2015 Average Absolute Angle Leaders

Last year, I unveiled the xHR/FB rate equation I developed that I use to help me with my Pod Projections. We’re all familiar with the average batted ball distance component of the formula. Also included is the hitter’s average absolute angle (AAA) of his fly balls, which has a relatively low year-over-year correlation.

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 representing 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 we shouldn’t care which line the ball is hit toward, I use 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.

This metric differs from Pull% found on FanGraphs. In fact, I just calculated the correlation between 2015 Pull% and average absolute angle and it was just 0.01! Pull%, of course, only counts pulled balls and all batted ball types. A high average absolute angle doesn’t tell you if the ball was pulled down the line often or hit the opposite way down the line often and it doesn’t matter. It also only counts fly balls (and home runs). So if you’re looking at some of the players listed below and wondering why their marks don’t match up with Pull%, these are the reasons. Also of note, this data is not available online. The “angle” metric at Baseball Heat Maps is not the same thing.

Okay, enough background. Let’s get to last year’s fantasy relevant leaders. Though I want to remind you that given the low YoY correlation, this list should only help validate HR/FB surgers, and offer limited predictive value.

For reference, the unweighted (not weighted by batted balls, so Robbie Grossman‘s AAA counts the same as Mike Trout’s) average AAA was 20.7% in 2015.

2015 Average Absolute Angle Leaders
Name Avg Abs Angle HR/FB
Corey Seager 61.9 19.0%
Wilson Ramos 29.2 15.8%
Jean Segura 28.6 5.3%
Kennys Vargas 28.5 17.9%
Stephen Piscotty 28.2 11.7%
Adonis Garcia 27.7 21.7%
Scooter Gennett 27.0 6.7%
Aaron Altherr 26.7 13.5%
Cameron Maybin 26.5 12.3%
Justin Smoak 26.4 25.4%
Domingo Santana 26.0 27.6%
Colby Rasmus 25.8 17.6%
Matt Holliday 25.8 7.5%
Coco Crisp 25.8 0.0%
Michael Taylor 25.4 14.6%

This group averaged a 14.5% HR/FB rate, versus the league average of 11.4%.

So, obviously, the man on the top sticks out like a sore thumb. Of course, Seager recorded just 113 plate appearances during his MLB debut and only 15 of his batted balls were included in his AAA. Even though the sample size is tiny, holy smokes is that high. Obviously, no one can sustain a rate that high, but it’s at least a good sign for his power potential moving forward.

What a waste of a high AAA for Jean Segura! It’s great that he’s hitting the ball toward the lines, but too bad those balls aren’t landing very far away from home plate.

Stephen Piscotty should have an every day outfield job this year and now we have a better idea of where that newfound power has come from.

Who is Adonis Garcia? The Braves recalled him from Triple-A despite underwhelming offense and he was suddenly their starting third baseman and putting on a power show. He never showed this type of power in the minors after arriving from Cuba. It wasn’t just his AAA that impressed, he posted inflated marks in the other components of the xHR/FB rate equation as well. Now if only he could learn how to take a walk.

Aaron Altherr is expected to serve as the Phillies starting right fielder this year. He displayed an intriguing blend of power and speed during his short time in Philly, though the power was quite a step up from what he had showed in the past. One word of caution — his batted ball distance was a measly 254 feet. That would have ranked him 274th out of 284 on the leaderboard. Since we cannot possibly expect him to sustain such an inflated AAA, his HR/FB rate is at risk of decline, perhaps a severe one. Of course, he could also counteract a drop in AAA by hitting his fly balls further, which he seems capable of given respectable power in the minors.

If he posted that HR/FB rate over a qualifying number of plate appearances, Domingo Santana would have ranked third in baseball. Now we know one reason why. His other two components were elite as well, meaning that if he can convince the Brewers to let him start in center field, he could be a serious power asset.

No, I’m not excited about drafting Matt Holliday, but he was already undervalued for years due to his veteran boringness. Now, he’s coming off an injury-marred season in which he hit just four homers, so you can bet he’s going to come dirt cheap. I like dirt cheap. No matter what, he’s going to remain in the middle of the lineup and it’s hard to avoid earning at least some value in that spot.

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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6 years ago

If 0 is center field, -45 is right field, and 45 is left field, wouldn’t Seager’s average absolute angle of 61.9 be in foul territory somewhere? Or did I not understand something correctly?

6 years ago
Reply to  thecodygriffin

right field foul line, left field foul line*

6 years ago
Reply to  thecodygriffin

Pods, I like the concept, but am thinking that the reason Seager is such an outlier is due to a flaw in the math: if the maximum absolute value for a single data point is 45, then no way can anyone have an average greater than 45.

I would be very surprised if the data includes foul balls, as that would make the information relatively worthless.