11 xHR/FB Rate Negative Validations from 2017

Yesterday, I used my new xHR/FB rate to identify and discuss 15 hitters whose xHR/FB rates actually validate their HR/FB rate spikes in 2017. Today, I’m going to check in on the opposite end of the validations — those hitters who suffered severe declines in HR/FB rate that was confirmed by xHR/FB rate. Without xHR/FB rate, we cannot be sure if it’s luck or just skill changes driving the swings in HR/FB, so the metric assists in making that determination.

2017 xHR/FB Rate Negative Validations
Player HR/FB xHR/FB HR/FB – xHR/FB Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Dist PF*
Jonathan Lucroy 5.7% 5.6% 0.2% 9.5% 16.2% 41.9% 300 100
Xander Bogaerts 7.2% 5.8% 1.3% 5.0% 24.5% 48.9% 304 101
Evan Longoria 10.5% 11.2% -0.7% 16.6% 25.8% 40.0% 318 98
Brad Miller 10.8% 12.0% -1.1% 17.9% 18.1% 43.4% 326 99
Evan Gattis 11.2% 10.0% 1.2% 16.1% 24.3% 38.3% 314 103
Mark Trumbo 13.8% 13.2% 0.5% 20.4% 24.6% 36.5% 324 109
Christian Yelich 15.3% 15.8% -0.5% 28.7% 11.9% 53.4% 321 95
Jedd Gyorko 15.5% 14.9% 0.6% 22.9% 24.8% 41.9% 328 91
Trevor Story 16.2% 16.9% -0.7% 24.8% 24.3% 39.2% 338 108
Ryan Braun 17.3% 16.7% 0.7% 29.2% 21.4% 35.7% 321 104
Yasmani Grandal 17.7% 14.8% 3.0% 21.7% 29.8% 37.9% 325 103
*Home run park factor based on handedness

Jonathan Lucroy went from being the second ranked catcher in our preseason rankings to massively disappointing, contributing absolutely nowhere to fantasy teams. His ISO and HR/FB rate both cratered, hitting their lowest marks since he debuted in 2010. And xHR/FB rate confirms this wasn’t just bad luck. Both his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist plunged and we don’t have any clear explanation for it. We always have to question whether a catcher is playing hurt, so was Lucroy truly healthy all season? We’re still waiting for him to sign, so that will obviously help set expectations and odds of a rebound this year.

You guys all know how I always seem to be ripping on Xander Bogaerts, but obviously I have nothing against him as a player, I just never understood why fantasy owners valued him so highly. After getting his HR/FB rate into the teens in 2016, it would have been reasonable to expect continued growth. Nope, he fell right back down into the single digits and xHR/FB rate thinks it should have been worse. Could you believe that out of the 443 players in my 2017 population, Bogaerts’ Brls/True FB rate ranks 413?! He has still managed to provide positive offensive value thanks to his position, OBP, and non-homer extra-base hits, but c’mon, we expected more!

So that nice HR/FB rate spike in 2016 from Evan Longoria is looking like the fluke and now he moves to arguably the worst home run park in baseball. His chances of returning to his 2016 power level became even slimmer.

Brad Miller shocked us all by nearly doubling his HR/FB rate in 2016, but that surge was short-lived. While he kept the majority of his Avg FB Dist gains, his Brls/True FB collapsed and he pulled his fly balls less frequently. I feel like his true talent power level is much closer to the 2015/2017 version than the 2016 version.

Man, I never though Evan Gattis was capable of a HR/FB rate sliding down to the low-teens. Both his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist hit three season lows and there wasn’t a peep about injury. You have to figure since he served as designated hitter most of the time, opportunities to injure himself were minimized, only existing when he started at catcher.

Gosh Mark Trumbo, can you be consistent with your HR/FB rates? Funny, for the last three seasons we have Statcast data for to calculate xHR/FB rate, those marks closely matched his actual HR/FB rates. So his power has legitimately fluctuated dramatically each season. He’s entering his age 32 season now, so chances of getting back into the 20% range is going be get more difficult.

Christian Yelich makes it hard on himself since he hits so few fly balls, but he certainly makes the most of those flies. His 2016 HR/FB rate spike was fully supported by xHR/FB rate, but both his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist plummeted in 2017. The good news is that Miller Park is one of the best home run parks for left-handed hitters in baseball. He has a much better chance of returning to the 20-homer plateau in these new digs.

It was pretty clear from his Statcast metrics that Jedd Gyorko’s 2016 HR/FB rate surge was a fluke. So perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise that it came crashing down closer to his pre-2016 marks last season. But, he actually held onto some of his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist gains. He’s going to head into another season without a guarantee of every day at-bats, so he remains an afterthought in shallow mixed leagues.

Trevor Story enjoyed a memorable debut in 2016, so expectations for 2017 were understandably high. But he couldn’t maintain his top shelf power skills, as both his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist declined, while he pulled his fly balls less frequently. The strikeouts are a concern, obviously, but I’m a fan, and he’ll come much cheaper this time around.

Ryan Braun’s HR/FB rate plunged after notching a career high in 2016. Injuries remain an issue, as he hasn’t reached 600 plate appearances since 2012. In 2017, his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist hit three season lows, though his fly ball pull percentage jumped. The good news is he’ll have an improved supporting cast that could boost his RBI total.

Even after losing 7.5% on his HR/FB rate, xHR/FB thinks it could have been even worse for Yasmani Grandal. Like Gyorko, Grandal was coming off a career high HR/FB rate, so it’s no real surprise to witness regression. But this regression was even more severe than you may have realized — both his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist fell below even his 2015 marks. He offset those declines by boosting his FB Pull%, but his xHR/FB rate ended up sitting below his 2015 mark. I’m also quite curious about the driver of his sudden swing-happy ways, as his walk rate plunged, and his O-Swing% and Swing% rocketed to career highs.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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I believe Gyorko dealt with some injuries in the second half of last year and he shows a huge first half/second half split so that may explain him being on this list as well.