABIP thinks Harper should have hit .300 in 2020. So, with that being said, the soon to be 28 year old Harper would have hit .300 with 35 homers and 22 steals across a full season. Not so fast though. He’s another victim of the shift. He hasn’t outperformed his xBA since his 2017 season when he was only shifted on 21% of the time. His shift rates have been over 50% since then and continue to climb. Either way, Harper cut his K% significantly in the shortened season and is still in his prime. I’ll lock him in for a .275 BA, 35 HR, and 15+ steals. 

Eduardo Escobar (2B/3B – ARI)

I can’t believe I’m saying this but I might be in on Escobar next year. He was a complete fade for me coming into 2020. He went from being one of the luckiest hitter in terms of power in 2019 to one of the most unfortunate in 2020. Not only did he hit just four homers on nine barrels but his BABIP plummeted. I don’t think he will finish around .312 but something around a BABIP of .280 seems legit. He should once again hit in the middle of the DBacks lineup and provide solid run production. I think he’ll hit .260 with 20+ homers but will be drafted after pick 200.





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Blast Zone Launch Angle – Climbers and Fallers

In the introduction to Blast Zone Barrels (BZB), I determined the parameters for the metric based on barreled balls that result in home runs at the highest frequency. I ran correlations and concluded that while it certainly (and quite obviously) has a strong correlation to power, it also has a moderate correlation year over year. I also took a look at outliers over the last three seasons. While Part one covered the genesis of the metric, part two will expand the metric by looking at all batted balls hit within the Blast Zone launch angle band (23-35 degrees). It’s a similar concept to what my colleague, Dan Richards wrote over at Pitcher List last season. Give the article a read, it’s very intriguing. 

Part Two of this series will hopefully provide a little more value for the upcoming fantasy baseball season. First, a quick reminder of the parameters of a BZB. It’s a barreled ball hit between 23 degrees and 35 degrees of launch angle. But, what it ignores is the balls hit at those launch angles that do not qualify as a barrel. In other words, balls that are hit at ideal launch angles for home runs without the extremely high exit velocity. The table below displays the league-wide average exit velocity of all batted balls between 23 degrees and 35 degrees.



AVERAGE EXIT VELOCITY ON BALLS HIT WITHIN BLAST ZONE BARREL LAUNCH ANGLE (23 -25 DEGREES)

2017 (AVG EV) 2018 (AVG EV)

2019 (AVG EV)

90.6 MPH 90.9 MPH

91.3 MPH

As a whole, balls are being hit harder at ideal launch angles over the last three seasons. Part of that can be attributed to the juiced ball. It’s also likely that players are “swinging for the fences” more often which has increased power production but has attributed to the league-wide elevated strikeout rate. Knowing this, let’s look at some three-year trends. I set the parameters for at least 40 batted balls hit within the launch angle band of 23 and 35 degrees for each of the last three seasons. To be fair, I relaxed the qualifying threshold to 25 BBEs for a single season if a player qualified with 40+ BBE in the other two seasons. 

What trends would we expect in regards to average exit velocity on balls hit in this range based on age? Well, naturally, we would expect the trend for aging veterans to be declining, right? You also might expect younger hitters to improve their exit velocity. If that’s what you assumed, then you’d be correct. Shocker! Of the sample I conducted, the list featuring the largest fallers had an average age of 34.7. The List featuring the largest climbers were a hair younger than 30 at 29.7 years to be exact. Below is the list of climbers with over the last three seasons and their current age.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Climbers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Yoan Moncada2594.890.995.91.1
Starling Marte3187.092.796.89.8
Shin Soo Choo3791.394.995.84.5
Nick Castellanos2892.693.194.01.4
Nelson Cruz4096.397.399.93.6
Mike Trout2893.894.095.31.5
Kyle Seager3290.691.495.14.5
Kole Calhoun3290.891.993.42.6
Josh Bell2791.094.294.53.5
Eugenio Suarez2889.992.093.63.7
Anthony Rendon3091.992.094.72.8
Alex Bregman2690.692.694.13.5
Christian Yelich2890.793.996.45.7
Didi Gregorius3087.288.892.45.2
D.J. LeMahieu3187.59295.58.0
Jason Jeyward3086.987.690.33.4
Kris Bryant2890.991.293.82.9
Matt Chapman2794.493.998.84.4
Xander Bogaerts2785.193.7948.9



A couple of quick points. Mike Trout continues to be the best player and baseball AND is still getting better! There isn’t much he can’t do. Nick Castellanos is my boy! I covered him extensively in Part 1 and love his new landing spot. He’s going to ball out in Cincy and is essentially a J.D. Martinez clone. I included Yoan Moncada because of his huge boost in exit velocity from 2018 to 2019. Was he hiding an injury in 2018? He smoked the ball in his debut back in 2017 but fell way back in 2018. Either way, he absolutely crushed the ball at all launch angles last year and is still just 25 years old. He’s my dark horse to win the AL MVP.

Can we talk about Nelson Cruz and Shin-Soo Choo for a second who appear to be defying the aging curve? Without these two old heads, the average age of the climbers falls to 28.7 which sounds more reasonable. Now, we all know Cruz is a monster and lights up the Statcast page but how has he gotten even better from age 37 to age 39? Averaging a tick under 100 mph within the blast zone launch angle puts him third behind only Joey Gallo and Miguel Sano (both averaged over 100 mph). If you’re expecting a decline from him this year, don’t. Only an injury or God forbid COVID could stop him from crushing in the shortened season. I bet you didn’t expect to see Choo here. On average, he actually hits the ball harder at ideal launch angles than Mike Trout! Think about that for a second. Given the short season, maybe move him up a few spots. He’s certainly is not finished just yet.


Let’s touch on a couple of other veterans who could be sleepers in 2020. Kyle Seager and Kole Calhoun have both steadily increased their exit velocity on ideal launch angles. Calhoun’s playing time could be spotty and news recently came out that he tested positive for COVID. At this point, he’s slight fade until we have more information. However, Seager should hit third or fourth in Seattle, albeit in an awful lineup. Even still, he should provide pop with decent run production. Did you notice Jason Heyward in the mix here? I almost fell asleep writing his name. His metrics aren’t great but he’s shown steady improvement over the last three years. He improved his walk rate and ISO last year and his defense should keep him in the lineup most days. Maybe he can put it together for two months in 2020?

Christian Yelich is just ridiculous. At age-28, he should continue to be an MVP candidate for the next three to five years. He’s my top pick going into the abbreviated 2020 season. Would you look at Alex Bregman? His barrel rate may be brutal and he scored poorly on my Blast Zone Barrels metric, but here we are. The reason he’s been so good in addition to his unbelievable plate discipline is this. He has improved on consistently hitting batted balls at ideal launch angles with authority. He doesn’t need to hit the ball 105 mph to hit a home run. I’m fading him less as a result of this research. 

The steady growth from Eugenio Suarez over the last four seasons has been fun to watch. He’s been successful in a similar manner to Bregman but without elite plate skills. Still, given his home park and this metric, I’d expect another great season from him. Josh Bell has arrived! He didn’t quite put it all together in 2019 but had an MVP-like first half. I’m a believer that he’s closer to the first half Bell than the 2018/second half Bell we saw. I’m buying and might jump him over an aging first baseman I’ll cover below.

Finally, can we talk about the elephant in the room? Starling Marte, WTF!?! His average exit velocity on balls hit between 23 and 35 degrees jumped nearly 10 mph from 2017! That was the year he was busted for PEDs. Hmmm? Unfortunately, his ground ball rate continues to hover around 50%. But, his career-best 18.5% HR/FB rate in 2019 was certainly justified. Even with some negative regression, Marte could still provide plenty of pop. Will Marte transform into a power hitter late into his career? It would require a launch angle adjustment but could certainly prolong his career as his speed declines. Xander Bogaerts’ presence on this list is largely due to a wrist injury in 2017 that sapped his power. He’s essentially been the same guy the last two seasons and at age-27, it doesn’t appear anything is going to change. Oh, hello there D.J. LeMahieu! The research I’ve done on D.J. points his results from 2019 being mostly sustainable. Bet against him if you will but he hits the ball as hard as Trout at ideal launch angles and has the short porch in right field.

Below is a graphical representation of the largest risers covered above.

Average Exit Velocity of Balls Hit at Launch Angles Between 23 - 35 Degrees - Fallers

PlayerAge2017 (MPH)2018 (MPH)2019 (MPH)Diff (19-17)
Daniel Murphy3591.088.485.9-5.1
Yuli Gurriel3689.689.788.4-1.2
Yadier Molina3793.391.290.3-3.0
Whit Merrifield3191.790.687.8-3.9
Paul Goldschmidt3297.393.493.3-4.0
Justin Smoak3394.894.093.0-1.8
Josh Reddick3388.589.286.9-1.6
Joey Votto3691.393.490.1-1.2
J.D. Martinez3296.396.094.3-2.0
Albert Pujols4092.493.690.3-2.1
Kurt Suzuki3693.891.186.7-7.1

This is a shorter list. I won’t spend too much time on these guys because many of them aren’t fantasy relevant outside of deeper formats. Kurt Suzuki had a nice run in his mid-30s, but he may just be cooked. Yadier Molina isn’t far behind. He may be able to contribute with moderate power this year but after 2020, I think his career is just about over. Same for Albert Pujols and potentially Joey Votto. Everyone knows about Pujols but the metrics on Votto are just as ugly. Even in the favorable home park, I will not be betting on bounceback. FREE KYLE TUCKER! It’s getting embarrassing with Josh Reddick and the Astros. He’s hardly a plus defender anymore and can’t hit with a 94 wRC+ and a .134 ISO last season. Come on Astros.

Daniel Murphy’s 2019 can be attributed to a finger injury, but even the metrics from 2018 are pretty scary. Coors Field could help but I’m not betting on a power resurgence. Then again, if health is on his side for the short season, I could envision Murphy putting together a fortunate .350 BA – 7 HR type season. Yuli Gurriel’s Statcast metrics have never been great and at age-36, his exit velocity is declining. He was unbelievably fortunate in 2019 and I’d be surprised if he hit more than seven homers in 2020. Justin Smoak is interesting. He’s 33 years old and has shown natural regression in terms of BZ launch angle exit velo. However, 93.0 mph is still well-above the league average. He’ll get a boost with the DH and with his new home park, so I wouldn’t give up on him just yet, just don’t expect much in 2021.


Now to the fantasy-relevant players. J.D. Martinez went from being elite to very good. Should we be concerned? He’s 32 years old and there’s some evidence of player’s declining at that age. The Red Sox are still stacked even without Mookie Betts, but that means fewer RBI opportunities. Remember how I mentioned earlier that Nick Castellanos was J.D. part two? Well, if the trend continues, Nicky C could outperform JDM in 2020. Bold or not? Paul Goldschmidt falls into a similar category as JDM. They are the same age and have shown signs of declining. Not only has Goldy’s BZ EV fallen quite significantly since 2017, but he’s also a full mile per hour lower on average than JDM. I absolutely hate Busch Stadium for home runs and will very likely dock him given this information. I mentioned Josh Bell earlier and could see Bell outpacing Goldy in 2020. To Bell’s dismay, his surrounding lineup is awful, so I think Goldy bests him in run production. That being said, I’ll take Bell in batting average and home runs.

Finally, there’s Whit Merrifield. The late bloomer who helped players win championships in 2017 and 2018. He came out of nowhere in his late twenties to hit 19 homers and steal 34 bags back in 2017. Then as an encore, hit 12 bombs and stole 45 bags with a .304 BA in 2018. In 2019, the average stayed and the power returned (somewhat to 16 HR) but his steals were cut in half. The trend in the table above is extremely worrisome. He was saved by the juiced ball last year but now at age-31, I don’t think his power will play. His sprint speed is still in the top 15 percentile but is clearly falling. Over a full 162, I’d be hard-pressed to project more than 10 homers and 20 steals. What does that mean over 60 games? How about 4 homers and 8 steals. Yikes. He’s teetering very close to contributing an empty batting average. I’ll go out on a limb and say he’s nearly undraftable in 2021.




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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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Introducing Earned Home Runs (eHR) – 2019 Outliers (Fantasy Baseball)

There are a considerable amount of expected metrics floating around in the fantasy baseball community. Many of which are extremely helpful for fantasy baseball purposes. Over the last six months or so, I’ve been dabbling with home run park factors using Baseball Savant’s Barrel metric. My goal is to refine the home run park factors to include left, center, and right field because of the intricacies of many ballparks. Using some of the research I’ve done with the home run park factors, I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring and introduce “earned home runs (eHR).” It’s an approach that looks at the number of home runs a player has earned to date or through past seasons. It is descriptive but I will evaluate this further to find out if there is any predictability to the metric. The fundamental variable I consider in my analysis is Barrels. Why? It’s simple, why make things complicated? But the real reason is the strong correlation the Barrels metric has with home runs. 




With a 0.85 r^2, there isn’t a single metric that’s better at determining home runs than Barrels.  You’ll notice several of the outliers on the chart above are discussed below. While strictly using Barrels is a great way to determine earned home runs, we need to be more accurate. I’m no statistician, but several other factors play a role in home runs throughout the year. Of course, I’ve included my Home Run Park Factors along with the following metrics: league AVG HR/BRL%, league AVG non-barreled HR%, league-average HR/FB%, individual pulled fly ball%, AVG exit velocity on pulled, straightaway, and opposite-field fly balls, and league AVG HR/FB for fly balls pulled, hit to center, and hit to the opposite field. The one variable I haven’t figured out how to incorporate yet is the weather. So, while there could be some slight improvements, I believe this gets me remarkably close to providing an accurate earned home run total for each player.

Before we dive into the hitters, the table below provides some background on the relationship between home runs and barrels year-to-year. It’s interesting to note that in 2017, the HR/BRL% was higher than it was in 2019. Additionally, a higher percentage of home runs were not barreled (non-barreled) or “lucky” home runs in 2017 compared to 2019. This seems like an indication that the ball may have been more lively in 2017. The only explanation as to why more home runs were hit this year is due to the higher fly-ball rate and hitter’s propensity to pull more balls in the air resulting in higher home run totals. For my eHR, I am strictly using 2019 HR/BRL% and my 2019 Home Run Park Factors.

Yearly Home Run per Barrel Rates

YearHRBRL%HR BRL%Non-BRL HRHR/BRL
20196776929081.70%18.30%59.59%
20185585845181.25%18.75%53.70%
20176105791579.75%20.25%61.52%
20165610795480.71%19.29%56.93%
20154909694379.69%20.31%56.34%

*HR/BRL% = HR on Barreled balls / Total Barreled Balls
**%Non-BRL HR = Percentage of home runs with quality of contact classification lower than a barrel (i.e. solid contact)

Unfortunate Power Bats

2019 Earned Home Run Under Performers

PlayerHRBRLHR/BRL%NonBRL HReHRDiff
Jose Abreu336347.62%9.09%46.5113.51
C.J. Cron255345.28%4.00%38.4413.44
Avisail Garcia204341.86%10.00%30.7610.76
Andrew Benintendi133330.30%23.08%23.4310.43
Nicholas Castellanos275339.62%22.22%37.0410.04
Dansby Swanson173743.24%5.88%25.998.99
Bryce Harper355957.63%2.86%43.738.73
Yasiel Puig244151.22%12.50%32.528.52
Anthony Rendon345648.21%20.59%42.438.43
Aaron Judge274852.08%7.41%35.148.14
Josh Donaldson376256.45%5.41%45.028.02
Mookie Betts295238.46%31.03%36.987.98
Joey Votto152850.00%6.67%22.957.95
Adalberto Mondesi92437.50%0.00%16.917.91
Yoan Moncada254454.55%4.00%32.577.57
Luke Voit213852.63%4.76%28.397.39
Shohei Ohtani183452.94%0.00%25.087.08
Howie Kendrick173351.52%0.00%24.017.01
Brandon Belt173528.57%41.18%23.936.93
Vladimir Guerrero Jr.152951.72%0.00%21.686.68

Jose Abreu (33 HR; 46.5 eHR)
Abreu had a monster season, there’s no doubt but much of his value was buoyed by a career-high 123 RBI. His 33 home runs tied the second-most of his career, but he “earned” much more. His barrel rate was three percent better than his previous career-best. He also managed career-highs in average exit velocity (AVG EV), hard hit%, maximum exit velocity, and fly ball% (per BaseballSavant). Additionally, Guaranteed Rate Field ranked seventh in my 2019 home run park factors. He’ll be 33 next year, so a skills decline may be in order but he still feels like a lock for 30-35 homers and another 100 RBI season with upside from there. 


C.J Cron (25 HR; 38.4 eHR)
Wow, this one caught me off guard a little bit. Given the crazy home run totals in 2019, a 25-homer output from Cron is going to get lost in the fray. Cron fell just short of 500 PA (499) and played in just 125 games. His home run rate projects out to 30 home runs, matching his 2018 total. However, Cron stepped his game up posting career marks in almost every power metric, similar to Abreu but again without the results to back it up. He even cut his strikeout rate by 4.5%. His 19.5% HR/FB rate was down two percent from 2018 despite a huge boost in his quality of contact. He struggled against right-handed pitching in 2019, which is my only concern with Cron going forward. He’s historically been adequate against them with a 105 wRC+ throughout his career. Cron is going to be a wide-awake sleeper in 2020 but if the balls are juiced again, he has an outside chance at 40 home runs. 

Avisail Garcia (20 HR; 30.76 eHR)
A career riddled with Inconsistent performance due to poor plate discipline and an elevated ground ball rate has kept Garcia from becoming a perennial All-Star. Make no mistake, Garcia is a beast. He hit only one more home run in 2019 compared to 2018 despite increasing his total number of barrels by 13. Interestingly enough, he decreased his AVG EV and fly-ball rate in 2019 but the properties of the ball determined that his power output was unlucky. I can’t say that Garcia is a lock to hit 25-30 home runs next year, especially if the ball is juiced. He’s a free agent, so it will be interesting to see if Tampa Bay decides to give him another look. Regardless, I’d expect similar production in 2020 at a minimum. He’s a decent late-round option.

Nick Castellanos (27 HR; 37.04 eHR)
Here’s a guy I’m going to jump all over in 2020. He’s finally out of Detroit and given his batted ball profile, almost anywhere will be a park upgrade for Nicky C. After being traded to the Cubs, his HR/FB% more than doubled to 23.2%. I won’t let the small samples cloud my judgment but let’s take a look at a spray chart including his line drives and fly balls from 2019. The top chart is overlayed on Comerica Park in Detroit, the second is Wrigley Field in Chicago. 

He’s not a lock to sign in Chicago but Wrigley is relatively neutral for power. I’m expecting a career-high in Castelaloes’ HR/FB% in 2020. I think given his quality of contact, he could post somewhere around 18-20% HR/FB rate and reach 30+ homers for the first time in his career.




Bryce Harper (35 HR; 43.73 eHR)
I’m here for the Bryce Harper discount in 2020. If Harper hit 43-44 home runs as his eHR suggests instead of 35 in 2019, are we talking about Harper as a slight disappointment? The boost in home runs would have given him more runs and RBI and likely increased his batting average to .265. His final line could have been .265-105-43-125-15. If it looks like a top-20 player and it smells like a top-20 player, it’s probably a top-20 player. My concern with Harper lies with his increasing strikeout rate which continues its climb towards 30%. If he can keep it below 25%, there’s value to be had.

Aaron Judge (27 HR; 35.14 eHR)
Amazingly, Judge earned 35 home runs despite just 447 plate appearances. He just straight mashes. I’ll take a discount on Judge in 2020, but based on early drafts, he’s not receiving it with an ADP of 24.3 based on the #2EarlyMocks. I feel that he is a safe second round pick even if the ball is changed to favor pitchers. He managed to somehow provide career-highs in hard hit% (57.1%) and AVG EV (95.9 MPH), ranking first and second, respectively in MLB with a minimum of 50 batted ball events (BBE). Health will remain my only concern with Judge. Even if he manages more than 500 PA in 2020, he has a strong chance to reach 40 home runs.

Andrew Benintendi (13 HR; 23.43 eHR)
There are a few factors to consider with Benintendi. The first being the fact that he’s a left-handed hitter playing half his games in Fenway. Left-handed pull power doesn’t favor left-handed pull power or balls hit to centerfield for that matter. Despite crushing the ball to straightaway centerfield, he only hit one home run to center all year. Here’s his spray chart on line drives, fly balls, and popups to straightaway.

Fenway has odd dimensions and extremely high walls, but he looks to have been robbed by a number of home runs, especially since some of those batted balls were hit on the road. Fenway’s HR/BRL% to centerfield for left-handed batters is just 28.2% compared to 41.2% league-wide. So while Benintendi will always struggle to hit a high volume of home runs to center, he still deserved better in 2019. The other factor is luck, which did not go his way in 2019. He set career-highs in barrel rate, hard hit%, and xwOBA. Not all of his fly balls went to die, he managed to smack 41 doubles and five triples. He sold out a little for power but didn’t reap the benefits. If he continues this approach I see a lower batting average floor, but I think Benintendi is a nice candidate to reach 20 home runs in 2020 at age-25. 

Dansby Swanson (17 HR; 25.99 eHR)
I love me some Dansby Swanson for 2020. Based on his quality of contact and power metrics, he already broke out in 2019. However, thanks to missed time with an injury and his struggles upon his return in September, he’s going to come at a sizeable discount on draft day. He’s essentially undrafted in 12-team formats with an early ADP of 268, but I do suspect that to rise closer to 225 come March. Now, Swanson crushed his pulled fly balls but only 15.6% of his fly balls were hit to left field. Additionally, his home park (SunTrust Park) suppresses home runs. These two factors lost him about three home runs in 2019, BUT that’s factored into my equation and he still underperformed by nine home runs. How? Well, he bumped his barrel rate from a meager 4.1% to 10.1% and his AVG EV jumped three MPH! He’s in the top 30% for both metrics right around guys like Mookie Betts, Mike Moustakas, Gleyber Torres, and Rhys Hoskins. Does that mean I think he’ll hit 30 home runs in 2020? Not necessarily, but it’s not out of the question. Gimme gimme! 

Yasiel Puig (24 HR; 32.52 eHR)
Puig is one of the most volatile players in the league. At times, he’s the hottest hitter in the game and at others, he’s taking on the entire Pirates team in a fight. His volatility not only applies to his performance but also his playing time. He’s had 368, 570, 444, 611 plate appearances since 2015. Would I count on 600 PA from Puig in 2020? Nope, but he did hit 24 homers and steal 19 bases in 2019. My metric shows that Puig should have hit more than 32 home runs. How would we view his season if he went 32/19? I know, I’m asking a lot of questions. Question marks seem to follow Puig wherever he goes. He only hit two home runs in 49 games with the Indians and I’m willing to chalk that up to an adjustment period. I will probably be out on Puig going into age-29 but wouldn’t be surprised if he stays healthy and smashes 30+ homers for the first time. I’ll probably only project him for 500 PA giving him another 23 – 25 HR and 15 steals for 2020.


Joey Votto (15 HR; 22.95 eHR)
As it turns out, Votto wasn’t quite as bad as his numbers indicated. Even still, he’ll be 36 years old and now has back-to-back seasons with under 20 home runs. His metrics are poor and his strikeout and walk rates are headed in opposite directions. While still posting a strong walk rate, it’s not the elite ratio we expect from prime Joey Votto. Despite his eHR showing he earned nearly 23 home runs, I’m not buying into a full power rebound in 2020. I’m OK leaving him on the wire now this he no longer provides elite batting average either.

Adalberto Mondesi (9 HR; 16.91 eHR)
If it weren’t for the shoulder injury with Mondesi, I’d be viewing him as a back-end first-rounder in 15-team formats. Keep in mind that his 16.91 eHR came on just 443 PA in 2019. As the two-hole hitter for the Royals, he’d push 650 PA in a full season. You don’t have to squint too hard to see a 20 HR/50 SB season at some point shortly with a ceiling of 25 HR/60 SB. Now, his plate discipline scares the sh&t out of me, so his range of outcomes is all over the place. With the question marks in regards to the recovery period on his shoulder injury, I’m likely to project Mondesi to miss the better part of the first month of 2020. Based on this stance, he’s a no-no in the first two rounds of 2020 for me. Additionally, the recovery could sap his power early in the season as well. Maybe he still reaches 40 steals but expecting more than 10-12 home runs may be a pipe dream. as much as I want to believe it.

Notable Unfortunate Hitters:  Anthony Rendon, Josh Donaldson, Mookie Betts, Yoan Moncada, Luke Voit, Shohei Ohtani, Howie Kendrick, Brandon Belt, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

Fortunate Power Bats

2019 Earned Home Run Over Performers

PlayerHRBRLHR/BRL%NonBRL HReHRDiff
Alex Bregman412684.62%46.34%23.86-17.14
Brett Gardner281687.50%50.00%15.50-12.50
Yuli Gurriel311984.21%48.39%18.86-12.14
Joc Pederson363585.71%16.67%28.17-7.83
Omar Narvaez221888.89%27.27%14.44-7.56
Trevor Story353669.44%28.57%27.98-7.02
Eduardo Escobar353666.67%31.43%27.99-7.01
Nolan Arenado414072.50%29.27%34.16-6.84
Eric Thames252466.67%36.00%18.88-6.12
Jeff McNeil232161.90%43.48%17.67-5.33
Tommy La Stella1614100.00%12.50%10.82-5.18
Christian Vazquez232466.67%30.43%17.94-5.06
Eugenio Suarez495580.00%10.20%44.03-4.97
Freddy Galvis232360.87%39.13%18.14-4.86
Willie Calhoun211687.50%33.33%16.15-4.84
Danny Santana283174.19%17.86%23.23-4.77
Mitch Garver313571.43%19.35%26.28-4.72
Jesse Winker161478.57%31.25%11.44-4.56

Alex Bregman (41 HR; 23.06 eHR)
Yup. Bregman earned just over 23 home runs in 2019. I’ve adjusted for his high pulled fly ball rate and his home park. His 19 non-barreled home runs were the most in MLB which is the main reason for his low “earned” home run total. This may be a skill that Bregman possesses because in 2018, 35% of his home runs were “non-barreled” and in 2017, it was 33% of his home runs failed to qualify as barrels. Even still, adjusting his non-barreled ratio to 33% nets Bregman 13-14 non-barreled homers, not 19. There’s no doubt, his elite plate skills, contact rate, and home park will inflate his home run totals, but nevertheless, he’s a regression candidate in 2020. If the ball is juiced, I’d put him around 34-35 home runs, if it isn’t he’ll be lucky to reach 30 again. For Ss and Gs, here is an image showing Bregman’s pulled home runs overlayed on SunTrust Park (Braves home park).

Brett Gardner (28 HR; 15.50 eHR)
Gardner is another heavy pull hitter (35.4% pulled fly balls) that plays with the short porch to his pull side (right field) in Yankee Stadium. Based on my formula, those factors should have added between three and four home runs to Gardner’s total. In other words, in a context neutral environment, Gardner should have only reached 12 home runs in 2019. His output seems similar to some of the crazy home run totals we have seen from fellow Yankee, Didi Gregorious in the past. I don’t think anyone is actually buying into this power spike at age-36 from Gardner, so you don’t need me to tell you that he’s a huge regression candidate.

Yuli Gurriel (31 HR; 18.86 eHR)
I don’t want to fully dismiss the power gains we saw from Gurriel in 2019 because he made tangible changes. He increased his average launch angle by three degrees which produced more line drives, fly balls, and popups. The popups certainly don’t help but he also increased his pulled fly ball rate by eight percent. This explains why his eHR settled in at 18.8 after totaled just 13 home runs in 2018. It’s interesting to note that his hard-hit rate and AVG EV in 2019 were slightly lower than in 2017 when he hit 18 home runs (and the ball was juiced). Maybe projecting 18-20 home runs for 2020 seems reasonable.

Joc Pederson (36 HR; 28.81 eHR)
While Pederson saw more than 500 plate appearances for the first time since 2015, not much else has changed. He still struggled against lefties (often sitting versus tough LHP). He did increase his barrel rate by two percent but actually hit fewer fly balls. Additionally, he had a disproportionate number of home runs compared to doubles and triples. Typically, (and this far from scientific) the ratio of home runs to doubles+triples is close to one-to-one for power hitters. Pederson had only 19 2B+3B compared to 36 homers in 2019. It’s only worth noting when the discrepancy is this large. Pederson will most likely be with a new team in 2020, but unless he goes to Colorado, Cincinnati, or New York (Yankees) I’m staying away.

Omar Narvaez (22 HR; 14.4 eHR)
An eight percent boost in fly balls combined with a juiced ball is a great way to inflate your home run totals. However, his pulled fly ball rate and home park factors are essentially neutral which makes Narvaez’s 22 home run total a little bit outrageous. His HR/FB rate went up by one percent yet his hard-hit rate on fly balls dipped by six percent. I like Narvaez as a late-round catcher for 2020 thanks to a low strikeout rate and hefty line drive rate but expecting close to 20 homers in 2020 is a mistake. 

Trevor Story (35 HR; 27.98 eHR)
I’m not going to harp on Story too much because it’s possible I’m not properly evaluating Coors Field. You’ll notice Nolan Arenado listed as a notable lucky hitter but on the flip side, David Dahl and Ian Desmond earned five to six more home runs in 2019. So maybe I’m on to something here. Story is a player I’m not worried about. As long as he can maintain a strikeout rate below 30%, the backdrop of Coors Field will allow for a safe batting average floor. His power metrics look a lot stronger than Arenado’s but due to the aforementioned elevated strikeout rate, he puts fewer balls in play resulting in similar home run totals. He’s still in the middle of his prime at age-27 and his hard-hit rate and exit velocity remain elite.




Eduardo Escobar (35 HR; 27.99 eHR)
Escobar is going to be over-drafted in 2020 drafts thanks to a career-year in 2019. He smashed 35 home runs while driving in an amazing 118 RBI! That’s incredible value around pick 200. He’s jumped all the way to 81 overall in the #2EarlyMocks. Before 2019, he had never hit more than 23 home runs or driven in more than 84 runs in a season. Additionally, his career-high batting average is .274. On a positive note, eHR still believed that Escobar earned a career-best 28 homers, but that’s more or less juiced ball aided. Even if you’re buying the fact that he is now a safe 30-100 hitter at age-31 (which I’m not), keep this in mind. Proven commodities such as Jose Abreu, Matt Olson, and Marcell Ozuna are all drafted later.

Jeff McNeil (23 HR; 17.67 eHR)
I’ve been hearing a lot about how Jeff McNeil showed power for the first time in 2018, mostly in the minors. When he finally got a full slate of playing time in the Majors in 2019, he backed his power growth with another 20-plus homer season. I’m usually a sucker for players with great hit tools who manage extremely high contact rates. McNeil is exactly the type of hitter who can develop power with more experience. Why does this blurb feel like I’m down on McNeil then? My only concern with McNeil is that he hit 14 of his 22 home runs in 2018 in just 57 Double-A games thanks to a 50% fly-ball rate. That approach is very different than the Jeff McNeil we’ve seen in the Majors who has a more balanced approach with more ground balls and line drives. Binghamton also plays a little hitter-friendly (The Mets Double-A affiliate). I’m going to have a hard time with McNeil in 2020 drafts. If the ball in de-juiced, he’s a near-empty batting average with decent contributions in runs. If the ball is juiced, I expect another 20 home runs which will help elevate his RBI total becoming a solid 3.5 category hitter. It looks like a deep dive in order this offseason. 

Notable Fortunate Hitters:  Nolan Arenado, Eric Thames, Tommy La Stella, Christian Vazquez, Eugenio Suarez, Freddy Galvis, Willie Calhoun, Danny Santana

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





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Home Run / Barrel (HR/BRL) Under-Performers from 2018

The Statcast metric Barrels is largely becoming one of the best statistics that link a player’s power. Just glancing at the leaderboard will tell you all you need to know. The Barrel statistic came out in 2015 and we now have four years worth of data. I’ve looked into a simple metric that is simply a ratio of a player’s home run per barrel percentage. The reason I am using this measure is to determine the previous year’s over and under-performers. Also, Al Melchior and Alex Chamberlain of RotGraphs determined that not only do barrels per batted ball event (BRL/BBE) and barrels per plate appearance (BRL/PA) have very good year-to-year correlations but are also the best metrics for measuring power.

Unfortunately, the juiced ball may have tainted some of the year-to-year correlations for this metric, but we can still find outliers. Let’s take a look at the league-wide averages for HR/BRL since 2015.

2015 2016 2017 2018
70.7% HR/BRL 70.5% HR/BRL 77.1% HR/BRL 66.1% HR/BRL

If you remember, the juiced ball made its appearance in the second half of 2015 but it seems like the ball was “extra” juiced in 2017. Then, last year in 2018, the ball was completely de-juiced. Without actual knowledge of how the ball will perform in 2019, I am going to assume, the ratio of barrels to home runs will be closer to 2018 than 2017. Today, I’ll look at players who underperformed their HR/BRL numbers in 2018.

Home Runs Per Barrel Under-Performers

Player2018 BRL2018 HRHR/BRL
Mookie Betts613252.5%
Nicholas Castellanos532343.4%
Matt Olson512956.9%
Trey Mancini502448.0%
Teoscar Hernandez492244.9%
Anthony Rendon472451.1%
Freddie Freeman462350.0%
Marcell Ozuna462350.0%
Jose Martinez411741.5%
Jackie Bradley Jr.351337.1%
Ramon Laureano12541.7%
2018 League Average66.10%

I’ll start with Mookie Betts because, HOLY HELL! Not only did Betts absolutely earn every single one of his home runs, he actually underperformed a bit. What’s not shown is that Betts only managed 25 barrels on his 24 homers in 2017. We know Betts had a “down year” (for him) in 2017 but bounced back in a huge way proving that he is, in fact, a power hitter in addition to everything else the 2018 AL MVP does well. I wouldn’t read too much into the below-average ratio of HR/BRL because I feel that the Green Monster may be turning a few of those barrels into doubles. Betts looks like a safe bet to reach 30 homers again in 2019 even if his barrel rate drops just a bit.

Jackie Bradley Jr., WOW! Maybe he was also a victim of the Green Moster taking away some home runs but his HR/BRL was about half of the league average. JBJ should have been right around 20 homers in 2018, rather than the pathetic 13 he posted. I should note that in 2017, he hit 17 homers on 27 barrels for 63% HR/BRL, so its possible, he could be a player who always under-performers based on this metric. I figured that I should dig a little deeper and sure enough, xStats had him at 17.5 xHR in 2018. I believe even that was low because his high drive (HD%) was an elite level 16.1%! For context, here are some other players who had 35 barrels in 2018: Cody Bellinger, Tommy Pham, and Nolan Arenado. I was already buying JBJ in 2019 and now I’m bumping him inside my top 150 with a likely 20-15 season in store. Take a look at all of JBJ’s barrels in 2018 overlaid on his home park (Fenway). I count at least 13 balls that could/should have been home runs (4 taken away thanks to the Green Monster), but that’s nine more dingers for JBJ.

Jose Martinez looks to be stuck in a tough situation in terms of playing time. I was optimistic that the Cardinals would move Martinez to an AL club where he could be an everyday DH. However, as of now, he’s a bench bat that can fill in at first base or a corner outfield spot. That’s a shame because he’s a professional hitter. For reference, his 41 barrels puts him the company of Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw, both of which hit over 30 homers in 2018. Keep an eye on Martinez if he’s traded, because, despite a low fly ball rate, he could still reach 25 home runs while hitting near .300 over the course of a full season.

Marcell Ozuna is an interesting case. After an absolute monster 2017 that included 37 homers and 124 RBI, Ozuna let owners down with only 23 home runs last year. Ozuna dealt with a shoulder issue in which caused offseason surgery, it’s probable that affected his production. When I check his batted ball profile, I don’t see a dip in his metrics. In fact, in 2017, Ozuna had 44 barrels on the aforementioned 37 homers, two fewer than in 2018. Keep an eye on how his shoulder progresses but if healthy, Ozuna is in line for around 30 home runs with a boatload of RBI (welcome Goldy).

Teoscar Hernandez shows up near the top of the Statcast leaderboards but his production seems to be lacking. Unfortunately for Hernandez, his contact rates are extremely low and only got worse as the season wore on. We are talking Joey Gallo-type contact rates here folks. Despite the poor contact rate, Hernandez still managed 22 home runs on an incredible 49 barrels. Given a full slate of plate appearances, Teoscar could reach 35 home runs in 2019. However, his inconsistent production and poor contact rates could limit his playing time going forward. A classic risk-reward play for 2019.

In case I needed another reason to push for Anthony Rendon as the 2019 NL MVP, here it is. It may seem like Rendon is a mid-20s homer hitter based on his last two seasons (25 HR in 2017, 24 HR in 2018), but there’s another level to his power. Rendon increased his barrel total by a whopping 19 in 2018 but was left with one fewer home run. I understand that juiced balls were a factor but Rendon should reach the 30 home run plateau in 2019 given the similar quality of contact. If you’re concerned about injuries, don’t be. Rendon has averaged 616 plate appearances the last three seasons. Given Rendon’s elite contact and the expectations I have for increased power, Rendon should provide second round value in the fourth round of fantasy drafts.

If you want to find a sleeper that could provide Top 50 overall value, Ramon Laureano is your guy. He’s been shooting up draft boards in NFBC and has crept just inside the top 200 overall, but still lacks popularity based on FantasyPors Consensus ADP going around pick 240. Laureano provided a small sample of just 176 plate appearances in 2018 but impressed with barreling up 12 balls and stealing seven bases. Speed was Laureano’s best-known attribute and he displayed 43 steals in the Minors in 2016. The power was expected to be around average but he popped a career-high 19 home runs across Triple-A and the Majors in 2018. Unfortunately, he swings and misses a bit too much but has a realistic shot at going 20-20 with 25-25 upside as soon as 2019.

Matt Olson showcased his immense power during his 59 game sample in 2017 smashing 24 homers! It’s too bad Olson didn’t play the whole season with the big club during the 2017 season with the juiced balls. He could have hit 50 home runs. He ended 2018 with “just” 29 home runs which disappointed owners who expected 35-40 across a full season. He wasn’t all that unlucky in 2018 but I bring him up because he only had 21 barrels on his 24 home runs in 2017. That’s a quite a contrast. Especially after I dug in and saw that his hard contact rates improved as did his contact rates and chase rate. I really think Olson is in for a career year at age 25. I fully expect 35 home runs with an improved batting average. His ADP is about 40 picks too late as he’s going just outside 100 overall.

I’ve lumped Freddie Freeman and Nicholas Castellanos together because both are very consistent in their hard contact and barrel rates from year to year. Both, however, saw their power production decrease in 2018. Juiced balls? Unlucky? Well, I think it’s a little of both. Freeman and Casteallos seem to underperform in terms of power every year. Freeman matched his 46 barrels from 2017 and Castellanos managed an increase of two barrels in 2018 from the previous year. Both saw a decrease in home runs, however so while I expect both get back to 25+ homers in 2019, I’d cap them both at around 30. You’re getting solid batting average and run production from both players so I like them but I’m not predicting massive power bumps for both players.

Last but not least, Trey “Boom Boom” Mancini. At first glance this offseason, I didn’t think Mancini had much power upside other than what he’s shown us the last two seasons. Mancini now has two straight seasons on 24 home runs but he actually bumped his barrel total to 50 in 2018, nine more than in 2017. Mancini is a guy who hits too many ground balls but really smokes the ball when he gets it in the air. Could he have a Christian Yelich type season? LOL, no, he cannot. To me, he feels like Castellanos but with less batting average upside. Mancini could blast 30 home runs in 2019 but he could also be a player that feels the de-juiced balls more than others.

You can follow me on Twitter @FreezeStats

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What’s up? BABIP, that’s what – June Update

BABIP across Major League baseball normalizes right around .300 league-wide. It’s a number we always look at when a player is running a very low or very high BABIP. We typically point to the outlier and expect it to regress back to the mean. Unfortunately, there are many factors that can sway a players BABIP one way or the other such as: sprint speed, hard/soft contact, fly ball%, line drive%, pull% on ground balls into the shift, etc. I could go on, but you get the point, not all BABIPs are created equal.

I’m focusing on players with elevated BABIPs and comparing them to xStats.org definition of xBABIP. I’ll also be referring to value hits, poor hits, and high drives so check the definitions here. xStats isn’t perfect, but what is? Even mlb.com Baseballsavant has issues with its expected stats. It’s still a great tool to use and is considerably more accurate than other expected stats. You’ll notice that many players with high sprint speed will often run a lower xBABIP than their actual BABIP. Knowing that, we can use that to our advantage. However, other players who are not graced with a high quantity of quick-twitch muscle fibers will have to rely of line drives and hard contact to boost their BABIP. Without further ado, here’s the

NameBABIPxBABIPDiffAVGxAVGDiff
Ian Happ0.3850.297-0.0880.2370.188-0.049
Matt Kemp0.40.32-0.080.3440.295-0.049
Starling Marte0.3520.291-0.0610.2940.248-0.046
Albert Almora0.3650.312-0.0530.310.261-0.049
Domingo Santana0.3680.308-0.060.260.239-0.021
Scooter Gennett0.3890.341-0.0480.3440.294-0.05
Nick Castellanos0.4110.356-0.0550.3360.304-0.032

Well, there’s Ian Happ. After a disastrous April which involves a near 50% K rate, he’s righted the ship a bit. But alas, his BABIP is an unsustainable .385! Not only should he regress, but xStats is calling for a drop of 0.091 and should have a batting average below the mendoza line.  Happ has above average speed, so I don’t expect full regression, but if he maintains his 40% strikeout rate, I don’t see him hitting over .220 this year. He’s getting by with a very good high drive percentage which has maximized many of his batted balls. But, how long can he keep this up with a 40% strikeout rate? I like Happ longterm, but he’s in a hole this year and is too risky to make it HAPPen.

No one is going to mistake Matt Kemp for having great speed now that he’s well into his 30s, so a BABIP of .400 is insane! What’s interesting, is how xStats still pegs him for a .320 BABIP which can still yield positive results, unlike Happ. What’s also interesting is his high percentage of value hits and a solid 15.5 degree launch angle. His expected home runs currently sits at a very impressive 12.2, he currently sits at 10 HR on the season. His plate discipline is poor (but it’s always been below average) however, he’s got a hard contact% of over 45% with a 12% soft contact rate. I’m not buying Kemp at face value, but while the average will come down, his power may jump a little. Maybe he’s got one more 30 HR 95 RBI season in him.

I won’t spend much time on Starling Marte. As I mentioned in the introduction, speed tends to trick xStats a little in terms of xBABIP. In fact, Marte has outperformed his xBABIP by nearly .030 on average the last three seasons. That being said, his current 0.061 difference is double last year’s difference. While his power looks just about right, there is some cause for concern with his low high drive (LOL sounds weird) rate and high poor hit percentages. I’m not completely selling Marte, but I’d expect him in the .280 range for batting average by season’s end. He’s still a valuable piece with mid-teens power and around 30 steals.

Albert Almora is basically getting by with smoke and mirrors. Sure an expected average of .261 isn’t the end of the world. The Cubs are deploying Almora in the lead off spot basically because they have no one else. That at least should give him a cushion, but he doesn’t walk much and has a xOBP of .317. It’s more than just outperforming in terms of average too though, he’s barreled a total of one ball out of 139 batted balls in 2018. His average exit velocity is 85.7 mph which puts him the bottom 10% for all qualified hitters. Get this, his xwOBA against off-speed and breaking pitches is under .210! No, that’s not his expecting batting average, it’s the expected weighted on-base average you guys! I don’t need to ramble because he’s hardly fantasy relevant, but a guy with no power and no speed should not be owned. If someone is loving this average boost move him immediately.

Domingo Santana has not followed his breakout with much success at all. He’s lost some playing time with the additions of Cain and Yelich and he’s really struggled to get on track. Would you believe me if I told you than Santana had a .363 BABIP and a 30.9% HR/FB rate in 2017? Yup, and that was in over 600 plate appearances. The difference is, he actually earned that elevated BABIP last year with an xBABIP of .373! Previously, he was a line drive machine, which other than speed will fuel a high BABIP. This year, he’s down about 5% from his previous two seasons. Here’s the deal, he strikes out 30% of the time, hits over 50% of his batted balls on the ground, and have average speed at best. He hits the ball hard but you probably got his career year last year. He could get hot, but should be left on the wire in shallow mixed leagues.

Nicky C, MY BOY! The hard contact King! The Exit Velo C-Lo-anoes. Annnnd we’re back. He somehow has a 48% hard contact rate with a sub-10% HR/FB rate. What!?!? The good news is xstats believes he should still be very good in terms of average and has been unlucky in terms of power. The bad news is, I don’t have any but it’s time to do the splits. Not that kind, the hitter splits. Castellanos is hitting .458 with a .543 BABIP against lefties! I’m not an psychic but I think that might not stick. There are no home/road splits and he’s hitting well to all fields. Here’s the issue with his power, nearly 78% of his fly balls are to center or the opposite field. He’s hit a total of 1 HR to center and 0 HR the other way. Detroit isn’t a great park for power and center is where homers go to die. He doesn’t hit the ball as hard the other way, so Nicky C needs to start yanking fly balls to the pull side if he wants to hit 30 ding dongs like I projected. Come on dude, pick it up to make me look good!

Last, but not least, may favorite non vespa, Mr. Scooter Gennett. His breakout last year involved a four homer game and a couple of multi-homer games. For some reason, fantasy owners held that against him as if to say, you’re not that good, you only a handful of great games! As good as he’s been this year, it’s nice to see his expected average above .290. The rest of his xStats metrics are relatively average in terms of exit velocity, launch angle, and value hits. That means he’s been extremely lucky in terms of home runs, xStats has him at about four homers less than his 12 to date. His 26% line drive rate is fueling the high BABIP and batting average, so I expect his average to creep back to or below .300 to match his expected batting average. I also would expect less home runs going forward but keep in mind, he out performed all of his metrics last year and is performing similar in terms of skills in 2018. I’d think of selling, but don’t take a discount on him. Try to get a top 50-75 player, if not, keep rolling with him.