2014 Average Absolute Angle Leaders & Laggards

So we learned that a hitter’s average absolute angle isn’t very stable from year to year, but that doesn’t make it any less interesting to dissect. What is this strange sounding metric you ask? Think of the field broken into equal segments, with center field at 0 and each side of the field a value increasing or decreasing from there. According to the definition at Baseball Heat Maps, -45 is the left field line and 45 is the right field line. Since I don’t care which line the ball is hit toward, I asked for the absolute value of the angle, and then the average of all those batted ball angles. So the higher the number, the more toward the lines the hitter’s batted balls were hit. And obviously since fence distances are closest down the lines, a higher absolute angle should yield more homers. Therefore, it follows that this variable has the highest coefficient in my xHR/FB rate regression equation.

For reference, the unweighted average of the data set was an average absolute angle of 19.7.

So without further ado, here are your average absolute angle leaders:

Name Avg Abs Angle
DJ LeMahieu 25.96
Jean Segura 25.48
Carlos Santana 25.33
Donovan Solano 25.22
Bryce Harper 24.96
Tyler Flowers 24.80
Joe Mauer 24.76
Robbie Grossman 24.72
Allen Craig 24.49
Tommy Medica 24.45
Ryan Braun 24.18
Jedd Gyorko 23.67
Nick Hundley 23.56
Chris Heisey 23.47
Ender Inciarte 23.45
Sean Rodriguez 23.25
Michael Morse 23.13
Justin Upton 22.90
Howie Kendrick 22.86
J.D. Martinez 22.67
Carl Crawford 22.63
David DeJesus 22.61
Brian Dozier 22.59
Wil Myers 22.52
Josh Harrison 22.51

DJ LeMahieu is probably a surprise at the top of the list and he was only at 19.3 in 2013, so this was quite the jump. Check out his spray chart:

Source: FanGraphs

All five of his homers were pulled to left field, but oddly most of his fly balls went the opposite way. So you can see how this batted ball mix yielded a league leading average absolute angle.

Because of Ryan Braun’s big angle mark, his xHR/FB rate was right in line with historical figures. His distance did drop a bit, but nothing worth panicking over. Don’t be concerned about his career low 13.8% HR/FB rate. If healthy, I think he’s in for a nice rebound.

J.D. Martinez’s power outburst was boosted by his penchant for balls hit closer to the lines. A distance spiked helped as well, so the pair together led to his breakout. Because of a nearly 300 distance mark supported by a change in hitting mechanics, I think his power surge is mostly sustainable.

And now for the laggards:

Name Avg Abs Angle
Alfonso Soriano 13.93
Jackie Bradley Jr. 14.34
A.J. Pollock 14.85
Juan Lagares 15.07
Andrelton Simmons 15.10
Alex Rios 15.26
Lorenzo Cain 15.43
Ike Davis 15.53
David Peralta 15.64
Michael Choice 15.90
Ruben Tejada 15.93
Eugenio Suarez 15.94
Alex Avila 16.07
Brandon Phillips 16.09
Mark Trumbo 16.09
Adam Lind 16.18
Starlin Castro 16.25
Nick Swisher 16.37
Scott Van Slyke 16.42
Junior Lake 16.44
Kelly Johnson 16.52
David Ortiz 16.79
Matt Joyce 16.81
Austin Jackson 16.84

If a sudden inability to pull the ball is a sign of being done as a hitter, then Alfonso Soriano picked the right time to retire.

Part of Alex Rios‘ power drought could be blamed on his inability to hit it closer to the lines. He never posted big angle marks, but this marked a career low. Moving to Kansas City won’t help his power reappear, but he should certainly rebound at least somewhat.

I don’t know what happened to Ike Davis, but would have liked to see him in a hitter’s park. Improved contact is great, but his power disappeared, and this is some of the reason why.

Blame Mark Trumbo’s HR/FB rate decline on a career low angle. His batted ball distance was just a smidge below his career best mark set in 2013, so he should rebound nicely this year.

Maybe this is the sign we’ve been waiting for that hints at David Ortiz’s impending decline? It has to happen at some point, right?! Pretty amazing that his angle was at a career low since we have data for back to 2008, and yet his HR/FB remained stable.

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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Bryan Cole
8 years ago

Since you seem to be interested in how much the hitters are pulling the ball, why not adjust the raw angles? Make the “pull” field (LF for RHB, RF for LHB) 0 degrees and the “opposite” field 90 degrees. Then compute average pull angle (or whatever you want to call it) for everyone, where a value of 0 means every ball gets pulled down the line. As it is, you’re lumping oppo hits with pulled hits, and maybe that’s making the result less predictive.

8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

I’m not sure I understand the point of this, then. At least, if you’re going to use it as an input for xHR/FB. You have players like LeMahieu, Segura, and Grossman who rank high on this list but clearly don’t (and aren’t likely to ever) carry a high HR/FB rate because it’s mostly the result of opposite field flyballs.

There’s probably a small subgroup of powerful hitters for whom opposite field flyballs close to the line correlate well with HR/FB rate, but for the majority of players that angle should be weighted at a fraction of the pull side.

But maybe you already adjust for that when you incorporate batted ball distance. Your equation is behind a pay wall so I don’t know how the details of the xHR/FB calculation.

8 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

You mention the “unweighted average” in this article. Does that mean you account for unequal distribution of batted ball distance in the equation itself?

I’d think you’d need to weight one (or both) sides of the field by the difference in batted ball difference (somewhere around 10%, I’m guessing). So a ball hit directly down the pull side foul line would count as .45, whereas a ball down the opposite field foul line would be ~.41.